What the Global State of Digital 2020 report says about UK online video

The annual Global State of Digital Report from Hootsuite and We Are Social has become an essential source of statistics and trends data for everyone working in online over the last few years. 

Compiled from hundreds of country-by-country reports – from Abkhazia to Zimbabwe – there are few sources out there that collate and interpret as much information as this one. 

But that can make it hard to digest. 

While it’s interesting to know that there were 298 million more internet users worldwide in January 2020 than in January 2019 – an increase of 7% – what can you or I do with that knowledge?

So in this blog, we’ve approached the 2020 Global State of Digital Report from the other end. That is, we’ve examined their findings to see what they say about video in the UK and how that affects the public affairs and campaigning sectors. 

And the answer is…no huge changes. 

Video is still incredibly important and is becoming more important, just as it was a year ago. 

That’s perhaps not surprising in a mature market like the UK, but the sheer size of some of the numbers may cause your jaw to drop:

  • 85% of internet users aged 16-64 watch video online, compared to just 55% who stream music and 28% who listen to podcasts.
  • YouTube is the second most visited site among Britons, racking up 970,800,000 visits per month, with the average session lasting an 25 minutes and 20 seconds, and taking in 9.8 pages. Facebook, by comparison, gets a paltry 801,000,000 visits each month. 

Perhaps more interesting than these figures (the top YouTube search terms are dominated by music and gaming…) are the findings on UK connection speeds:

  • The average UK mobile connection speed is 35.57 MBPS, up 22% on January 2019
  • The average fixed internet connection speed is 64.09 MBPS, up 17% year on year

Those are big jumps and they make it clear that the infrastructure for a video-first internet is already in place in most parts of the country. 

“BBC” and “News” were the top search queries in Google by some margin (as you might expect, “weather” was a leading term too). 

And trust in media has grown in prominence as an issue:

  • 70% of UK internet users voiced concern about telling the difference between real and fake content
  • 62% were concerned about the use being made of their online data

Social media use continues to grow rapidly in the UK, with total user numbers growing by 2.9% (1.3 million) between April 2019 and January 2020. 

But interestingly, the distribution of users and the platforms’ relative abilities to reach them is shifting. 

  • Facebook is still a long way ahead of the pack, with a reach of 37 million for advertising purposes
  • However, that figure has stayed flat quarter on quarter
  • In the same period, Instagram and Snapchat have both increased their respective audience reach figures by +4.8% – to 24 million and 18.7 million respectively
  • LinkedIn has also remained flat at 28 million and Twitter has grown slightly (0.7%) to 16.7 million

So while the opportunities for video publishers to find audiences (organic and paid-for) with their content are growing, they are also spreading out – making it more important than ever for social video strategies to identify and locate their audiences, and then target them on the most relevant platforms. 

The really big internet stories of 2019 weren’t happening in the UK. TikTok emerged from out of nowhere to generate around 800,000,000 visits per month. 

But as one of the report’s authors points out China accounts for 500,000,000 of those, making its “rest of the world” performance a little less astonishing. Nevertheless, the speed with which TikTok is catching on in the UK – especially with younger users – looks almost certain to exert a powerful influence on the look and feel of the next generation of videos.

Another global success story – perhaps even more surprising than TikTok – is the revival of Reddit, which increased its audience by a whopping 30% in the last year. That’s 100,000,000 new users in 12 months for a company now in its 15th year. 

One final global fact to bear in mind. According to figures from App Annie in the report, only 9% of mobile internet use worldwide is browser-based. 91% of it is native to apps. 

So, the broad lesson to learn for UK video is – keep doing more of it!