The average Briton spent 2 hours and 51 minutes per day actively using the internet at home and work during the first half of this year, equating to ‘one in six waking minutes’.

This is the ‘definitive figure’ uncovered today (September 2) by the Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB) and UK Online Measurement Company (UKOM), measuring ‘active attention’ – the time spent when people are actively doing something online.

Groups such as Ofcom have chimed in with analysis of what they believe is a Brit’s typical time spent surfing the web, but the advertising industry looks to have provided a calculation for true usage.  

“If I’m surfing the internet on my PC but then start using a word document, the internet time is stopped even though the web page is still open,” explains the IAB’s chief strategy officer, Tim Elkington.

Rise of social

The IAB’s figure of 2 hours 51 minutes arrives courtesy of behavioural analysis on 73,000 people in addition to user tracking on sites and apps.

Of the nearly three hours spent on the internet by the UK split between PCs & laptops (45%), smartphones (40%) and tablets (%15), 16.7% is spent on social media sites – a rise of 4.7% in the last two years.

This boost in social media use appears connected to a growth in on-the-go browsing, taking up 21.4% of screen time on mobile and tablets, while desktop sits at 9.8%.

With social dominating the screens, time spent on online ‘entertainment’ has halved in the same amount of time from 22.1% to 12.4%, but desktop is seeing higher figures in this category, possibly as a result of larger screens accommodating live-streaming sites such as Netflix and Now TV.

Reaching consumers

Given the sheer amount of screens and devices that provide the gateway to these experiences, experts responding to the study believe advertisers cannot afford to think of time online as a ‘homogenous entity’

Scott Fleming, UKOM general manager, comments: “Mobile internet time is more heavily skewed towards social networking and games whilst desktop is more loaded towards email and entertainment such as film and multimedia.

“The most effective digital ad strategies recognise and take into account how behaviour and mindset differ dramatically by device,” he adds.

While plenty of studies are available on internet time, Elkington said the need for the new study was borne out of a need to ‘remove the misconception’ and help advertisers understand how much time they realistically have to play with to reach people online.

Figures released by Ofcom just four months ago had the average British adult spending “more than 20 hours online a week”, with this rising to “more than 27 hours” for those aged between 16-24.

Here is the IAB UK and UKOM’s version of where this time is spent.