Israelis Are Turning Off the TV to Go Online

Survey shows that Internet is not just the dominant medium − it is pushing aside traditional media from newspapers to radio.

Whether it’s accessed on a smartphone, tablet laptop computer or even a television set, the Internet is emerging as Israelis’ preferred medium for information and entertainment.

An online poll of 30,000 Israelis in October found that close to a third use none of the traditional media of newspaper, television or radio. Some 40% of all regular Internet users − or 1.63 million of the online population of 4.05 million − don’t watch commercial television. For two thirds of online Israelis, or 2.67 million people, the Internet is their source of news, because they say they read newspapers infrequently, if at all

Web’s superiority

“The data illustrate the superiority of the Internet media as the main tool for getting news, entertainment and all other kinds of information,” said Gal Turgeman, CEO of the Israel Internet Association’s Internet Ranking Committee. “No doubt 2013 will be a challenging year for the Israeli Internet market but it could also be the year that it gets its fair share of the advertising pie.”

The annual survey examined Web usage at 61 leading sites, broken down into eight groups. But sites popular in the Arab community and among the Haredim, such as Kikar Shabbat and the Arabic portal Panet, are not included, so the survey doesn’t fully reflect how deeply these two communities are exposed to the Internet.

The survey was conducted in October by the MarketWatch Institute for the committee, which tracks traffic at Israel’s most popular websites. It was released this week.

Some 77% of Israelis surf the Internet at least once a month. Men and women are online in about equal proportions, but people in higher income groups and with higher education use the Internet more than those earning less or with less education. Wealthier people are more likely to surf news and business sites than poorer people. Muslims are less likely to use entertainment offerings. High school students are the biggest Internet users ‏(97.1%‏ while those over 65 are the least likely ‏(45.7%‏.

But surprisingly, religious Jews are more likely to go to entertainment sites than secular Jews, while Haredim are only slightly less likely than the general population to use them. The gap between Jews and Arabs in Internet usage is just three percentage points in favor of Jews, according to the survey. This finding contradicts an earlier poll taken last year by Google and the College of Management that found net usage among Arabs at less than 60%.

News sites are the ones most often visited, with 2.25 million visitors daily on average. The figure rose to its highest in the fourth quarter, presumably because of the Pillar of Defense operation in Gaza. Next in line were entertainment sites, followed by sites devoted to classified ads, blogs, sports, business and economics, shopping and finally food.

But from the data collected by the committee only 36.4% of all Haredim use the Internet, less than the 42% estimated by the earlier Google survey. Among the national religious population, the rate rises to about 78%, higher than the traditional population’s 70% but less than the 90.1% among secular Israelis.

Israeli Druze have the second-highest Internet use rate at 83.3%, while among Muslims it’s 71.1% and among Christians nearly 82%.

Haredi myths

The survey puts paid to the idea that Haredim watch television, a medium their leaders discourage, by going online. Data on audiences on entertainments sites, including video on-demand outlets like Walla!, Mako and Nana 10, showed that the ultra-Orthodox account for just 72,000 viewers compared with about one million secular users.

Middle-aged people are the biggest users of entertainment sites, with 16.7% of 35-to-44-year-olds logging in in every day. Among those aged 18 to 24 the rate is a lower 14%.

Middle-aged men are the dominant users of online classified ads, with 10% logging in daily, more than any other demographic group.

Smartphones, which only became a feature of the Israeli Internet scene in the past three years, are fast becoming the medium of choice for going online. Some 46.3% of the respondents said they surf on their smartphones and cellphones. Still, the PC remains the medium of choice, with 91.8% accessing the Internet through it.

Tablets, which are a big hit in America, have not had the same impact in Israel, where only 18% of people said they use one. There are some half a million tablets in Israel, but people following the market say the typical family has only one tablet shared by the family for use as an entertainment device.

Teenagers aged 15 to 17 are the biggest users of smartphones, with nearly 70% saying they access the Web through one. The older a person is the less likely they are to use one, with only 35.6% of all people in the 45-54 category. Tablet use is the reverse, with people aged 35 to 44 the biggest users ‏(22.7%‏) compared with only 9.1% of 15-to-17-year-olds.