February 21, 2005

The advent of spim

Some 42% of America’s 134 million online adults use instant messaging and almost a third of those instant message users (30%) have gotten “spim” – or unsolicited commercial instant messages. That translates into nearly 17 million adults who have gotten the instant-message version of spam.

Results from our latest nationwide telephone poll taken between January 13 and February 9 show that younger internet users – also the most likely people to use instant messaging – are the most likely internet users to get spim. Fully 39% of those under 30 who use instant messaging have gotten spim. By comparison, 27% of the instant message users between 30-49 have gotten spim.

No other demographic trait stands out in the spim universe. Instant message users in all income brackets and in all racial and ethnic groups are equally likely to receive spim. Somewhat surprisingly, broadband users at home are no more likely than dial-up users to receive spim, even though, presumably, those with always-on broadband connections keep their instant message programs running for longer periods of time than dial-up users.

The results come from a monthly tracking survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. In all, 2,201 adults 18 and over took part in the telephone survey. The results for the spim findings have a margin of error of +/- 5 percentage points.

The survey questions did not probe the kind of unsolicited commercial messages were contained in the spim.

The survey found that 52 million online adults are instant message users. Fully 66% of the internet users under age 30 are instant message users, compared to 35% of those above age 30. Internet users from relatively poor households are among the most likely users of IM. Some 52% of online adults who live in households earning less than $30,000 use instant messaging.

Again, surprisingly, there is not great variance in instant messaging use associated with broadband connections. Some 50% of those with broadband at home use IM, compared to 42% of dial-up users.

Addendum: filed at 11:49 a.m. Feb. 22, 2005

It just came to my attention that a major spim arrest recently took place.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Central California charged a New York teenager with allegedly sending more than 1.5 million spim messages advertising for mortgage refinancing and pornography to Myspace.com users. The case is cited here: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/cac/pr2005/034.html.