October 10, 2013

New data show increases in both the percent of adults who post and who watch videos online

New data show a large increase in the percent of online adults who post videos online

WASHINGTON (October 10, 2013)—A national survey conducted in July 2013 shows the percent of American adult internet users who upload or post video online has doubled in the past four years, from 14% in 2009 to 31% today.  This figure includes online adults who do at least one of the following:

  • Upload a video to the internet so others can watch or download it—27% of adult internet users have done this.
  • Post videos to any website online that they, themselves, have taken or created—18% of adult internet users have done this.

Younger adult internet users are twice as likely as their older counterparts to post and share videos online.  While 41% of 18-29 year-old internet users and 36% of 30-49 year-old internet users post or share videos online, the same is true of just 18% of internet users age 50 and older.

“Since 2006, we’ve seen consistent increases year-to-year in the percentage of adults who watch videos online, but this survey marks the largest increase we’ve seen in the percent of adults who are posting videos online,” notes Kristen Purcell, Associate Director of Research at the Pew Internet Project and the author of the report.  “As the online video culture grows—fueled by video-sharing sites, mobile phones, and online social networking—posting videos online is becoming a mainstream online behavior.” 

When posting their own videos online, adults most commonly share mundane things such as friends, family, and events they attend

The 18% of online adults who share their own videos online are much more likely to post mundane, everyday content than to post something they have staged or scripted.  The most common subject matter for those who post their own videos online is friends and family doing everyday things (58% of this group post this kind of content), followed closely by videos of themselves or others doing funny things (56%) or videos of events they have attended (54%). 

In contrast, just 23% of this group post a video they have intentionally staged, scripted or choreographed, and 30% post educational or tutorial videos they have recorded themselves.

35% of adults who post or share videos online—or 11% of all adult internet users—have posted a video with the hope it will be seen by many people

Among all adults who post or share videos online, both their own videos and those created by others, 35% say they have posted or shared a video online with the hope of it being seen by many people or “going viral.”  That equates to 11% of all adult internet users.  Just 5% of adults who post videos online say they regret a video they have posted in the past. 

The percent of online adults who watch or download videos also continues to increase

The percent of online adults who watch or download videos has also grown over the past four years, from 69% of adult internet users in 2009 to 78% today.  That figure includes online adults who do at least one of the following:

  • Watch videos on a video-sharing site like YouTube or Vimeo—72% of adult internet users have done this.
  • Watch videos online, including on social network sites or using mobile apps—56% of adult internet users have done this. 
  • Download video files onto a computer or cell phone so they can play them at any time they want—36% of adult internet users have done this.

Video-sharing sites like YouTube have been the main driving force in the increasing percentage of online adults who post, watch and download videos.  Since 2006, the percent of online adults who use video-sharing sites has grown from 33% to the current figure of 72%.

Author Kristen Purcell points out that “Online video consumption continues to be concentrated among the youngest online adults, and those with higher education and income levels, but over time it has grown substantially among virtually all groups of online adults. Rates of online video watching are extremely high among online adults age 18-49 (95%) and those age 30-49 (87%), yet even among internet users age 50 and older more than half (58%) are now online video consumers.”

Comedy and educational videos continue to top of the list of most widely viewed types of online video, now joined by how-to and music videos

As was the case in a 2009 Pew Internet survey, comedy and educational videos are among the most widely viewed video genres, with 57% of all online adults watching comedy/humorous videos and 50% watching educational videos.

These two genres are now rivaled by “how-to” videos, viewed by 56% of online adults, and music videos.  Music videos experienced the largest growth in viewership between 2009 and 2013, from 32% to 50% of all online adults. 

Different demographic groups are drawn to different online video content.  Online video watchers age 18-29 are twice as likely as those age 50 and older to watch music videos (81% v. 39%) or animation videos (47% v. 20%).  And male online video watchers are more likely than females to view sports videos (49% v. 23%), political videos (40% v. 30%), and adult videos (25% v. 8%) online.

The increasing popularity of social networking sites and the proliferation of cell phones have helped spur the growing online video culture

The growing online video culture is a natural byproduct of the increasing number of adults who use social network sites such as Facebook, as well as the proliferation of cell phones that make it relatively easy to watch, record, and post videos online. 

Fully 72% of online adults now use social networking sites, which provide a user-friendly venue for video sharing and watching.  The current survey shows that:

  • 71% of adults who post videos online do so on social networking sites.
  • 58% of adults who watch online videos do so on social networking sites.

Similarly, as the percent of American adults who own a cell phone now stands at 91%, it is not uncommon for adults to use these devices to participate in the online video culture.  Among adult cell phone owners:

  • 41% use their phones to watch video.
  • 40% use their phones to record video.
  • 20% use their phones to post videos online.

More recently, apps have emerged which bring the convenience of cell phones together with the popularity of online video.  In the current survey:

  • 23% of adults who post videos online do so using a mobile app such as Vine.
  • 17% of adults who watch videos online do so using a mobile app.

About the survey

These findings are from a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,003 adults conducted from July 25 to July 28, 2013. Telephone interviews were conducted in English only, by landline (501) and cell phone (502, including 230 without a landline phone). Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ± 3.6 percentage points.

Media Contact

Kristen Purcell, Associate Director for Research, Pew Research Center’s Internet Project, kpurcell@pewresearch.org