In recent years, the Internet has grown in importance - in terms of connected users, volume of connections, and connection speed - despite Italy’s comparatively slow penetration and adoption rates. According to Internet World Stats, Italy’s internet penetration currently sits at 62%, compared to 73.9% for the rest of Europe. In spite of lower penetration levels, there is evidence that online media companies are keen to consolidate on personal data generated by these online activities for their platform envelopment strategies, which exploit user data to improve their services and to enter other digital platform markets. The European authorities have long highlighted some critical points resulting from market concentration, particularly in the online advertising market which, for now, represents the main funding source for every web service.
According to the aforementioned AGCOM report, internet advertising revenues have increased continuously from 2010 to 2015, with only a slight decline in 2013, reaching a total amount of about €1.7 billion by the end of 2015. This growth in online advertising is in line with international trends, and can be attributed to the emergence of “display and video” advertising models - the images or videos displayed on websites - which have grown by 50% since 2013. Other types of online advertising such as the “search advertising” model, those that appear in search engines, and the “classified/directory” model, short texts derived from traditional press classified advertisements, are becoming less prominent. Newsletter and email marketing models are still popular, holding a global share of 45% in 2015. In terms of platform, Italy’s 2015 online advertising investment was led by spending on Google, followed by Facebook, and, much more distant, Seat Pagine Gialle. The remaining expenditure went to offerings from traditional media outlets, such as Fininvest, RCS and GELE, and smaller digital natives, such as Italiaonline, Veesible and Leonardo.
Search engines and websites are the two main gateways that Italians use to access content. The social networks, for their part, come in third, although they are first in terms of average web surfing time. According to Audiweb report’s February 2016 survey, around 28.5 million people over the age of two, or 51% of the Italian population, logged onto the Internet at least once for more than two hours “in the average day”. This data includes logons from both fixed devices and mobile ones. Among the most used services, search engines enjoyed 26.4 million individual users, compared to 25.7 million users of generalist web platforms, and about 25 million users browsed social communities (a macro-category that includes social networking). On average, each person surfed the web for 13 hours per month.
Facebook is the most used social network in Italy. Even with a slightly decreasing user base, Facebook accounts for 22.8 million of Italian social media users. Instagram is the second most popular social network, with 8.3 million users, followed by Google+’s 7.5 million users, Twitter’s 6.6 million users, Linkedin’s 5.1 million users, and Pinterest’s 3 million users.
Finally, according to the already quoted survey realized by SWG for AGCOM, 62% of the Italian population sources their news from the web. Social networks are particularly popular gateways for news media, with 65% of habitual readers using them to access content, followed by online newspapers and magazines.