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Cats on Roombas are tip of Internet video iceberg, study suggests

Dog-shaming screenshot from video
Online comedy videos, such as those aboutViral Spiral

Four years ago, most of us didn't have smartphones or tablets that let us share videos wherever and whenever we wanted; now we do, and our appetite for doing that is huge: The percent of American adult Internet users who post videos online has more than doubled to 31 percent from 14 percent in 2009.

Blame it on all those video camera-equipped smart devices, along with the continuing popularity of sites like Facebook, Twitter's Vine, YouTube and Vimeo, which make it incredibly easy for users to share videos of every stage of life, from their children's first words to the weddings of friends, and even in some cases, the memorials held for loved ones.

The finding is part of new report about online video from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

"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,” said Kristen Purcell, Pew's associate director of research, in a press release.

"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."

The percent of online adults who watch or download videos also has increased in the past four years, to 78 percent today, from 69 percent of adult Internet users in 2009, Pew said. 

Consumer video cameras are everywhere — from the phone in your pocket to the game console on your living room shelf — and the numbers of them will only continue to grow in the future.

There are 4.3 billion video-enabled devices connected to the Internet now, and by 2017, there will be more than 8 billion Internet-connected video devices worldwide, more than one for "each global citizen," research firm IHS said in its own report this week.

Here's some other tidbits from Pew's report, based on a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,003 adults done in July, that paint a picture of our online video habits:

  • Videos about dog shaming, or babies and cats on Roombas might not provide any insight to the current Congressional crisis, but they sure make us laugh. And comedy videos continue to lead the list of the most widely viewed types of videos online, with 58 percent of adult Internet users say that's the genre they favor. That's followed by "how to" videos, 56 percent, and educational videos, 50 percent and music videos, 50 percent.
  • Younger adults are "twice as likely as their older counterparts to post and share videos online," with 41 percent of 18-to-29-year-old Internet users and 36 percent of 30-to-49-year-old users doing so, compared to 18 percent of Internet users ages 50 and older.
  • 18 percent of adult Internet users say they've posted videos to websites that they, themselves, have taken or created. The videos aren't anything racy as a rule: it's generally videos of friends and family "doing everyday things," followed by videos of themselves or others "doing funny things," or videos of events they have attended.
  • Younger users, ages 18 to 29, are "twice as likely" as those age 50 and older to watch music or animation videos, Pew said.  
  • With 72 percent of online adults using social networking sites like Facebook, those sites offer "user-friendly" ways to share and watch videos, Pew said, and 71 percent of adults who post videos online do so using social networking sites; 58 percent use such sites for watching online video.
  • The phone plays a huge role in all of this: 41 percent of adult cellphone owners say they use their phones to watch video; 40 percent to record video; and 20 percent use their phones to post videos online.

In case you're wondering, adult videos are viewed by a "fairly small segment" — 12 percent of adults — "though this may reflect a reluctance" by some survey-takers to admit to doing so, Pew noted. And only 5 percent of adults who have posted videos online say "they have regretted a video they have posted in the past."

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