How Are Consumers Spending Their Time Online?

April 7, 2016

comScore-Digital-Time-by-Content-Category-Apr2016Social networking accounts for almost 1 in every 5 minutes spent online, according to a recent study from comScore. The “2016 US Cross-Platform Future in Focus” report [download page] notes the prevalence of communications activities online, with social networking, email and instant messaging combining to account for more than one-quarter of all minutes spent online during December 2015.

The study mentions that communications functions are becoming more important with the rise of mobile, and a recent study from GfK similarly showed that communications activities are at the heart of mobile usage.

Beyond communications activities, the comScore report also shows that multimedia (12%), radio (8%) and portals (6%) are leading content categories, with online gaming (5%) and retail (5%) also occupying sizable shares of consumers’ digital media time.

Yet it’s social networking that occupies the largest share of time, buoyed by the increase in mobile internet consumption, as 61% of social media consumption was spent in smartphone apps in December 2015, up from 53% in the year-earlier period.

One of the more impressive findings from the report is the extent to which Facebook-owned properties hog consumers’ digital media time – particularly on mobile. Indeed, while these properties (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp) combine to represent 1 in 10 digital media minutes spent on desktops, they occupy a massive 21.8% share of smartphone time. Overall, Facebook-owned properties comprised more than 1 in every 5 digital media minutes spent on mobile devices in December 2015.

In fact, Facebook is far ahead of any other network in terms of average monthly minutes per visitor, even among Millennial (18-34). Even youth (12-24) – who are now more likely to use Snapchat than Facebook – say that Facebook is the platform they use the most often, per a recent report.

Unlike Snapchat, which saw almost half (46.8%) of its adult visitors in December come from 18-24-year-olds, Facebook visitors were evenly distributed across age groups, with 25-34-year-olds the largest group (20.3% share).

Mobile Use Continues to Propel Digital Consumption Gains

The comScore report illustrates the extent to which digital media consumption has grown in recent years – with that growth exclusively fueled by mobile devices. Indeed, in the 2-year period between December 2013 and December 2015, tablet internet consumption grew by 30%, while smartphone internet consumption jumped by 78%. By contrast, desktop digital media time contracted by 1%.

In sum, mobile devices accounted for almost 2 in 3 minutes spent online in December 2015, with mobile apps accounting for most of that time (56% of total digital media time). Smartphone apps alone represented almost half (47%) of time spent online in December, and given their upward trajectory will likely account for a majority of digital media consumption this year.

The shift in digital media consumption from mobile to desktop is evident in another way: more adults accessed the internet in December 2015 via mobile only (13% share) than via desktop only (11% share). And while the majority of internet users are multi-platform (using desktops and mobiles), 1 in 5 Millennials (18-34) are mobile-only.

Of course, mobile’s influence varies by content category. According to the report, mobile use is most prevalent with maps (94% of time spent in December 2015), photos (92%), online gaming (79%) and social networking (77%), but also takes a majority share in other categories such as retail (62%) and news/information (54%). The only categories (of the 13 examined) in which mobile devices occupy less than half of digital media minutes are entertainment news (49%), business/finance (42%) and portals (31%).

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