Content Reigns King for Online Americans

September 23, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Email | Paid Search | Retail & E-Commerce | Search Engine Optimization

In research that appears to reinforce the adage that “content is king,” the most recent data from the Online Publishers Association’s (OPA) Internet Activity Index (IAI) reveal that consumers are now spending more time online with content than they do with either community or communications activities. ?

The latest figures come from a six-year analysis of IAI results, and confirm that though internet users are definitely increasing their use of online community time, they spend the majority of their increasing online time with content sites, up from 34% of total time spent in 2003 to 42% in 2009. This represents a 24% increase.

In contrast, they are spending less time at communications sites, such as those offering email or instant messaging. These sites accounted for the largest share of time in 2003.

Now, the rise in both content and community time is coming at the the expense of time spent communicating, most likely because these communications services can now be found on community sites such as MySpace and Facebook. As a result, the communication-site category experienced a 41% decline in share of time online.

Increase in Content-Site Visits

Over the past six years, the OPA found that the percentage of time spent online with Web sites providing news, information and entertainment, such as, and (content sites), has grown even in the wake of the social networking phenomenon and the rise of community sites.

2003 vs. 2009

When comparing how people used the internet in 2003 with how they use the internet today, the OPA found a number of factors behind the changes, including monthly average time per person:


When looking at IAI’s time spent to the share of online time each category attracts over six years, there are significant changes as to how consumers spend their online time:


The analysis also found that although time spent with search sites doubled, search’s share of time is very small and has only increased by two percentage points between 2003 and 2009. Monthly time spent with communications decreased by less than half an hour, but declined by 41% as a share of a consumer’s online time.

“In the six years that the IAI has reported on how consumers are spending their time online, we have seen some significant shifts, most notably the emergence of community,” said Pam Horan, president of the OPA. “While community has grown, data from the IAI proves that content is still king; these sites continue to be a place where consumers spend the majority of their online time and provide an environment for brand marketers to reach and engage with consumers.”

Recent rankings of August 2009 internet activity reveal that content sites, such as those providing news and humor, were among the fastest-growing sites for the month.

About the index: The OPA’s IAI is a monthly gauge of the online time being spent with commerce, communications, community, content and search sites. Launched in 2003, the index is derived from a categorization of web properties accounting for more than 90% of active web users and approximately 55% of total usage time (excludes .gov and .edu Web sites, as well as pornographic domains). By tracking share of time spent on each activity, the index provides a benchmark for charting the relative impact of changing market dynamics on these segments and identifying important trends in web use. The IAI is conducted by Nielsen NetRatings.

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