Half of Web Users’ Time Spent on Content

Back in the early days of the Internet boom, rocker Todd Rundgren prophetically summarized what makes the Internet a compelling media: “It’s the content, stupid.” And apparently the Internet is getting to be well-enough understood that Web users are increasingly able to get to content, rather than fussing with search engines, following dead links, and complaining about sites not working or being inaccessible. The Online Publishers Association’s Internet Activity Index found that in June 2007, Web users were spending almost half their time—49.6 percent of it—engaged with content.

The analysis is based on Nielsen Netratings’ “Total Minutes” metric, which attempts to measure how much time people spend on different types of online sites and activities. The Online Publisher’s Association defines “Content” as online sites and applications which are mainly designed to provide news, information, and (here’s a big one) entertainment. Examples would include news outlets like CNN, entertainment sites like YouTube, online aspects of applications like Windows Media Player or iTunes, and information sites like Google Maps. Although lines are sometimes a little blurry, the OPA tracks these activities separately from Communications (instant messaging, online groups), Commerce (Amazon.com, eBay, etc.), and Search.

The 49.6 percent figure represents a significant increase in the amount of time Internet users devote to content: the figure was 39.6 percent in 2006.

The Online Publisher’s Association attributes the includes to the ever-increasing amount of online content available to Internet users, as well as increases in Internet connection speeds. Social networking sites also play a role: “New online features and communities are also leading consumers to spend a larger share of their online time with content,” said OPA president Pam Horan, in a release. “Consumers spend considerable time with social networking sites, which serve not only as places of content but are also increasingly important communications vehicles.”

What categories suffered with the newfound popularity of content? Since 2003, commerce sites have seen the amount of time Web users spend on them decrease by five percent, to account for 15 percent of total online time. And so far in 2007, time spent on communications has fallen to 33 percent of time spent online, down from 46 percent in 2003.

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