Online music a leading driver.
Consumer spending for online content is up 14 percent from $1.6 billion in 2003 to $1.8 billion in 2004. Entertainment/lifestyles was the fastest growing content category, according to a year-end study conducted by the Online Publishers Association (OPA) and comScore Networks.
The online personals/dating category remained in the number one slot among leading content categories at $469.5 million, a four percent increase over 2003.
In contrast, entertainment/lifestyles, a category which includes digital music and multimedia sites, nearly doubled over the year, from $217.6 million in 2003 to $413.5 million in 2004. Buoyed by 90 percent year-over-year growth, entertainment/lifestyles supplanted the business/investment sector as the second-ranked paid content category. (Business/investment posted a 6.3 percent decline last year to $312.9 million, one of only three categories that dropped in 2004.)
The next two fastest growing online content categories were sports (including fantasy sports) and games. Both have an entertainment component and posted double-digit growth, notes Michael Zimbalist, the OPA's president.
"There's a trend playing out," Zimbalist said. "We're seeing the evolution of the Internet from an information resource into a medium used for entertainment and fun."
While the report doesn't detail growth of entertainment/lifestyle subcategories, Zimbalist said the maturation of online music was a key drive of growth in the category.
"2004 was the year when legitimate online music services came into their own," he said. "My gut tells me this growth happened because of Napster coming back and the surge in iTunes and other online music services last year."
For Q4 2004, online content consumer spending reached an all-time high of $472 million, the eighth consecutive quarterly increase.
The study doesn't measure spending on adult, gambling, or illegal drug-related sites; software purchases; "get-rich-quick" schemes; ISPs; electronic faxing; Web-based email applications; or subscription games played through a non-browser interface.
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