Over the past four years, the bulk of consumers' online activity has shifted away from communications and toward content, according to the analysis of the Online Publisher Organization's (OPA) Internet Activity Index.
The time consumers spent viewing online content, including video-sharing sites, news sites, video, social nets, weather and blogs, as a proportion of their total time online grew over the past four years from 34 percent in 2003 to 47 percent in 2007. Meanwhile, time spent on communications fell 28 percent as a proportion of total time spent online. Communications now makes up 33 percent of all time spent online, down from 46 percent in 2003.
The OPA attributes the shift to several factors, including an increase in the volume of content online, the transition of traditionally offline media activities to the Web, and continued broadband adoption. This latter factor has enabled a lift in overall time spent online –- as opposed to share of time spent -- across all four categories studied: content, search, commerce, and communications.
The rise in time spent with Internet content over the four years covered by the OPA's analysis has been fairly steady. It grew 10 percent from 2003 to 2004, remained flat in 2005, and grew 13 percent in both 2006 and 2007, the industry association said.
Search's share of consumers' Web time, meanwhile, grew 35 percent in those four years, from 3 percent to 5 percent. OPA President Pam Horan said search has acted as a gateway to content.
Share of online time spent on commerce functions shrank from 16 percent to 15 percent.
The OPA's Internet Activity Index is assembled using research conducted by Nielsen//NetRatings and claims to incorporate data from approximately 90 percent of Web users and 55 percent of total usage time online. It excludes .gov, .edu and pornographic domains. The figures for 2007 include data from January through May.
Additionally, the Index classifies social networking sites as online content, rather than communications, despite that many consumers use such sites for messaging and generally keeping in touch with friends and associates.
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