Content Edges Past Communications in OPA Index

Time spent online viewing content surpassed time spent on communications in September for the first time in the one-year history of the Online Publishers Association’s Internet Activity Index (IAI).

According to the IAI for September 2004, content increased by 7.1 percent in share of time spent online over August 2004, from 38.3 percent to 41.0 percent. The increase in share of time spent with content in September came at the expense other sectors: commerce, which lost 5.8 percent to 15.2 percent; communications, which declined by 4.0 percent to take a 39.8 percent share; and search, which dropped 3.1 percent month-over-month to a 4.0 percent share of time.

Before September, communications activities — including sites like Yahoo Mail, AOL Instant Messenger and MSN Groups — had held the top spot on the OPA’s index with a 41.4 percent to 46.0 percent share of time spent online. The index defines this category as Web sites and Internet applications that are designed to facilitate the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information directly between individuals or groups of individuals.

Content sites, defined as sites designed primarily to provide news, information and entertainment, have held second place over the last year, ranging from 34.0 percent to 38.9 percent of share of time spent online prior to September. Examples of sites included in this segment are CNN.com, ESPN.com, Windows Media Player and MapQuest.

Michael Zimbalist, OPA president, attributes much of the monthly gains made by content sites to factors like the string of hurricanes that hit the Eastern United States during the month, the start of pro football season and the baseball playoffs, the presidential debates and the new fall TV lineups.

Year-over-year data for September shows that the content category’s share of time gained 6.4 points to 41.0 percent. Commerce and search categories remained relatively flat over the same period. Communications lost 6.2 points of share to take 39.8 percent.

“The year-over-year gains in content, as opposed to the lack of growth or declines seen in other categories, suggest that we are witnessing a shift in how consumers are using the Web as broadband households continue to grow,” said Zimbalist. “Clearly, it is much more than a tool; it is a primary source of information, entertainment and fun.”

The Internet Activity Index is based on the proprietary clickstream database and algorithms that underlie Nielsen//NetRatings’ NetView service. Popular online offerings were divided into segments based on an objective approach developed by the OPA and Nielsen//NetRatings.

The index was launched in August 2004 by the OPA and Nielsen//NetRatings. Monthly historical data is included in the index starting a year earlier. The IAI divides and tracks Internet usage among content, communications, commerce and search activities.

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