Internet Audience Still Growing After All

After a June in which sequential growth of the Internet audience slowed to a standstill, comScore Media Metrix says the number of Americans using the medium is rising again.

The company’s July traffic figures showed the audience grew 29 percent compared to the same period in 2001, and 2.2 percent compared to the previous month.

The news should be heartening for online publishers and marketers, who are staking their businesses on the idea that the audience is growing, and advertising dollars must eventually follow.

The study found that there were 119 million Internet users in July, up from 92.2 million users the previous July. The 2.2 percent increase from June to July was especially impressive given that it’s thought people spend more time outside or on vacation during the summer months.

Usage minutes climbed 3.7 percent month over month, marking the first significant gain since February. Total usage minutes were measured at 106.1 billion in July 2002, up 62 percent from 69.7 billion a year ago.

Additionally, minutes per user climbed 1.5 percent from June levels, to 14.9 hours per user — a figure that supports the idea that the Internet is playing an increasingly important role in Americans’ lives. That number was up 18 percent from the previous year, when usage per unique user stood at 12.6 hours.

July saw USA Interactive, parent to Expedia, Match.com, Ticketmaster, and Citysearch, jump into the top ten Internet sites for the first time. The company ranked eighth, after AOL/Time Warner, Microsoft Sites, Yahoo, Google Sites, Terra Lycos, About/Primedia, and eBay. Following USA Interactive came Amazon at number nine, and CNET.

According to Media Metrix numbers, Internet portals were the big winners in July. Unique visitors rose 4 percent month over month (from 108.2 million to 112.3 million), while total usage minutes grew 6 percent, from 35.5 billion minutes to 36.7 billion. Deutsche Bank Securities analysts estimate that usage minutes per portal visitor grew 2 percent month over month.

Yahoo set a site record in July, bringing in 83.4 million users, which represent 70 percent reach. The portal’s audience grew 30 percent year over year, and 5 percent month to month. Total usage minutes on Yahoo showed an even stronger trend. They jumped 76 percent year over year, and 8 percent month over month.

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