OPA Launches Internet Activity Index

People spend the bulk of their time online communicating with one another and content-related activities come in a close second. Buying things online and searching command a much smaller amount of users’ time. These are the conclusions of the new Internet Activity Index (IAI) launched Thursday by the Online Publishers Association (OPA).

According to the IAI for June 2004, the communications segment accounted for 40.3 percent of the 49.1 million hours spent online, a 2.3 percent increase over May 2004. Content activities held steady with a 37.1 percent share, while the commerce segment dropped 0.6 points to 17.3 percent of time spent online. The search segment dipped slightly to a 5.3 percent share, down 0.2 points from the previous month.

The Index was designed to track macro-level shifts in online activity, and may also reveal interesting seasonal trends, according to OPA spokesperson Lisa Carparelli. For instance, historical data available going back to June 2003 reveals that the expected increase in commerce-related activity around holiday time actually sustained itself through March and April.

“I think the true surprises will come as we watch the Index going forward. Any additional insight into the level of engagement consumers have with respect to these segments should prove helpful to marketers and our industry,” she said.

The index data is drawn from the underlying database of Nielsen//NetRatings’ NetView service. Online offerings were divided into communications, commerce, content, and search segments based on an objective approach developed by the OPA and Nielsen//NetRatings. Nielsen//NetRatings has calculated usage metrics for each of these segments using the same algorithms that are used for all NetView-based custom analytics offerings.

In cases where a site is involved in more than one segment, those individual pages or parts of the site were placed in the appropriate category, Carparelli said. “For example, if a site offers email and also provides content, the email activity was grouped under Communications while the content was grouped under Content.”

The index offers a new way of looking at consumer engagement online. By tracking share of time spent on each activity on a monthly basis, the OPA hopes to use the index to chart the relative impact of changing market dynamics on these segments over time.

“Since its initial use primarily as a communications medium, the Internet has evolved into a platform that supports many types of activities and many different business models,” said Michael Zimbalist, president of the OPA. “It will be fascinating to track macro-level shifts in online activity through the IAI and gain a greater understanding of the level of engagement online consumers have with respect to each of these key segments.”

In addition to debuting the IAI, the OPA has also launched a newly updated Web site. It includes improved search capabilities and an enhanced research area that contains OPA and third party research covering online media and marketing.

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