The Online Publishers Association’s Internet Activity Index shows that the time spent viewing content sites in September surpassed the time spent on communications tasks for the first time in the Index’s year-long history, according to an OPA release.
The data shows that content accounts for a 41.0 percent share of time spent online; communications accounts for 39.8 percent. Commerce and search account for 15.2 and 4.0 percent shares, respectively.
The data is based on a click-stream database developed by the OPA and Nielsen//NetRatings. The OPA’s numbers have a number of shortcomings, in Outsell’s opinion:
- They are heavily weighted toward consumer-oriented sites (the kinds of sites run by OPA’s members, so no surprise there). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it begs the question of what numbers would come from business and academic markets.
- The division between content, communication, commerce, and search is artificial. If a consumer uses Froogle to find a product, goes to a commerce site, reads reviews of the product, exchanges buying advice with other consumers, and then buys a product, she has used all four, with very blurry lines between one activity and the other.
- The OPA data excludes government (.gov) and education (.edu) domains, arguably the most content-rich sites out there. And pornography sites are also excluded – Outsell Now readers can decide for themselves if that’s content worth measuring or not.
So caution is in order; while this data says a lot about trends in the behavior of users of OPA members' Web properties, it doesn’t by any means represent the entire content universe or content user population. Still, the general trend identified by OPA, increasing reliance on the Web for content, is consistent with our own data showing that knowledge workers' information needs are increasingly met on the Internet, whether that’s free or fee-based content.