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Nearly Half Of Web Users' Time Spent With Content; Search Rises Slowly, While Commerce Falls: Report

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Internet users are spending nearly half their online time accessing content, a 37 percent rise in the share of time they devoted for the same use four years ago, according to a study commissioned by the Online Publishers Association. The study, which was prepared by Nielsen//NetRatings, was done as part of a four-year analysis of OPA’s Internet Activity Index, a monthly gauge of the time being spent with e-commerce, communications, content and search.

As for the factors driving the increased share of content usage, the OPA ascribed the growth to faster internet access, the growing popularity of online video and social nets, improvements in the quality and speed of searches, and the simple fact that there’s more online material to spend time with. Specifically, the topline findings include:

— The share of time users spent online from January to May of this year was 47 percent. In 2003, that number was 34 percent (a growth rate of 37 percent). The increase in content’s share of time has been fairly steady in the last several years — gaining 10-13 percent annually.

— Time spent doing search for the first five months of 2007 was 5 percent, compared to 2 percent four years ago.

— As content claims more of users’ time, other sites lose. Shopping’s share of users’ online time declined 5 percent from 2003, dropping to 15 percent this year from 16 percent in the last study.

— As for the methodology, the IAI focuses on web properties accounting for more than 90 percent, on average, of active web users and about 55 percent of total usage time. The index excludes “.gov” and “.edu” sites, as well as pornographic domains.