Blog Post

Do Users Like AOL Or Facebook More? The Answer May Surprise You

*AOL* ruled the ‘net back when most people still had dial-up, but when it comes to web 2.0, most people think about it as an also-ran. But the latest data from Nielsen Online shows that the Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) property still tops *Google*, *Yahoo* and even Facebook when it comes to stickiness. People on average spent a total of more than three hours and forty-five minutes on sites or applications under the AOL umbrella in February, topping Yahoo’s three and half hours, and Facebook’s three hours.

It’s another signal that users have taken to AOL’s integration of social-media features like lifestreaming, and its bigger shift from being a portal to a group of vertically-aligned hubs. The company, however, is still struggling to find a more lucrative way than display ads to make money from all this user engagement. Time spent translates into revenue in two ways: companies can serve users more ads (though they need to up the variety), and they can also get users to reveal more info about themselves (which leads to more effective, better-targeted ads).

More trends after the jump.

The latest Nielsen data showed some other striking shifts. In February 2008, Facebook didn’t even break into Nielsen’s top 10 list in terms of overall traffic; just a year later, its 65.7 million unique monthly visitors put it ahead of IAC (NSDQ: IACI), Wikipedia and even Disney (NYSE: DIS) (which it knocked out of the top 10 this year). It also beat beat both Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) in terms of time spent.

On the other hand, Fox Interactive Media (NYSE: NWS) (which owns rival MySpace) needs to find a way to attract new users and keep them interested: unique monthly visits were relatively flat at 64.2 million, and time spent was down from over two hours in February 2008, to an hour and a half this year.

Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) was another new entrant to the top 10; App Store buzz likely drove its more than 52 million unique visitors to spend over an hour and 10 minutes on its sites in February. Of course, Google ruled in terms of traffic, with 134 million visitors across its network, though time spent was relatively flat at about two hours on average. Traffic to both Microsoft and Yahoo’s sites was relatively flat, but both companies managed to get visitors to stay for about 10 minutes more overall. Release.