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Research: Free Content Increasingly Popular As 'Transactional' Sites Wane

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Hitwise‘s contribution to the pay-for-content debate – metrics showing that free sites (entertainment, social nets and forums, news and media and lifestyle) are upping their share of UK web visits at the expense of “transactional” sites (shopping, classifieds, business and finance and travel)…

Whilst, in July 2006, transactional sites got five percent more visits than content sites, in July 2009, content sites got 73 percent more visits than their counterparts. This is likely due to rising popularity of networking sites like Facebook, multimedia sites like YouTube, but also free news and blog sites.

Hitwise stops short of saying this would make charging for news ill-advised. But analyst Robin Goad strongly hints that it makes Free a winner: “An increasing proportion of online time is spent browsing content, communicating and networking, rather than buying things.

“Clearly this is long-term trend, but the falls in consumer spending that are a consequence of the recession have clearly helped to increase the gap over the last 12 to 18 months.”