Americans Avoid Email to Play Games and Spend Time on Facebook


The average American spends almost a third of their time on the Internet playing games and using social networks, according to a new survey by Nielsen. Social networking sites and services take up the largest chunk of time, at about 23 percent of all time spent online, and that figure is up sharply from just 16 percent in June 2009. Online games account for the next largest block at 10 percent, up from 9 percent in the previous survey.

That’s great if you are Facebook or social-gaming giant Zynga, but if your business involves email or you happen to be a “portal” such as Yahoo or MSN, the Nielsen numbers don’t have a lot of good news for you: the survey shows that the amount of time Americans spend on email has dropped by almost a third, to 8 percent from over 11 percent last year, and time spent at portal sites fell by almost 20 percent compared to the previous year.

Nielsen broke down the stats into a graphic that shows what your time online would look like if all of the activity surveyed were squeezed into a single hour — social networks and blogs would account for almost 14 minutes of that hour, games would use up to 6 minutes and email 5 minutes. Portals, meanwhile, would account for just 2 minutes of the hour, almost exactly the same amount of time that users spend instant messaging.

Interestingly enough, the situation is reversed on mobiles. Email still takes up the majority of time spent, and would account for almost half of the hour, according to Nielsen’s survey. Social networks and blogs account for just 6 minutes of time spent on mobiles, and portals about 7 percent.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): How the Next Zynga Could Reinvent Social Gaming


Jack C

These results paired with the recent ACSI release show just how huge of an opportunity there is to give existing social media platforms a run for their money.

One comment I’d make on this type of data is how it fails to recognize large clumps of outliers (i.e., enthusiasts). That is, of the folks who game, a nontrivial segment game a TON. Similarly, of the folks that waste time on social media stuff, a big chunk spend a lot of time there. These are the sort of populations that sway elections (via micro-targeting), make certain television stations viable, and so on. They are an essential and critical segment of the landscape.

Finally, I take exception at Nielsen’s depiction of “portal” as a distinct sector, which I’d argue isn’t accurate anymore and hasn’t been for quite some time.


Great post. Strange to see that online games overtook email. Great stats also. Thanks for sharing.


In the last paragraph, I think you mean 7 minutes, not 7 percent.


The changes really aren’t that huge. A couple percent here and there. Another thing to consider is that there are an increasing number of news sites that are categorized as “blogs.” (drudge, huffpo, etc)

James Kendrick

I think the two sets of figures from Nielsen show that while email was previously a big use on home systems, that task has now shifted to the smartphone.

This doesn’t surprise me as smartphones have exploded into consumer’s hands and email is the perfect mobile task for them. What would be interesting is to poll these folks to see how many of them check email on their phone while sitting at the home computer doing Facebook? :)

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