Analysis Says Surfers Prefer Content

NEW YORK - According to the Online Publishers Association (OPA), Internet users spend nearly half their online time visiting content, 37 percent more than was reported four years ago.

The finding was announced Tuesday in the OPA's four-year analysis of its Internet Activity Index (IAI), a monthly gauge of the time users spend on e-commerce, communication, content and searching.

According to the IAI, which was conducted by Nielsen//NetRatings, Internet users in 2003 spent 46 percent of their online time on communication and 34 percent on content. Since then, usage has shifted: Internet users now spend 47 percent of their time on content.

"The dominant role of content is driven by several important factors," OPA President Pam Horan said. "The first is the online transition of traditionally offline activities, such as getting news, finding entertainment information or checking the weather.

"Quality content sites see a consistent pattern: Major news drives traffic spikes, but traffic remains consistently higher, even after the event. Major news events such as Hurricane Katrina and high-profile seasonal events such as the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament are clearly driving consumers to engage more deeply with online content."

Horan said new online features and communities also are leading consumers to spend a larger share of their Internet time on content.

"Consumers spend considerable time with social-networking sites, which serve not only as places of content but are also increasingly important communications vehicles," she said.

The 37-percent gain in the share of online time spent on content occurred steadily over most of the past four years, increasing 10 percent from 2003 to 2004, remaining even from 2004 to 2005, growing 13 percent from 2005 to 2006 and increasing 13 percent from 2006 to 2007.

The second-largest growth over the same time period was the 35-percent gain in the share of online time spent on searching. However, the time spent searching remains relatively low, accounting for just 5 percent of online time in 2007.