Content Time Comes at Search’s Expense

Content Time Comes at Search’s Expense

AUGUST 14, 2007

Search improved, so users spend less time with it.

Internet users now spend nearly half of their online time visiting content, according to the Online Publishers Association‘s "Internet Activity Index," conducted by Nielsen//NetRatings.

Time spent with content is up 37% over 2003 levels, the OPA
claimed. The Index measures time spent with e-commerce, communications,
content and search.

"The index indicates that, over the past four years, the primary
role of the Internet has shifted from communications to content," OPA
president Pam Horan said in a statement. "[The Internet now handles]
traditionally offline activities, such as getting news, finding
entertainment information or checking the weather."

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"Consumers spend considerable time with social networking sites,
which serve not only as places of content but are also increasingly
important communications vehicles," Ms. Horan said in the statement.

The OPA suggested several reasons for the shift in how
Internet users spend their time online. One was that broadband
proliferation, coupled with more accessible and faster sites, had
increased overall time spent online. Another was that online video’s
popularity has increased the amount of time users spend with content.

The association also noted that search is better than before.
This lets consumers find what they are looking for more quickly. That
reduces time spent on search and increases the amount of time devoted
to other activities.

If content is consuming so much of Internet users’ time, where
does that leave search? For those marketing a retail e-commerce site,
search still matters.

The American Marketing Association‘s
"Mplanet" survey ranked the online resource consumers were most likely
to use first for product information during last year’s holiday season
in different retail categories. Search engines (43%) and direct visits
to company Web sites (29%) were the sources consumers turned to first
for product information, regardless of product category.

Newer types of consumer-generated content, such as online
social networks, blogs and chat rooms, were less important as a primary
source for finding product information.

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Engagement, as measured by time spent on a particular activity,
counts for something. It just does not always count for everything.

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