Consumers Are Spending the Lionshare of Their Time Online with Content

Ad Operations OnlineInternet Activity Index Reveals Consumers Spend More Time Online with Content Than Community and Communications

New York, NY – Internet users continue to spend a majority of their time with Content sites, up from 34 percent of total time spent in 2003 to 42 percent in 2009, a 24 percent increase, according to the Online Publishers Association (OPA). The OPA announced a six-year analysis of its Internet Activity Index (IAI), a monthly gauge of the time being spent with Commerce, Communications, Community, Content and Search. And, while consumers may be spending significant time with Community sites, it’s coming at the expense of their time with Communication sites whose core capabilities are email and Instant Messaging (IM).

“In the six years that the IAI has reported on how consumers are spending their time online, we have seen some significant shifts, most notably the emergence of Community,” said Pam Horan, president of the OPA. “While Community has grown, data from the IAI proves that Content is still king; these sites continue to be a place where consumers spend the majority of their online time and provide an environment for brand marketers to reach and engage with consumers.”

The latest IAI report provides insights into how consumers are spending their time online, and how that has changed over the past six years. Based on the analysis, the OPA found that the percentage of time spent online with Web sites providing news, information and entertainment, like, and (Content sites), has grown even in the wake of Community sites like Facebook. Moreover, Communication sites offering email and IM have decreased in share of online time spent due to the ability to conduct these activities elsewhere.

“In 2008, we introduced the Community category based on the emergence and popularity of sites like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn,” continued Horan. “These new sites have had significant impact on the Communications category, which saw a 41 percent decline, due to the fact consumers are using Community sites where they can conduct these same activities more efficiently.”

When comparing how people used the Internet in 2003 with how they use the Internet today, the OPA found a number of factors behind the changes, including monthly average time per person:

Category 2003 Avg Time* 2009 Avg Time Change in Time
Content                         3:42                           6:58                    +88%
Communications      5:20                           4:54                      -8%
Commerce                  2:07                           2:40                    +26%
Community                N/A                            3:01                     N/A
Search                          0:27                           0:57                    +111%
*Note: 2003 average is May through December 2004, and 2009 average is January through May 2009.

When we shift from IAI’s time spent to the share of online time each category attracts over six years, we see significant changes as to how consumers spend their online time:

Category                   2003 Avg Share* 2009 YTD Share Change in Share
Content                                               34%                           42%                       +24%
Communications                            46%                           27%                        -41%
Commerce                                         16%                           13%                         -19%
Community                                       N/A                          13%                          N/A
Search                                                  3%                             5%                            67%
*Note: 2003 average is May through December 2004, and 2009 average is January through May 2009.

IAI’s share of time helps to provide further context. For example, Content consumption, as a share of online time, surpasses Communications as the leading way online audiences spend their time. Furthermore, although time spent with Search doubled, its share of time is very small and has only increased by two percentage points. Monthly time spent with Communications decreased by less than half an hour, but declined by 41 percent as a share of a consumer’s online time.

About the OPA Internet Activity Index
Launched in 2003, the IAI is a new way of looking at consumer engagement online, and it remains a unique, relevant monthly benchmark. The OPA’s Internet Activity Index is derived from a categorization of Web properties accounting for more than 90 percent, on average, of active Web users and approximately 55 percent of total usage time (excludes .gov and .edu Web sites, as well as pornographic domains). By tracking share of time spent on each activity, the IAI provides a benchmark for charting the relative impact of changing market dynamics on these segments and identifying important trends in Web use. The IAI is conducted by Nielsen//NetRatings and is posted online each month. A full description of the IAI and its methodology is available at

About the OPA
Founded in June 2001, the Online Publishers Association is an industry trade organization whose mission is to advance the interests of high quality online publishers before the advertising community, the press, the government and the public. Members of OPA represent the standards in Internet publishing with respect to editorial quality and integrity, credibility and accountability. OPA member sites have a combined, unduplicated reach of 149.3 million visitors, or 79% percent of the total U.S. Internet audience (Source: comScore Media Metrix, August 2008 combined home/work/university data). For more information, go to