Content becomes More Popular than Communications

The Online Publishers Association (OPA) has announced that for the first time ever, this September, Content surpassed Communications to become the leading online activity as measured by share of time spent online.

Content was also the only category to register an increase in share of time spent online over August 2004, while Commerce, Communications and Search registered month-over-month declines of 5.8%, 4.0% and 3.1%, respectively. It was tight, but Content (41%) only just pipped Communications (39.8%) to the post rather than outrun it by lengths.

For OPA purposes, Content means Web sites and Internet applications that are designed primarily to provide news, information and entertainment like,, Windows Media Player and MapQuest. Communications covers Web sites and Internet applications that are designed to facilitate the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information directly between individuals or groups of individuals like Yahoo! Mail, AOL Instant Messenger and MSN Groups.

The Internet Activity Index is based on the proprietary clickstream database that underlies Nielsen//NetRatings’ NetView service, and calculations are made for each segment – Communications, Commerce, Content, and Search.

As mentioned, Content’s share of time grew substantially from 34.6% in September 2003 to 41.0% in September 2004. While Commerce and Search remained relatively flat over that same time period, Communications registered a sharp decline, from a 46.0% share to a 39.8% share.

Michael Zimbalist, president of the Online Publishers Association explained the increase in share of time spent on Web Content – the string of hurricanes, the start of the pro football season and the baseball playoffs, the presidential debates, and the new Autumn line-ups of the television networks.

If these are the reasons for the historic first, well then the figures are just temporarily skewed and will, one presumes, return to second place in October. But what about September 2003? All the sporting and television line-ups were there a year ago.

What really pushed Content ahead of Communications? Was it the hurricanes, the presidential election debates or both? Or, as Michael Zimbalist says, “a shift in how consumers are using the Web as broadband households continue to grow. Clearly, it is much more than a tool; it is a primary source of information, entertainment and fun.” Online Publishers Organisation/iai