Study: Web Users Reading More Than E-Mailing

Internet users spend nearly half of their time online viewing content, according to a study by the Online Publishers Association. That’s up from just over a third of online time spent with content in 2003, according to the group’s Internet Activity Index.

Overall, Internet users are spending more time online, which means more minutes dedicated to all measured activities, association spokesperson Don Marshall told TechNewsWorld.

Only one category has remained relatively stable since 2003: Users spent 16 percent of their online time performing commerce-related activities then and spend about 15 percent of their time on commerce now.

E-Mail and Content Switch Positions

In 2003, people spent about one-third of their time online using communication tools, such as e-mail, according to the association’s data, which is gathered by Nielsen//Net Ratings. After a gradual growth in the use of online content, those two activities now have switched positions. The shift can be attributed partly to the amount of content available now, said the association.

Internet users have begun to turn to Web sites for information they traditionally gather offline, said Marshall. For example, many Internet users now cite online channels as their primary sources of news and weather information. In addition, tasks that previously occurred exclusively offline — checking movie times, for instance — now occur primary online.

Social networking sites also have become sources of information in addition to providing a channel for communication among Internet users. The same goes for blogs, which serve up content in the form of authors’ entries but also provide information exchange in the form of comments.

IM Adds Speed

During the same period as the explosion in online content, online messaging has seen a trend toward efficiency, according to the association. Much more communication between individual Internet users happens in the form of instant messaging (IM) now than in 2003. Thus, people can send communications more quickly than in the days when e-mail was the exclusive interpersonal Internet channel.

“IM and text messaging is a primary communication method for many people,” said Marshall. Many of those people are in a younger generation for which texting is perhaps the first Web-based channel they learned to use. Others are adapting to the speed and flexibility of IM over e-mail, he noted.

Although online searching accounts for a relatively small portion of Internet users’ time, the activity has seen a large percentage of growth in recent years. In 2003, people spent about 3 percent of their online minutes performing searches. In 2007, that total grew to 5 percent — a 35 percent increase.

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