With the rise of social-networking sites galore, interactive web 2.0 features being incorporated into just about every enterprise and blogs becoming ubiquitous for the young and old, you'd think that internet usage would be moving away from content consumption and towards interactivity, but a recent study by the Center for Media Research shows otherwise.
According to the Online Publishers Association, Internet users are spending nearly half their online time visiting content, a 37% increase in share of time from four years ago. The Internet Activity Index, conducted by Nielsen//NetRatings, shows that communications accounted for 46% of consumers' time online in 2003. A dramatic shift has taken place since then, with consumers now spending 47% of their time with content and only 33% with communication.When the web was still in its infancy and we were all using Mosaic, warnings that the internet would eventually become just as commodified as television. As we all know these warnings had some truth to them and today the internet has a diverse economic ecology of epic proportions. Despite this evolution, the internet has remained essentially open and interactive. Amazingly, the one field in the study that hasn't changed significantly over the past 4 years is online commerce. In 2003, users spent 16% of their time shopping; today they spend 15%. As the internet's grown, so has the time spent searching for material. In 2003, searches made up 3% of our time online today we're spending 5% of our time hunting. What's unclear about the study is where content ends and communication begins. User forums and commenting features have been implemented in most content destinations. Is the entire time spent at these sites considered content time, or does it shift into the communication field when they click comment and start writing their own impressions? Perhaps the study is misleading in this way, and it is not so much a matter of communication taking a back seat on today's internet but rather that communication and content are becoming integrated in such a manner as to render studies like this one obsolete.