Friday, October 19, 2007

Internet Activity = Content Over Communications

I’ve been teaching Internet marketing from the very beginning. As any of you who teach, speak or lecture on the subject know well, it’s hard to keep up with developments. But one thing that has been a constant is that communications (primarily email) was the largest component of Internet user time. This is an important issue, and in August 2004 the Online Publishers Association launched their Internet Activity Index to track consumption of time by Internet users. Their four categories of time use are communications, content, commerce and search. Their initial data showed communications taking the largest chunk of time with content not too far behind. Marketers were probably paying more attention to commerce, which was pretty far down at less than 20% of total time.

Since then, without most of us paying a lot of attention, content kept moving up. Sometime in early 2006 content caught up with communications and by August 2007 the media buzz was the fact that content was about half of total Internet time use with communications far behind at 30%. Neither commerce nor search was showing sustained growth, again as measured by time use.

Current data from the OPA site shows the continuing dominance of content, although it is down a bit from the month before. According to OPA that was because users spent less time on social networking and children’s sites in August. On the other hand, they emailed and IM’ed more, especially from work. That looks like a clear seasonal effect. Search increased as a result of news activity, which is always true when there are major current events—in this case a hurricane, toy recalls and a bridge collapse.

Why is this important to marketers? For content and social media sites that want to monetize their content, the seemingly inexorable move away from traditional media to the Internet lets them sell more advertising for more money. For ecommerce sites it means that both online advertising and search bring users to their sites to make purchases. Large portals with vast advertising reach find it easy to sell out their inventory of advertising. But it also makes it possible to reach niche audiences cost effectively through niche sites and specialized advertising networks. Doug Weaver of iMediaConnection has an interesting take on the allocation of media $ to a more balanced online media model.

Click here to view video.

In the end it all adds up to the ecosystem of content that is the essence of Web2.0. The marketer’s challenge is using the right tool and the right time to reinforce the brand message with the target audience and then to be able to measure the sales results in multiple channels.
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