Internet User Trends Show Importance of Media Placement

Content is king for Internet users. The Online Publishers Association (OPA) crunched six years of Nielsen numbers to compile its latest Internet Activity Index, which shows that people continue to spend the vast majority of their online time on content sites. Whether it’s for serious news, celebrity gossip, health guidance or product comparisons, people use the Internet mostly to gather information.

The takeaway from the trend is this: The marketing mix must include public relations outreach to garner media attention. This doesn’t de-value emerging online advertising methods, such as integrated or micro ads, blogger branding and paid tweets on Twitter. It simply reinforces the importance of editorial coverage.

Products mentioned favorably in media reports receive an implied third-party endorsement. Consider news stories about fighting the obesity epidemic that cite a specific workout video, for example.

Neutral–or even negative–references can still be beneficial by boosting name recognition and raising awareness of your product or company. Take the Snuggie, for instance. Sales of the so-called “sweater with sleeves” continued to spike amid news reports this summer that consumers found the commercials cheesy and hilarious. Funnyman Jay Leno poked fun at Snuggies, Ellen DeGeneres spoofed them on her show and on the web, a snarky site (snuggiesitings.com) lets people share humorous images of Snuggie wearers.

How we Spend Online Time
The OPA compared how people used the Internet in 2003 with how they use it today. On average, people spend 6 hours and 58 minutes each month viewing content compared to 3 hours and 42 minutes in 2003. The analysis, using Nielsen/NetRatings data, shows people using Internet-based communications tools (IM, e-mail) less now than they did in 2003, probably because social networks, such as Facebook, give them an efficient way to communicate with many others at once. This finding argues against relying too heavily on e-mail marketing and bolsters the case for using social media to reach wide audiences.

The OPA compared the amount of online time in a variety of categories in 2003 versus today. In addition to content, communications and community, the OPA analyzed e-commerce sites and search engines. The analysis showed major changes in the way consumers spend their online time–less time in communications and commerce and significantly more time on content sites and search.

While the raw numbers for search seem low (although search time grew by more than 60 percent, it still comprises only five percent of our total online time, as compared to three percent in 2003) based on the Internet’s popularity for research, this demonstrates current trends and establishes the importance of online content development. Content can be optimized through search engine optimization practices including social media and link building. Websites will continue to rise in search rankings with the development of fresh content placed strategically online.