What Americans Do Online: Social Media and Games Dominate Activity

Americans spend nearly a quarter of their time online on social networking sites and blogs, up from 15.8 percent just a year ago (43 percent increase) according to new research released from The Nielsen Company.

The latest from Nielsen research shows that Americans devote six hours of online time every month to social networking sites and blogs. That’s almost a quarter of the time they spend on the Internet, up from 16 percent just a year ago.

“Despite the almost unlimited nature of what you can do on the web, 40 percent of U.S. online time is spent on just three activities – social networking, playing games and emailing leaving a whole lot of other sectors fighting for a declining share of the online pie,” said Nielsen analyst Dave Martin in a press release.

Driving this trend is the social networking giant Facebook, which recently eclipsed half a billion users worldwide. It claimed an 85 percent share of social networking use; News Corp.’s MySpace came in a distant second with a five percent share and Twitter with only one percent.

For the first time, gaming beat e-mail as number two online activity, accounting for 10 percent of time spent. Nielsen found that half of Americans online spend time playing games.  E-mail was the third most popular activity at 8 percent, and instant messaging came in fifth at 4 percent. It remained dominant on mobile devices, up to 42 percent from 37 percent.

Portals remain as the second heaviest activity on mobile Internet (11.6 percent share of time), despite their double digit decline and social networking’s rise to account for 10.5 percent share means the gap is much smaller than a year ago (14.3 percent vs. 8.3 percent).

Other mobile Internet activities seeing significant growth include music and video/movies, both seeing 20 percent plus increases in share of activity year over year. As these destinations gain share, it’s at the cost of other content consumption – both news/current events and sports destinations saw more than a 20 percent drop in share of U.S. mobile Internet time.

“Although we see similar characteristics amongst PC and mobile internet use, the way their activity is allocated is still pretty contrasting, added Martin. While convergence will continue, the unique characteristics of computers and mobiles, both in their features and when and where they are used mean that mobile Internet behavior mirroring its PC counterpart is still some way off.”

Additional findings include:

  • Of the most heavily-used sectors, Videos/Movies (which includes video-specific and movie-related websites only – and is not inclusive of video streaming behavior elsewhere) was the only other to experience a significant growth in share of U.S. activity online. Its share of activity grew relatively by 12 percent from 3.5 to 3.9 percent. (Source: Nielsen NetView)
  • June 2010 was a major milestone for U.S. online video as the number of videos streamed passed the 10 billion mark. The average American consumer streaming online video spent 3 hours 15 minutes doing so during the month. (Source: Nielsen VideoCensus)
  • Despite some predictions otherwise, the rise of social networking hasn’t pushed email and instant messaging into obscurity just yet. Although both saw double-digit declines in share of time, email remains as the third heaviest activity online (8.3 percent share of time) while instant messaging is fifth, accounting for four percent of Americans online time. (Source: Nielsen NetView)
  • Although the major portals also experienced a double digit decline in share, they remained as the fourth heaviest activity, accounting for 4.4 percent of U.S. time online. (Source: Nielsen NetView)


To see the full report visit the Nielsen Web site.