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New Study Reveals: Content is King… Not Social Media

September 21, 2009

blogs_are_ticket[1]A conversation I constantly have with my clients is how important unique great content is to  helping them “Getting Found Online” so when the study by “Online Publishers Association” came across my screen recently, it was good to find more hard numbers to back up the evangelism. 

The study on online activity titled the “Internet Activity Index” released by  the Online Publishers Association shows the  trends of the types of activity that have ocurred on the Internet over the past 6 years. The study’s findings has important implications for online marketers and how they should be focusing their time, resources and strategies in 2009 and beyond.

The 5 Categories and the the types of sites that were measured were:

  • Content (Sites like, and (Content sites)
  • Communications (websites offering email, and Instant messaging)
  • Community (Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn)
  • Commerce (such as Ebay, Amazon)
  • Search (Google, Yahoo, Bing etc) 

So what were 5 Key findings of the study?

  1. Internet users continue to spend a majority of their “time” with Content sites, up from 34 percent of total time spent in 2003 to 42 percent in 2009, a 24 percent increase
  2. Emergence of Community (it wasn’t measured in 2003 as it wasn’t statistically significant enough and not on the radar)
  3. Content is still king; the content rich sites continue to be a place where consumers spend the majority of their online time and provide an environment for brand marketers to reach and engage with consumers despite the emergence of  community sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace
  4. Community sites are reducing the share of online time by communications sites due to community sites ability to offer the same activities such as email and instant messaging more efficiently
  5. Time spent with Search doubled 


When comparing how people used the Internet in 2003 with how they use the Internet today, the Online Publishers Assocation found a number of factors behind the changes, including monthly average time per person:

Change in “Time Spent” of Each Categories Internet Activity

Category 2003 Avg Time*
(hours: minutes)

2009 Avg Time (hours: minutes)

Change in Time
*Note: 2003 average is May through December 2003, and 2009 average is January through May 2009.


When we shift from Internet Activity Index’s time spent to the share of online time each category attracts over six years, we see significant changes as to how consumers spend their online time.

The 5 Categories Share of Time of Online Activity


2003 Avg Share*

2009 YTD Share

Change in Share












Community N/A








*Note: 2003 average is May through December 2003, and 2009 average is January through May 2009.

The share of time helps to provide further context. For example, Content consumption, as a share of online time, surpasses Communications as the leading way online audiences spend their time. Furthermore, although time spent with Search doubled, its share of time is very small and has only increased by two percentage points. Monthly time spent with Communications decreased by less than half an hour, but declined by 41 percent as a share of a consumer’s online time.

Note: The Online Publishing Associations Internet Activity Index is derived from a categorization of Web properties accounting for more than 90 percent, on average, of active Web users and approximately 55 percent of total usage time.

 So the top takeaway from this study for me is:

“Consumers Spend More Time Online with Content (+ 24% since 2003) than Community and Communications and its importance for getting found online should be given priority and with the emergence and growth of Social Media from nowhere 6 years ago and the continuing growth and importance of Search (+ 67% since 2003) pursuing an integrated approach to Online marketing involving all 3 elements of Content, Social Media and Search is vital and from this has emerged the New Rules of Marketing.. that your company ignores at its peril.

“So if  content is King?  “How Do You Best Optimize and Utilize Your Content for Social Media” .. and what are the “New Rules of Marketing” well that’s for another blog post. 

So have you already realised the importance of publishing great unique content for your website?… or are you still thinking about it, looking forward to hearing your stories.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. September 21, 2009 5:13 pm

    It’s an interstesting study, furthemore when content relevance appears to be the main “filter” when building the audience. We share relevant data and gather in groups of interests (communities: entertainment-based: e.g.Facebook, MySpace and professional-based: e.g.LinkedIn) as result of both technological advancements and information overload, which raises the need for grouping and categorization (targeting by interests).

    Moreover, it’s an important moment for marketers, who could benefit from the opportunities digital marketing offers by understanding and using it properly. More on Social Media ROI in the interview taken with Ogilvy digital marketers and David M.Scott, best-selling author of “The new Rules of Marketing & PR”:

  2. September 21, 2009 10:08 pm

    I think it is really interesting on the differences between 2003 and today. Just goes to show how the end user is always evolving so when trying to capture their attention, we should be to.

  3. Priyadarshani Sharma permalink
    September 22, 2009 9:16 am

    Good report. An interesting insight that has come up is that Community sites are reducing the share of online time by communications sites due to community sites ability to offer the same activities such as email and instant messaging more efficiently.

  4. September 22, 2009 10:15 pm


    Once again, thank you for providing us with keen insights into the latest social media studies. You are, indeed, a “content king!”

    Your latest report underscores the fact that success in social media is no small task as it requires, for brands at least, as much attention to finding, creating, and sharing great content, as it does to achieving and maintaining important person-to-person connections. Assuredly, the preeminence of content is a reflection of a much more information-savvy consumer. In the end, we are all better served by this higher standard.


    • Trey Pennington permalink
      September 26, 2009 5:47 pm

      Glen’s right on target. Now, more than ever, all marketers much pay attention to the marketplace through ever available means in order to produce content that not only gets attention, but helps actually solve problems.

  5. Richard Janezic @rjanezic57 permalink
    September 22, 2009 10:37 pm


    Interesting post, with interesting data…I visited the Online Publisher Association site, and did a comparison over a smaller time series (Q307-today) and the changes in values (minutes, visitors, etc) appear to convey a less conclusive and definitive trend…can you comment?

    Thank you.


  6. September 22, 2009 11:17 pm

    It makes sense that content is king. Isn’t that the hardest part to come up with? Good content?

  7. davemorse permalink
    September 24, 2009 2:50 pm

    Great post! I totally agree – a content strategy must come before a social media strategy! Too many are hung up on a particular tool (Twitter, FB, etc) without even considering who they’re trying to influence with what type of message/content.

    I wrote a similar (more lengthy) post on this subject:

    The take-away: content is crucial to an over-arching “inbound marketing” strategy.

  8. September 24, 2009 3:21 pm


    That is the challenge for most businesses – generating content. Most have a hard time implementing the discipline to get it done.

  9. September 24, 2009 11:12 pm

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for the detailed information concerning changes in consumer habits. As a copywriter, I’m a big fan of content. It’s always useful to have statistical data to go along with my marketing efforts.

  10. September 27, 2009 10:46 am

    Nothing surprising here — content has been king of the web since 1995.

    However, it is interesting that you bring these ideas up in this way. There are so many people focused on a small part of the web (Twitter, Facebook, etc) and who ignore the much bigger superset of content.

    And considering the final quote you cited in the study, I’m damn glad I titled my book “The New Rules of Marketing & PR”,

  11. September 28, 2009 8:16 am

    Hello Jeff – Glad to have found you!

    This is a very good post.

    Since my core expertise is in Knowledge Management, I’m not at all surprised by this finding. Indeed, in my list of “Principles of Twitter Professionals” I have:

    Principle #7: Tweet quality determines the success of your strategy

    and I regard it is probably THE most important of them all.

    Alex Goodall

  12. October 23, 2009 8:55 am

    Content is still king in Korea, coz Major Portal Site such as MKT is one of method companies like. anyway There are some changes from social activities on Social Media. That’s why I agree your opinion on the post.

  13. October 23, 2009 3:33 pm

    Jeff this is great content indeed :). I do agree on this, content is king and social media as a marketing strategy is sometimes overrated. The good thing is we can use social media to leverage content because search engines are taking into account both relevance and popularity or social buzz.

  14. December 4, 2009 5:14 pm

    It has no relevance which media one is talking about, content is always and always will be most giving and valuable.
    When people finally learn how to read and write then the Facebooks and Twitters will be redundant. Why? Because clear , compelling visceral copy is bloody difficult to create on a regular basis.
    Good article though. Thanks a million.

  15. February 17, 2010 5:06 am

    The Internet Activity Index is the study of the internet activities released by Online publishers Association have the trends of different types of internet posted in it. This is a good post.

  16. john permalink
    February 27, 2010 1:19 pm

    any tips of content for our web site? small hotel in spain so the content of a page is more important than social media?

    thanks and best regards


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