Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

What Happened to the Web’s Unemployment Boost?

unemployedNew conventional wisdom for the Web age: If jobs go down, then the Internet goes up. It’s pretty straightforward logic: If you’ve got nothing else to do, then you’re more apt to watch Hulu, play Farmville, whatever.

But here’s a data set that seems to belie that: New statistics from Nielsen that seem to show that people are spending less time on their browsers than they did a year ago.

If you believe Nielsen’s stats, Web users are heading to their PCs a little less often (sessions per person–down 11 percent)  and doing less once they get there (domains visited per person–down 20 percent). Except when it comes to clicking, which they’re happy to do (Web pages per person–up 11 percent).

I can understand the boost in Web pages, since many publishers are getting more strident about demanding extra clicks from their visitors, in the form of slideshows and other tricks. Everything else, though, leaves me puzzled.

Note that in addition to the usual salt you want to consume alongside Web-use metrics like these, there’s a bonus variable here. Nielsen changed its reporting process in last June, which makes year-over-year comparisons even trickier.

But Nielsen says this stuff should at least be directionally correct, so take a look for yourself (click image to enlarge):

nielsen november internet use

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work