Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Facebook, Farmville Now Wasting a Third of Your Web Time

Perhaps you think you’re doing something useful when you boot up your PC and head online. Odds are, there’s a one-in-three chance you’re spending your time on Facebook. Or playing with virtual sheep.

So says Nielsen in a new report about what American do online. Title: “What Americans Do Online.”

The key takeaway here is that social networks and online games take up about a third of our Web time. That’s up from last year, when the two categories combined to take up about 25 percent of our time.

And that’s good news for Facebook and Farmville-maker Zynga, which dominate the two categories. It’s neutral news for Google (GOOG), since search’s share has stayed consistent at about 3.5 percent, and it’s bad news for Yahoo (YHOO) and AOL (AOL), since portal time has decreased by 19 percent.

Here’s your data in chart form (click to enlarge):

And in a groovy graphic:

Interesting side note is that usage patterns change if you’re talking about Internet use on your phone. There, Nielsen says, you’re much more likely to spend time tapping out email:

What accounts for the difference? Nielsen doesn’t hazard a guess, so I’ll make a couple:

  • Even on sophisticated handsets like Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone and Google’s Android, it’s easier to check email than just about any other online experience. And if you’re talking about cruder feature phones with very limited Web access–the kinds that average Americans still use in great numbers–that difference is even more pronounced.
  • The mobile content people keep telling us that that phone users are interested in “snacking” on content. Can’t get more snackable than an email, right?

One other data point to consider when considering the different data points: The data comes from different places.

Nielsen’s PC-based Web stats come from both self-reported surveys and panel data, where a small group of users allow Nielsen to track their behavior. The mobile data only comes from self-reported surveys. So it may be that people would like us to think that they’re less likely to screw around on their phones than they really are. So be truthful–how much does your Web usage differ when you get on your phone?


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