Space Ramblings

Content is King? Duh!

Internet users spend almost half their time online reading and watching content, dwarfing the time spent searching for information, communicating with others and buying products, according to a four-year analysis of Internet activity released Monday. The new study from the Online Publishers Association (OPA) found that the time Internet users spend viewing online content is up 37% from four years ago.

Okay first and foremost, major conflict of interest right there. The Online Publishers Association is proclaiming the triumph of content? Gosh, can’t see a reason why they’d want to do that and proclaim the triumph of their own field.

But really this kind of study is silly in the extreme. People searching were searching for content to begin with. Are people spending less time communicating with others or has communication with others simply been rolled into content sites like YouTube which has a major social networking component. For that matter does Digg count as content or something else. In fact is anything we do really not involve content?

Certainly the blogging explosion, including yours truly, combines communicating with others, alongside content. Thus content and communicating with others really not only overlap but also interface.

While users in 2003 spent 46% of their time online communicating, they now spend 47% of their time viewing content, according to the study. The share of time spent using e-mail or instant messaging tools has dropped 28% over the last four years

Okay but so what. We all know E-mail is yesteryear’s donkey. We don’t need a study to tell us that. But a user who views a YouTube video of The Office at the Emmys and then begins debating a fan of the British Office over the merits of the two shows, is he communicating or viewing content or doing both? And does the OPA have a way to distinguish the two?

What about someone reading a Livejournal or Spaces blog? What about MySpace users? Are they reading content or communicating? Sure instant messenger is no longer synonymous with the internet. People are more likely to IM and even email over the phone anyway. So how much of that drop is really caused by a change in people’s priorities and how much is simply a matter of failing to catch up to the new definitions?

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