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New Study Reveals: Content is King… Not Social Media

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 NYTimes.com, ESPN.com and Edmunds.com (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.

Jeffbullas's Blog


  • 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”:


  • 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.

  • Priyadarshani Sharma

    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.

  • Jeff,

    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

      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.

  • Richard Janezic @rjanezic57


    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.


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

  • davemorse

    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: http://davemorse.net/2009/09/02/why-i-hate-the-term-social-media/

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

  • @Melody

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

  • 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.

  • 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”,

  • 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

  • Content is still king in Korea, coz Major Portal Site such as naver.com(Viral 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • john

    any tips of content for our web site? small hotel in spain http://www.jesuskoa.net so the content of a page is more important than social media?

    thanks and best regards

  • This is a reassuring study for milesmaker™ in that I’m currently in development for a branded ‘content & conversation’ channel; a lifestyle network for Artistic entrepreneurs. My new website will initially offer curated content with creative social media integration and ultimately incorporate interactive elements for community engagement.

    I’m on my way!

  • Good post Jeff and it’s interesting to read some of the comments.

    I have maintained for the longest time that the consumer is now KING and that content is Queen.

    This royal couple, once given the right Social Media platforms by companies and corporations, should easily be able to experience the perfect opportunity for quality consumer engagement and, of course, we ALL hope, subsequent long term purchasing action. But these changes and this success won’t come easily or overnight!

    Social Media is NOT over rated, it’s under utilized.

    One of the main reasons, particularly in construction, is fear of change from senior management, the guys that still swear by their fax machines and can’t get their heads around anything digital! Perhaps, they’re scared of negative comments on Social Media platforms because based on their Draconian management skills they anticipate it becoming a major issue? Negative sentiment from staff is something companies have always had to deal with, however, many have never been confronted with doing their ‘dirty washing’ in public. This is great for the staff and ensures, to some extent, that people are treated well and fairly. (Social Media platform as virtual shop steward, perhaps)

    If companies addressed ‘internal’ marketing in a more positive and meaningful way, much of the the Social Media monitoring would or could be carried out by loyal and faithful staff. Not ALL the time on Social Media platforms during working hours is ‘downtime’ and ‘desk skiving’ and this should be addressed with a positive mentality rather than a negative one. I believe that in many instances Social Media monitoring is extremely important, has the potential in larger companies to become a stand alone department, simply because people have to act quickly to address problems. Social Media monitoring could become a new industry employing 1,000’s of people within the next few years. (A great job for the ageing population?) This MUST be a good thing for everyone concerned because often a complaint well handled and promptly, can produce untold loyalty from the complainant.

    I would also like to mention that not everyone fully appreciates that Social Media Marketing is NOT a get rich fix concept, it needs to be nurtured and it will take time and commitment and passion to see great results.

    Social Media in 2011 was discussed on LinkedIn recently and I agreed when someone said (Hi Su!) that we could well see a backlash from companies that don’t address Social Media with any real strategy (or passion) and therefore don’t see any positive rewards for their (paltry) efforts.
    These are the people who will moan and complain (The cynical senior management types, scared of change and challenges prior to their retirement) and say that Social Media is just a fad. However, with any luck, due to their lack of foresight and the inability to cope with the inevitable, they won’t be around too long anyway! The companies that address ‘permission marketing’, consider their customer as KING and their content as Queen AND address Social Media and Digital Marketing correctly, are the companies that will continue to be successful and prosper.
    Not everyone realises it, but some major changes have happened and there’s a lot more to come!

  • Great post Jeff. I agree 100% !

  • So true. Great post Jeff.

  • Great post and a great tool in my amoury next time a client says (why should we blog can’t we just Tweets its easier)

    • You also need something worthwhile tweeting that will engage them when they clickthrough! They go hand in hand.

  • Thanks jeff. change is always constant. 

  • Diwakar

    I have a different view, I think the community sites (Facebook, Twitter) are the kings where ordinary “people” are creating content and content sites (NYTimes, Financial Times, WSJ etc) are feeding content and creating a social revolution…

  • Content will forever be king. Original content is god! Great post, Jeff!

  • Eydiem1

    Jeff, This is an important subject. Being the content is outdated, I’d love to see an updated version.

  • Adnan Muratagic

    Content is being used by Communities. 

    In December 2009 facebook has only 350 million active members, in January 2011 it grown up to 900 million active members. More than the population of USA and Europe together. China excluded, to keep their communism they BLOKED facebook and twitter. China has it´s own community revolution. Russian Community site B KHONTAKTE has over 100 million active members.

    End of the year 2011 Mobile providers Vodafone creates a new product `Smartphone Crew` that uses social media to help customers with their smart phones. In Holland (and the rest of the world as well) are companies like `Just Connecting` that are earning their pay check by training another companies how to use community sites.
    Schools are providing subjects as New media and Marketing.

    From 2009 till march 2012 Facebook grow with 250%. I believe that today’s Facebook addicted’s have raised average way above the 6 hours. 14% of World population has a Facebook account. Millions more have another social media account and are active at Community site.

    When we read or watch news on site as NYTimes we will probably find an articles about Social media or Facebook. We would even have the opportunity to Like, give 1+, share or tweet any another article.
    Facebook (socials media) is not only using the content but it has become a part of it as well.

    As sir Peter L Masters MCIM would say “Social Media was Untilized”.

  • Anand Radhakrishnan

    Jeff, this is a great article showing how online communication platforms have managed to engage more audience for longer periods. As more and more services are made available online this trend will continue to grow. Companies in the B2B segment need to wake up and take notice about this online leadgen opportunity to get quality content out there through blogging.

  • I try hard, with a raft of social media channels that sit alongside our traditional marketing, to make content King. Sharing stuff I find, like this post, is easy. Coming up with unique and relevant content myself that isn’t just a sales pitch is my biggest single social media challenge. 🙂

    • It is sometimes hard but you make it easier if you do a couple of things
      1. Read a lot
      2. Think of all the problems that the readers in your category and niche are facing every day and writeand create content that helps them solve those probelms

    • Believe it or not, it gets easier to produce content, the more of it you produce! Here is what I did.

      I looked at the services and products my company produces, and I have written blog posts related to the services and products. Your own content is a great initial source.

      Next I reviewed the most popular posts, and that provided me with ideas for new posts.

      Finally, listening to my customers, and reviewing Q&A sites to see what are new questions coming up will provide further ideas.

      I also keep a content idea list. Since I try to produce 3-5 blogs each week, I don’t always use all of the ideas, but I Laos don’t get them every day either. So, when I am staring at a blank page, wondering what to write, I can always refer to the idea list to get the writing going.

      Don’t have the time to do it yourself? Many companies (One Web Company included) offer ghost writing services, as well as guest blogging services.

  • I strongly believe that knowledge and information is the only thing that good people are interested then the mode of communication

  • Vanaye Hamilton

    When I think of content I think of it as “closing the sale”. When I post on my social media I want my followers to click through and stay a while on those pages. It tells me two things: 1) I can get their attention 2) I can keep it. 😉

  • Mark Stonham

    Very interesting article and statistics re Content. While I don’t doubt that content is important it’s not the whole story, and it depends what your objectives are, and your business model.

    If you’re a content channel then of course it’s important, as you have magazine racks, bookshelves, radio and TV schedules to fill up. Consumers like to read and to watch, and they seek entertainment, education inspiration etc. for which they pay directly or indirectly.

    The reduction in time spent communicating may say something about relationships and the reduction in time spent in ecommerce may say something about the economy. More time on search may also say something about not finding what they wanted quickly.

    If your objective as a business is to increase sales then a good place to start is to appreciate and communicate with customers, so they buy more, get great service, say great things about you.

    In B2C and B2B markets, the creation of community around companies and brands is going to be interesting.

  • Something I’ve been plugging for a while – but great to have some hard stats to back it up – great post Jeff