Though the Internet is made up of tens of millions of websites, people spend the vast majority of time on just a handful of sites. According to comScore, an Internet analytics company, Americans spend most of their time online on Facebook - 10.8% in December 2012. That month, Americans spent another 10% of their Internet time on Google properties, including Google search and YouTube. Based on comScore's report, "U.S. Digital Future in Focus 2013," 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 Web properties where people spend the most time.
Many of the top online sites have managed to significantly increase the time spent on their sites in the past year due to the rise in mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. The top 25 digital media properties in December 2012 increased their reach through mobile channels by 29% compared to December 2011. Some increased significantly more than that. ESPN expanded its digital reach by 56% compared to 2011, more than any of the 25 largest online properties except for Pandora.
The growth in mobile engagement has not necessarily been good news for Internet companies. "There is a concern that there is trading dollars for dimes," Andrew Lipsman, vice president of marketing and industry analysis for comScore, said in an interview with 24/7 Wall St. Advertising rates on mobile devices are just a fraction of what they are on desktop computers.
Carmela Aquino, a senior marketing manager at comScore, added that while there certainly has been a shift to mobile devices, their usage has often complemented personal computer (PC) usage rather than replaced it altogether.
Still, some of the move to mobile has cannibalized surfing the Internet on a PC. To compensate for some of the loss, along with generally trying to boost engagement on all platforms, there has been an increased emphasis on video content at many of these properties, which commands much higher advertising rates.
Sites such as Yahoo! and AOL have made significant investments in video content through Yahoo! Finance's live programming and The Huffington Post's HuffPost Live. Lipsman also points out that the Google's Youtube, which has been streaming videos since 2005, has seen the quality of its user generated content increase significantly. Higher quality and longer form content should improve advertising revenue.
"What the Internet went through in the past decade, mobile will have to go through the next decade," Lipsman said. "But over time, advertising dollars follow eyeballs."
There have been other reasons that engagement has risen on many of these properties. Portals such as Yahoo! are offering customized content to individual users based on their search history and what their friends have shared on social media. Both Aquino and Lipsman argue such customization makes the sites more attractive to users.
Furthermore, engagement also has risen and likely will continue to do so on sites such as Amazon and eBay due to the growth in online retail. For instance, during the final three months of 2012, eBay sales rose 18% compared to the prior year. At Amazon, those sales rose 35%.
Based on comScore data, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 Web properties where Americans spend the most time relative to the total amount of time spent on the Internet. We also looked at comScore data on the total number of unique visitors for each of the 25 largest Web properties in December 2012, breaking down the number of visitors by desktop computer and mobile device. In addition, we considered the market share for Internet search engines and social media, also provided by comScore.
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