Thursday, September 03, 2009

Show Me the Numbers: Hard Data on Internet Use and Media Spend

Summary: Here are links to about twenty studies with statistics on online media consumption and advertising spend. Many are contradictory, but it's clear that marketers need to invest in social media, which might eventually replace search as the primary way that customers find them.

I’m sitting on a panel next week that will discuss long-term marketing trends. Naturally I have plenty of opinions on the topic, but just for fun I decided to scare up a few facts to reinforce them. This led to a highly entertaining, though uncompensated, scavenger hunt through the Web.

You won’t be surprised that there’s plenty of data out there. But I thought I’d share some of sources I found for answers to my basic questions, and perhaps a couple of insights I hadn’t quite considered before.

1. How are people actually spending their time online? And, in particular, are social media as important as industry gurus claim they are?

Probably the most comprehensive study along these lines was Global Faces and Networked Places, released by Neilsen in March 2009. This showed that as of December 2008, search was still the most common Internet activity (used by 85.9% of the online population), compared with just 65.1% for email. Social networks and blogs are the fastest growing application, now exceeding email with a participation rate of 66.8%.

Digging a little deeper within the social media category, the women’s blogger community BlogHer reported in its 2009 Women and Social Media Study that as of March 2009, 75% of women participated in social networks, compared with 55% who read blogs, 40% read message boards or forums, and 16% update status on platforms like Twitter. (The Twitter figures are surely much higher by now.) Nineteen percent actually publish their own blog while 29% comment on blogs. This reinforces (at least for women) the sense that social networks are rapidly emerging as the dominant Web activity.

Netpop Research
reinforces this point in Media Shifts to Social, which found that as of September and October 2008, communications (including email, instant messaging, blogs and photo sharing) had risen to 32% of online time from 27% in 2006. Entertainment (games, videos, and “accessing Web sites for fun”) dropped from 49% to 20% in the same period. Sadly, the public materials don’t tell us where the rest of the time went. Netpop agreed with BlogHer’s general participation figures, reporting that 76% of American broadband users participate in social media (105 million of 133 million total).

By contrast, the Pew Internet & American Life Project Survey in December 2008 found only 35% of adult online Americans had a social media profile. Based on the other studies, this seems low – although a social media profile is a more restrictive requirement than the other definitions apply. Pew did find that 65% of American teens had profiles.

One drawback with these studies is that they only look whether people participate in different activities, not how much time they spend. The Online Publishers Association has tracked time since 2003 in conjunction with Nielsen. Its most recent report shows that in the past year, time spent on “community” applications like Facebook and Myspace has more than doubled from 8.8% to 18.5% of the total. (Blogs are also apparently part of “community”, although this isn't stated explicitly.) Since total time online has also expanded, time per visitor has grown even more.

Despite the growth of community, the OPA still shows content (40.6%) and communications (25.2) asl the dominant uses. Commerce (11.0%) and search (4.7%) account for the rest.

Looking at older OPA figures, which are available on MarketingCharts, the biggest change is the reduction in communications, which had a 46% share back in 2003. At that time, social networks were lumped into content, which had a 34% share. Today, the combination of content and community accounts for 59% of users’ time.

The position of blogs is ambiguous because most reports lump them in with other social media. Forrester’s just-published The Broad Reach Of Social Technologies contains a table, available in Josh Bernoff’s Groundswell blog, shows that social media “joiners” rose from 25% to 51% of the online population in the past two years, while content “spectators” (which includes blog readers) grow from 48% to 73%. But that’s pretty much the opposite of the BlogHer ratios mentioned earlier (55% blog readers vs. 75% social media participation). So the jury is still out.

Summary: What does it all mean? Here are my main observations:

- social media are indeed booming, but still account for a minority of online time. So even though marketers need to find ways to use social media for business purposes, they still have time to figure it out.

- everybody uses search, but they don’t spend much time on it. Search still earns the bulk of online advertising fees because it's a gateway to other content, and perhaps because it's the easiest Web advertising to buy and optimize. But its share may erode as social media provide alternative paths to desired content.

- blogs are probably growing more slowly than other social media, but they still account for a substantial portion of online activity. Marketers might be investing in blogs than they are really worth.

2. How does consumption of online media compare with consumption of other media?

Council for Research Excellence’s Video Consumer Mapping Study found more than five hours of TV watching per day (43% of total media time), vs. 80 minutes of Internet usage (10.7%). The Internet figure seems low, but this was a very careful and sophisticated study. These figures may only include the time when a medium had the consumer's primary attention -- so just having an instant message window open on your desktop wouldn't count.

Magazine Publishers Association reported the share of time with different media, although you have to read the table carefully because it reports minutes spent by of “users” of each medium rather than the average across all consumers. But the MPA also points to a study from MRI MediaDay (again published on Marketing Charts) showing the percentage of consumers using each medium. The combined figures show an average consumer spends about four and a half hours of TV per day (47.5% of total time) but only one and half hours of Internet (15.2% of total).

Incidentally, the MPA also argues that time alone isn’t the best measure of advertising value, since some media are more influential with their consumers than others. This is a point worth considering. The MPA bases this on Deloitte's State of the Media Democracy Survey, which unfortunately I couldn't find posted. The MPA provides other, related data in its 92-page guide Magazines: The Medium of Action.

A Forrester chart, posted on CNET shows five years of data on time spent per week with major media. The chart shows that Internet has more than doubled since 2004 and nearly caught up with TV. It reports about two hours per day with TV, accounting for about 34% of total time vs. 33% for Internet.

The Media Audit gives yet another set of statistics on time by medium. It also finds that TV is just slightly ahead of online, at 33% vs. 29% of time respectively. But it pegs TV viewing around three and a half hours per day.

Summary: These are serious conflicts, which I see no way to reconcile. Two studies show TV and Internet each accounting for about one-third of media time, while the other two show TV accounting for about 45% and Internet for 10-15%. The wide variations in estimated total time are also, um, noteworthy.

3. What is the share of ad spending for different media?

PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Wilkofsky Gruen Associates report in their Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2009-2013 (via eMarketer) that ad spending will total $170 billion this year, including $62 billion (36%) for TV and $25 billion (15%) for Internet and mobile.

Zenith Optimedia pretty much agrees: its October 2008 report shows U.S. spending at $179 billion for 2008, with a worldwide share of 37.5% for TV and 10.2% for the Internet.

On the other hand, the Direct Marketing Association shows spending at $339 billion total in 2008 including $75.9 billion (22.4%) for TV and $39.4 billion (11.6)%) for “new media and other”, which presumably includes Internet. The DMA also breaks out the portion of each medium used for direct response. It must have a pretty generous definition, since it puts 52.1% of the total in that category.

WPP’s groupm estimates in its Interaction: Addressable, Searchable, Social and Mobile study (via MarketingCharts) that interactive media’s share of total advertising is 14% in North America and 13% worldwide for 2008.

Summary: it’s hard to compare these figures, but everyone agrees that online spending is somewhere between 10-15% of the total, while TV gets 30% or more. Assuming that consumers spend about the same amount of time with both, and that advertising on both is equally effective, online media should get a larger share of ad budgets.

4. Where are marketers moving their budgets?

Forrester and Marketing Profs report B-to-B Marketing in 2009 shows that business marketers most commonly use their company Web site, email, public relations and trade shows. Another table from the same study, referenced by The Event Marketing Insider, shows marketers plan their greatest increases for the company Web site, search marketing, online video and Webinars.

A Forrester chart posted on Mashable shows interactive marketing spend by category, projected from 2009 to 2014. Search marketing accounts for about $15 billion of $25 billion total today and will grow 15% per year vs. 17% for the total. Mobile marketing and social media will grow faster, but will only expand from 4.4% in 2009 to 8% in 2014. Email marketing and display advertising account for the balance.

Online Marketing Blog surveyed marketers about their planned digital marketing channels in 2009. The top three were: blogging (34%), microblogging (Twitter) (29%) and Search engine optimization (28%).

Summary: marketers are moving their budgets online, primarily into the traditional channels (blogging, Web site, search).

4. Which media most affect purchase decisions?

Marketing Sherpa found buyers making complex purchases were relying more heavily on virtual events (Webinars, trade shows), search engines and Web sites, and less heavily on email, face-to-face trade shows, video programming and advertising.

Forrester (via ReadWriteWeb) found emails from friends, consumer reviews and search engines were the most trusted information sources, while personal blogs, company social networking profiles, and company blogs are least trusted.

TNS Media Intelligence in Digital World, Digital Life (via eMarketer) found that recommendations by friends, online news, newspapers and TV news were the most trusted information sources, while user forums, company brochures, free newspapers and private blogs were least trusted. Product comparison sites, industry Web sites and company Web sites were in the middle.

Summary: Marketers may be overspending on blogs and search. Social media could be a better investment -- if we could find a way to use them effectively.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Many marketers believe that face-to-face marketing, event and trade show marketing in particular, continues to be among the most effective ways to reach high-level decision makers. In B2B sectors, event marketing trumps all forms of digital marketing hands down. The ROI increases when trade show marketing strategy is tweaked by professional live marketing firms. Recent studies by CEIR and others support this.