Americans spend just a fraction of online time with news compared to social media

In a report on social media published Monday, Nielsen breaks down how Americans spend their time on the Internet. The results are sobering for the online news industry. Americans spend 22.5 percent of their Internet time on social networks and blogs, and just 2.6 percent on current events & global news. Among the online activities that occupy more time than news: online games, portals, videos/movies, instant messaging and classifieds/auctions. Nielsen notes slivers of time on specialty news, including “computer and consumer electronics news,” but they’re counted in a broad “other” category. These figures were based based on Nielsen’s tracking of a panel of Internet users. Skeptical readers may note that blogs could relate to news, and portals post news stories, so take that into account.

Activity Percent of Internet time spent on it
Other (including porn) 35.1%
Social networks & blogs 22.5
Online games 9.8
Email 7.6
Portals 4.5
Videos/movies 4.4
Search 4.0
Instant messaging 3.3
Software manufacturer 3.2
Classifieds/auctions 2.9
Current events & global news 2.6

The study also shows how Tumblr has grown in the last year, increasing its unique audience by 183 percent. I was surprised to see that people spend more minutes per month on Tumblr than Twitter. (As with other measurements of Twitter use, this metric may not take into account the hard-core Twitter users who access the service via a client such as TweetDeck.) Twitter still has more monthly unique users, though. Least newsworthy fact in the report: Facebook is far and away the top social media site. || Related: Reuters’ Social Media Editor Anthony De Rosa talks with Tumblr CEO David Karp after he wrote that he was fed up with the site’s instability.

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  • Amy Bierman

    Interesting…social networking and porn have become more important than current events (to online users anyway). I can’t say these findings surprise me though. For me personally, I spend the most time on my school website (blackboard), the local newspaper website and Facebook. And before reading this article, I never heard of Tumblr (but I Google’d it and now I know). Good article though!

  • Poynter

    The main point of this study was to demonstrate the outsize role that social media has in our online activities. Several folks – @ctiedje:disqus , @davidandrewjohnson:disqus , and plenty of people on Twitter — have noted that this isn’t an either/or thing — news OR social media. I agree. 

    The study focused on online activities, so the “news” category means that they spent time on news sites. It’s definitely true that you can consume news via social media — reading stories or watching videos on Facebook, for instance, or scanning headlines and incremental, real-time updates on Twitter. 

    Now, how much time do people spend consuming news via social media compared to looking at photos of babies and talking over the water cooler? I don’t know. I imagine that’s been studied, too. If you want to go down the rabbit hole, you could debate whether sharing headlines and talking about latest news events counts as a news activity or a social media activity.

    Steve Myers

  • ctiedje

    Sorry, but this study seems short sighted. News organizations are all over social media, so how can you say that people aren’t getting their news through Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr?

  • Vech

    You are exactly what’s wrong in this country.  Find out for yourself, not from others.  News by word of mouth is why lies are told five years after they were disproved.

  • Anonymous

    when we start j-school classes with the old ‘what is news?’ discussion, i’ve been talking about facebook and social media a lot for the past few years. social media *is* news – it just happens to be news on a small, personal scale – and it is news by people and about people we care the most about: our friends and family. when big news happens, i trust those people to help me hear about it more than i trust the anchors and newsreaders hired by big companies. social media makes the reporting part of journalism more important, and the entertainment part of journalism look more ridiculous. 

  • Aaron Headly

    Well, then. My guess is that list is almost exactly upside-down for most Romanesko readers.

    Maybe news sites should ask to be listed as “Current events & global news (including porn)”