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Just an Online Minute... Paid Content

Real numbers ahead, folks -- the Online Publishers Association has been busy. Today, the group released two reports, both of which focus on paid content and are sure to spark some water cooler conversations if only because the surveys are based not on self-reported consumer surveys, but on actual observed purchases of content.

The OPA and comScore say that consumer spending for online content in the U.S. grew to $748 million in the first half of 2003, an increase of 23% over the same period last year. The first study - Paid Online Content Demographic and Usage Report - shows that purchasers of paid content online tend to be younger, more upscale and from smaller households than Internet users overall.

Nearly 25% of online paid content consumers have household incomes of $100,000 or more, vs. only 20.5% of the total Internet audience, data show. In addition, paid content consumers tend to be more heavily concentrated among households headed by persons 25-44 (49.6%) than the total Internet audience (44.3%). Interestingly, one- and two-person households comprise 39.2% of the online population, but represent 45.3% of online paid content purchasers. Paid content consumers also are 14% more likely than the average user to have broadband access, suggesting that increased penetration of broadband will be a driver of increased paid content consumption.

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Which categories are going to benefit the most? The second report shows that the top three paid content categories are Personals/Dating, Business/Investment and Entertainment/Lifestyles, accounting for 65% of online content spending in the first half of 2003, up from 61% in 2002.

Online Personals/Dating remained the leading paid content category, accounting for nearly 30% of all paid content spending. U.S. consumers spent $214.3 million on Personals/Dating content in the first half of 2003, up a robust 76% from the first two quarters of 2002. This percentage increase, however, was eclipsed by the Personal Growth category, in which spending nearly doubled from $20.8 million in the first half of 2002 to $41.4 million in the same period this year.

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