Commentary

Where Does The Time Go?

I read in USA Today this week a report detailing the top-10 most-visited websites based on time spent, with Facebook at the top of the heap.  It’s not a surprise that Facebook led the list, but the numbers behind the numbers are very interesting when you break them down from the perspective of an Internet veteran.

According to this research, Facebook represents 10.8% of all time spent on the Internet, with more than 150 million desktop visitors and 97 million mobile.  Those are some pretty staggering numbers, but I recall a TV news story from back around 2002-2003 when MySpace was at the peak of its popularity and represented approximately 10% of all page views on the Web.  MySpace was predicted to be an Internet giant, but we all know how that story ended (regardless of what Justin Timberlake may think). 

According to this latest study, 61% of Facebook users have taken “breaks” lasting more than a week, which means users are indeed willing to give up their time on Facebook due to Facebook-fatigue.  If that’s the case, does it bode well for the future of the machine that is Facebook?  Can users eventually leave the site and go somewhere else with their time? 

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Google is number two on the list, which makes sense -- but I actually expected it to be number one, to be honest.  Search and video are the hallmarks of Google between its ubiquitous search tools and YouTube, which has fast become the next best thing to network television.  The study says that 66.7% of all Internet searches are done through Google. Call me old-fashioned, but I remember when that number was closer to 90%.  Bing and others have made a dent in the core business for Google and mobile search is still an open opportunity for someone to come in and get a foothold.  Siri represents the most interesting threat to Google on mobile if the experience can improve (Siri and I have a communication problem).  Will Google survive in a voice and gesture-oriented world?  Will Google offer search capabilities on the connected television? 

I love seeing Yahoo and Microsoft respectively at numbers three and four, because it means that some of the “original” brands to stake out the Internet are still doing well.  AOL is in the top 10, parked at number five, which also gives me the same warm and fuzzy feeling.  What I find interesting is that AOL and the number 10 slot of ESPN, show that content is still king.   Content still grabs eyeballs, and sports content is among the most highly viewed on the Web -- a world dominated by quick info, short clip and highlights.

Tumblr made the list on the strength of content by aggregating millions of little sites through its publishing platform.  All these brands can continue to thrive by aggregating content across devices in a way that is of interest to the general consumer.  Microsoft is the most interesting, though, because it has clearly made a play in mobile, with Windows Mobile representing a very positive user experience and one that users are talking about. Microsoft may have had its issues in the desktop world as of late, but it’s certainly looking strong in mobile -- not a bad place to compete in going forward.

The rest of the list is rounded out by commerce forces like eBay, Craigslist and Amazon.  These folks represent the backbone of the e-commerce revolution.  Speak to anyone with an email address and they have undoubtedly done business on one, if not all three, of these sites.  Amazon is the most impressive, as its business went from that “little online bookstore” that competed with Barnes And Noble’s website to competing with Walmart for the title of largest retailer in the world.   I hear rumors of online stores creating offline retail fronts as arenas for “trial,” and that Amazon may be one of these folks in the near future.  If that happens, these experiential environments may cement the foothold that etail has for consumers.   Brands like Bonobos are doing it already, and that model was established by Apple with its amazing retail experience.  The future of the brick-and-mortar store may be far more virtual than you think if these folks have their say.

Who will be on that list next year?  What about in five years?  I can guarantee only that the list will be different.  My prediction, if you go out five years, is that Facebook will no longer be number one, and that some new company will push into the top five.  Tumblr would be the most likely of them all in my eyes, while ESPN could continue to build a digital behemoth, continuing its ascent from a little property represented by Starwave to a cross-platform dynasty, jumping maybe as high as number seven.

Of course, what do I know?  I still try to do searches on Alta Vista from time to time (yes, it’s still there). 

2 comments about "Where Does The Time Go?".
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  1. Joe Gruchacz from Goodby Silverstein & Partners, March 13, 2013 at 12:26 p.m.

    Interesting that you think Tumblr will usurp FB. In terms of being an aggregator of content, I can see where that's coming from but I'm of the mindset that there may not be one emerging leader and the trend will lean toward fragmentation to sites organized around the specific mediums users want to communicate through like Instagram, Vine, etc.

  2. Cory Treffiletti from FIS, March 13, 2013 at 12:46 p.m.

    Sorry if that was not clear - i actually think Tumblr may fall off the list and something else entirely will come along.

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