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Mapping the digital future

The wind is at the backs of Facebook and other social media companies, according to a report by comScore. Photo by bigstockphoto.

The social space is continuing to grow at a rapid rate and will continue to do so for the year ahead, with Facebook at the forefront, according to the Digital Future In Focus 2012 report by comScore.

The annual report maps the prevailing trends in search, social media, online video, digital marketing and e-commerce in the US.

According to comScore, in 2011 there was a continued shift in online engagement to suggest a move from traditional portal content to social networking and entertainment content. “Social networking accounted for 16.6% of all online minutes at the end of 2011, and is on track to surpass portals as the most engaging online activity in 2012,” says the report.

While Google remains the most visited Web property, Facebook is in the lead for engagement – accounting for 14.6% of all time spent online in the US in 2011. While Facebook dominates the social space, competition for the second top spot heated up in the past year. ComScore says: “By December, Twitter boasted the number two spot in the category, with 37.5 million unique visitors, while LinkedIn held the number three position, with 33.5 million. Myspace is still managing to hold onto the fourth position, with just over 24 million visitors.”

Share of total time spent in Internet at top web properties overall.

A notable trend in the search space in the past year has been Bing's positive growth. While Google still holds onto the lead by a considerable margin, Bing has overtaken Yahoo for the first time. ComScore notes this could be due, in part, to Bing's social search partnership with Facebook.

Still growing

As more users shift to mobile and the social networks, Web categories on the decline include instant messengers (down 40%), online personals (down 26%) and job searches (down 21%). Apart from user numbers and engagement, Facebook has emerged as the leading publisher of display ads in the US, with more than 1.3 trillion impressions and 27.9% market share. By comparison, Yahoo served up 529 billion impressions, while Microsoft was the third-largest display as a publisher, with 215 billion impressions.

ComScore says Facebook has also continued to gain users, despite already reaching three out of every four US Internet users. User engagement on the site jumped by 32% in the last year, to over seven hours per visitor, in December. “Facebook now accounts for 15% of all time spent online and 16% of all page views.”

“The digital advertising market is growing quickly as large brand advertisers continue to ramp up their investment in the medium, which is just another indication that the wind is at the backs of Facebook and other social media companies, as they take centre stage on the stock market,” says the report.

Video, daily deals

Visitors to selected social networking sites.

The report also showed the online video market is on the upswing, with a 43% increase in users watching videos, and a 44% increase in the number of video streams.

“One of the key behavioural shifts in online video continues to be the increasing adoption of long-form video content viewing, as Americans watch shows and movies on-demand over the Internet. As a result, we observed the average number of minutes per video view rise from 5 minutes to 5.8 minutes by the end of 2011, with the average viewer watching 239 videos (up 37%).”

While the daily deal market grabbed headlines last year, comScore speculates that “daily deal fatigue” could be becoming a factor. “It is possible that some consumers have increasingly begun to tune out the onslaught of daily e-mails. But it may also reflect the market coming into equilibrium as business models are fine-tuned for sustainability, and outsized marketing expenditures are reduced.” Groupon peaked at 14.5 million visitors in June, but ended the year with 12.5 million visitors.

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