Will you spend 0.023% of your daily internet time reading this?

Posted on September 13, 2011


Americans spend just a fraction of online time with news compared to social media“: it looks familiar, we see that kind of alluring headline all the time. With something along those lines quickly following: “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.”

As always, this leaves me completely puzzled and angry because I really don’t understand how this is a relevant piece of information. Or rather, a relevant way to frame it.

Do we make giant surveys with results such as “OMG! Human beings spend more time sleeping, breathing and eating than reading newspapers! This is an alarming signal for the industry!” or “Breaking news: People spend a significant amount of time socializing in pubs and bars whereas they barely watch the news on TV!”.

I’d be deadly interested in knowing how many hours (or minutes?) people spend reading online news. And I would be more than happy to compare that with the amount of time people spend on offline media, or whatever other activities, and those types of information are probably somewhere in the original Nielsen report (which includes very interesting data about mobile use, for example). There are tons of interesting ways to look at this issue. But, please, “22.5 percent of their Internet time” does not mean anything. What exactly is that internet time? Whose time? etc.

And really, stop considering the internet as some kind of parallel universe where people go, do some compartmented stuff, and then leave. It’s not like that at all.