Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Trends in Online Attention: 2008 to 2013

How much has online time and attention shifted as web sites have proliferated, video streaming has become commonplace, and connected devices have multiplied? A National Bureau of Economic Research study uses big data to examine that question, comparing more than 1 million machine-week observations of household online activity in 2008 and 2013. Some of the findings are unexpected...
  • The total amount of time households spent on their primary home computer fell only slightly despite the introduction of smartphones and tablets. Households using their primary home computer in a given week spent 15 hours online in 2008 and 14 hours online in 2013.
  • The breadth of web sites visited and the time spent at any one site did not change between 2008 and 2013, despite the proliferation of web sites and the rise in video content. 
  • The web sites most often visited did change. The top two sites in 2008 were MySpace and Yahoo, for example, and the top two sites in 2013 were Facebook and YouTube.
The authors readily acknowledge the overall increase in time spent online between 2008 and 2013, but their results show the increase occurred on smartphones and tablets and was in addition to the "relatively stable use of the home device." Also of note: "The vast change in the menu of supply from 2008 to 2013 did not change the breadth or depth of household browsing. The vast change in supply altered only where households allocated their online time."

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, The Empirical Economics of Online Attention, NBER Working Paper 22427 ($5)

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