Though the Internet is made up of tens of millions of web sites, people spend the vast majority of time on just a handful of them. According to comScore, an Internet analytics company, Americans spend most of their time online on Facebook — 10.8% in December 2012. That month, Americans spent another 10% of their Internet time on Google properties, including Google search and YouTube. Based on comScore’s report, “U.S. Digital Future in Focus 2013,” 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 Web properties where people spend the most time.
Many of the top online sites have managed to significantly increase the time spent on their sites in the past year due to the rise in mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones. The top 25 digital media properties in December 2012 increased their reach through mobile channels by 29% compared to December 2011. Some increased significantly more than that. ESPN expanded its digital reach by 56% compared to 2011, more than any of the 25 largest online properties except for Pandora.
The growth in mobile engagement has not necessarily been good news for Internet companies. “There is a concern that there is trading dollars for dimes,” Andrew Lipsman, comScore’s vice president of marketing and industry analysis, told 24/7 Wall St. in an interview. Advertising rates on mobile devices are just a fraction of what they are on desktop computers.
Carmela Aquino, a senior marketing manager at comScore, added that while there certainly has been a shift to mobile devices, their usage has often complemented personal computer usage rather than replaced it altogether.
Still, some of the move to mobile has cannibalized surfing the Internet on a PC. To compensate for some of the loss, along with generally trying to boost engagement on all platforms, there has been an increased emphasis on video content at many of these properties, which commands much higher advertising rates.
Sites such as Yahoo! and AOL have made significant investments in video content through Yahoo! Finance’s live programming and The Huffington Post’s HuffPost Live. Lipsman also points out that Google’s Youtube site, which has been streaming videos since 2005, has seen the quality of its user generated content increase significantly. Higher quality and longer form content should improve advertising revenue.
“What the Internet went through in the past decade, mobile will have to go through the next decade,” Lipsman said. “But over time, advertising dollars follow eyeballs.”
There have been other reasons that engagement has risen on many of these properties. Portals, such as Yahoo!, are offering customized content to individual users based on their search history and what their friends have shared on social media. Both Aquino and Lipsman argue such customization makes the sites more attractive to users.
Furthermore, engagement also has risen and likely will continue to do so on sites such as Amazon and eBay due to the growth in online retail. For instance, during the final three months of 2012, eBay sales rose 18% compared to the prior year. At Amazon, those sales rose 35%.
Based on comScore data, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 Web properties where Americans spend the most time relative to the total amount of time spent on the Internet. We also looked at comScore data on the total number of unique visitors for each of the 25 largest Web properties in December 2012, breaking down the number of visitors by desktop computer and mobile device. In addition, we considered the market share for Internet search engines and social media, also provided by comScore.
–0.6% of time spent online
–38.7 million desktop visitors
–34.6 million mobile visitors
Based on unique visitors, ESPN is the 23rd largest U.S. digital property and the No. 1 sports-related property. ESPN has made a push into mobile during the past year. Between December 2011 and December 2012, mobile engagement based on unique visitors grew 59%, more than any other of the top 25 Web properties, except for Pandora Media (P). ESPN currently offers 13 different mobile applications, including SportsCenter Feed, to get up-to-the-minute “news, scores, video and audio,” along with the company’s Fantasy Football and Fantasy Baseball apps.
–0.7% of time online (tied for 7th)
–60 million desktop visitors
–mobile visitors, not applicable
Craigslist says it has more than 50 billion page views monthly. But while people tend to spend a hefty amount of time searching through apartment listings, job openings and personal ads on the site, Craigslist has yet to roll out a mobile application for either smartphones or tablets, leaving third-party Craigslist apps to fill the void. The company only recently released mobile-friendly features, such as a map view and an image-heavy grid view of its offerings.
–0.7% of time online (tied for 8th)
–desktop visitors, not available
–mobile visitors, not applicable
Tumblr is not among the 25 largest Web properties in the U.S., but those who go on the site spend a lot of time there. Consuming 5.7% of all time on social media, more time is spent on Tumblr than any other social media property, except Facebook. Lipsman of comScore noted that Tumblr really took off in the past year and continues to grow each month, particularly among those ages 25 and under. He noted that Tumblr’s growth has been more organic, rather than through overt attempts by the company to increase engagement. Notably, the site has become popular for fashion and humor blogging.
–0.9% of time online
–77.7 million desktop visitors
–39.5 million mobile visitors
EBay (EBAY) has benefited from the large growth in online retailing. In the fourth quarter of 2012, revenue in the marketplace division — the e-commerce segment of the company — grew 16% compared with the same quarter the prior year. EBay also owns PayPal, an online payment processor. The service generated $1.5 billion in revenue during the fourth quarter of 2012, an increase of 24% compared to the prior year. PayPal processed roughly 700 million payments during the quarter and had 123 million users. Like most of the top digital properties, the use of eBay on mobile devices has grown rapidly. Between December 2011 and December 2012, mobile engagement based on unique visitors grew 23%. The company has been working to get more people to use its service on tablet devices. CEO John Donahoe has publicly said that people are more likely to purchase items on a smartphone or tablet than on a PC.
–1% of time online
128.2 million desktop visitors
–80.5 million mobile visitors
Similar to eBay, Amazon.com (AMZN) has been a huge beneficiary of the increase in online shopping. During the most recent holiday season, sales conducted by a third-party on the web site were up 40% from the same time in 2011. Amazon also is directly challenging Hulu and Netflix (NFLX) with its Prime Instant Video service. The streaming service has added movies and TV programs to its portfolio in recent months. Amazon recently announced that shows from the E.W. Scripps (SSP) network of channels — such as HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel — will soon be available through the service. Amazon has made significant inroads in mobile usage as well. More than 80 million people in the U.S. accessed an Amazon site through a mobile device in December 2012, higher than all Web properties except for Google, Facebook and Yahoo!
–2.5% of time online
–117.6 million desktop visitors
–62.4 million mobile visitors
AOL (AOL) has transformed itself from a company that was primarily providing dial-up Internet service into a media company. The company’s most popular news web site is The Huffington Post, which it bought in 2011. The Huffington Post, like many news outlets, recently has devoted many of its resources to video programming. The company launched its news streaming service, HuffPost Live, in August 2012. The service was created with the intent to engage users. Features, such as the “join this segment,” let viewers speak their mind via webcam.
–4.9% of time online
–170.9 million desktop visitors
–55.2 million mobile visitors
Microsoft’s (MSFT) sites, including MSN, Hotmail and Bing, had more unique visitors in December 2012 than any other web property except for Google and Yahoo! Bing, the second-most popular search engine behind Google, has seen its share of search grow slightly, from 15.1% of all searches in December 2011 to 16.3% in 2012. Microsoft has made a major push into mobile with its new Windows Surface Tablet, which was released late in 2012.
–7% of time online
–185.8 million desktop visitors
–92.2 million mobile visitors
Although Yahoo! (YHOO) has struggled in recent years because it has lost advertising market share to Facebook and Google, it is still the most popular portal on the Web. The company recently redesigned its web site to make it more personalized. The site includes a live news feed customized to visitors’ interests and to what their friends share on social networks. The company has made significant strides in mobile as well.
–10% of time online
–193.8 million desktop visitors
–113.7 million mobile visitors
Google (GOOG) owns YouTube, by far the most visited video site. In 2012, more than 188 billion videos were streamed on the web site, according to comScore. In comparison, only about 8.9 billion videos were streamed on Hulu, the second-most visited video property. Despite becoming a multidimensional company over the years, Google shows no signs of letting up on its original business of search. A whopping 66.7% of Internet searches were conducted through Google in December 2012, up from 65.9% during the same month of 2011.
–10.8% of time online
–150.3 million desktop visitors
–97.7 million mobile visitors
More time is spent on Facebook (FB) than any other site. Of all time spent on social networking sites, 83% is spent on Facebook. The company has made significant inroads in mobile, with time on Facebook’s smartphone applications making up 23% of all time on apps. However, Americans have shown they are willing to give up Facebook — albeit only for a short time. According to a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 61% of the site’s active users have taken a multi-week break from the social network at some point. Furthermore, 27% of people surveyed said they planned to spend less time on Facebook in 2013, while only 3% intended to spend more time on the site.