Online Content Consumption Rises

NEW YORK Consumer spending for online content in the U.S. grew 18.8 percent to nearly $1.6 billion in 2003 over the year before, according to a new study from the Online Publishers Association.

Three content categories accounted for 64 percent of total spending in 2003: personals/dating, business/investment and entertainment/lifestyles.

The research, conducted in partnership with Reston, Va.-based comScore Networks, was based on the content-purchasing behavior of a representative panel of 1 million U.S. online consumers.

The personals and dating category continued to dominate, accounting for 28.8 percent of all Web content revenue last year. Consumers doled out $449.5 million on matchmaking sites in 2003, up 48.8 percent from 2002.

Business and investment content providers reeled in $334.1 million last year, a 14.4 percent increase versus the year earlier. Though the entertainment and lifestyles category was among the top three revenue generators, spending on that type of content declined nearly 6 percent last year to $214 million.

Credit-help sites and community-made directories also experienced a drop. The former was down 9.5 percent at $36.6 million, while the latter was off 4.6 percent at $87.6 million.

Conversely, the personal growth category grew by a whopping 104.5 percent to $90.7 million last year. Other content categories notching notable increases: general news (up 25 percent to $87.5 million), sports (up 26.6 percent to $38.2 million) and greeting cards (up 12.3 percent to $40.6 million).

The study from the New York-based trade organization also found that 16.4 million U.S. consumers paid for online content in the fourth quarter, up 2.1 million over the same period in 2002.

Monthly subscriptions have eclipsed annual subscriptions as consumers’ pricing model of choice, with the former representing 49.6 percent of total subscription revenue and the latter 41.6 percent.