U.S. Internet use keeps growing, study reports

The number of people with Internet access in the United States continues to rise, and the Web-surfing public appears increasingly attentive when on the Web, according to a study released last Thursday by Nielsen/NetRatings, a service of Nielsen Media Research Inc. and NetRatings Inc., according to a statement by the companies.

About 56 per cent of the population had home access to the Internet in the month of November. This number handily beat last year’s figure of 43 per cent during the same period.

In addition, the number of page views each month rose 32 per cent this year, which according to NetRatings indicates that users are more fully exploring the content on a given site.

While frequent reports of Internet content providers shutting down continue to grab headlines, the increase in Internet usage coincides with the expectations of many analysts. Industry pundits have long predicted heavy consolidation in many information technology sectors. Less choice on the Web, however, does not mean users will not turn to the Net for information and services, but rather that they will remain longer on a few trusted sites.

Yahoo Inc. seems to be benefitting most from recent Web trends. America Online Inc. (AOL) claimed more users in November but did not keep them for nearly as long as Yahoo did. For the month, more than 70 million home and office users visited an AOL-owned website. Each user spent just under 44 minutes on AOL-owned sites. Although Yahoo snagged only 65 million users, it managed to keep each one for one hour and 36 minutes.

Of the top 25 sites, few kept a user’s attention for more than twenty minutes a month. The only three to break the one-hour barrier were Yahoo, Microsoft Corp.’s MSN portal and eBay Inc.’s Web properties. eBay beat the entire field, with users keeping track of the auction front for more than two hours per month.