PURCHASES OF ONLINE CONTENT UP SHARPLY

Consumer Buying Rose 23% in First Half

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Spending by consumers to access online content rose sharply during the first six months of 2003, according to a report by the Online Publishers Association and comScore Networks.
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Popular categories
The study found that online content purchases rose 23% to $748 million from January through June, compared to the same period in 2002. Payments to access personals and dating; business and investment; and entertainment and lifestyles categories accounted for 65% of all online content buying in the first half. That was up from 61% a year ago.

Indicative of a growing mass acceptance of using the World Wide Web to seek and initiate serious personal relationships, personals and dating services represented about 30% of all spending for paid content. Consumers spent a staggering $214.3 million on such activities in the first half of this year, up 76% from the same period in 2002.

Spending in the related personal growth category rose from $20.8 million in the first half of 2002 to $41.4 million for the same period this year.

Particularly significant
The OPA/comScore study is particularly significant because it is based on actual observed behavior rather than consumer self-reported data. ComScore Networks electronically monitors the computer behavior of a panel of more than 1 million consumers. Passive as well as electronic methods were used to catalog the actual purchases and usage transactions that took place during the analysis period.

The findings indicate that the share of online users who paid for content in the second quarter of 2003 grew to 10.9% of the total online universe, representing year-over-year growth of 15%. The increase resulted mostly from customer conversion to the idea of paying for content, rather than to the growth of the overall online population, according to the report.

Content buyers tend to be younger and relatively affluent, according to the study. About 25% have household incomes of $100,000 or more, compared with 20.5% of the overall Internet audience. Some 49.6% of the households are headed by 25- to 44-year-olds, compared to 44.3% of all Internet households.

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