Nielsen study highlights growing power of online communities
LONDON - The power of online communities is growing rapidly, according to new research, which highlights why traditional media firms such as News Corporation and ITV are snapping up community websites.
According to Nielsen//NetRatings almost 1.8bn web pages are viewed each month in member community sites, which represents more than 57m pages every day.
Online communities have been around since the early days of the internet, but their stock has never been higher as multimillion-dollar deals are struck to snap up such businesses.
Nielsen//NetRatings says that member community sites now attract over half of the UK internet population every month. In the UK, Friends Reunited is the most popular member community with more than 1.8m visitors each month.
It is numbers like this that helped convinced ITV to pay £120m for Friends Reunited and an additional £55m, if performance targets are hit by 2009.
Likewise, News Corporation paid a whopping $580m for US community website MySpace.com.
Myspace, while a bigger community brand in the US, is ranked fourth in Nielsen//NetRatings after Google's blog service Blogger and college community site Bebo. Other sites in the top 10 are Ancestry.co.uk and Genes Reunited.
Alex Burmaster, European internet analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings, said the popularity of social networking and community sites in the UK are growing day by day, particularly among the young.
"While most of the talk about the future of the web revolves around which of the giant media companies will win the battle to enable people to watch TV through the internet, a revolution of more immediate substance is already under way.
"Sites such as MySpace, Bebo and MSN Spaces dominate those most likely to be visited by the teenage market. The future of online to the young is about what the internet is best at -- communicating and interacting -- not watching TV," he said.
Of all the sites visited by the UK internet population, Faceparty has the highest number of pages viewed per person -- more than the pages viewed per person for Google, eBay and the BBC combined.
Burmaster added that member communities are the most popular brands in the UK when looked at it in terms of the average number of web pages viewed per visitor.
For example, the average Faceparty visitor views 23 pages within that site every day, giving an idea how deeply ingrained the member community experience is in the lives of today's online population.
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