A new survey by Nielsen examined the habits of Net users in August, and turned up a fascinating statistic: People spent three times more on Facebook than Google. Is this significant, or indicative we're all a bunch of time-wasters?
Adam Ostrow's post over at Mashable examines Nielsen's data, shown in the table below, and notes that the trend for time spent on Facebook is rising: In July they reported 4 hours 39 minutes was the average Facebook visit, versus 5 hours 46 minutes in August.
This stat places Facebook at the top of the table for hours spent visiting the service, even as the social networking site sits at the number four slot on the list for unique audience visits—just shy of 104 million people visited Facebook in August compared to Google's 150 million. Somewhat amazingly YouTube's 95 million visitors only spent an average of 1:17:20 on the site—and it's a site famous for being a paramount time-waster. Ostrow notes this statistic as a significant boon for Facebook, as though Google's trying to expand in all sorts of directions it's not successfully tapping the social networking vein.
But is this actually the case? Think about it for a minute: Google's job is to be a portal to other Web sites. Once you've performed the mundane search query entry you, as a Google search user, are keen to be furnished with a relevant link fast, and then you'll leave Google and go off and do something less boring instead. If you're talking about Google Maps or Gmail, however, I suspect you'll be spending much more time tinkering around with pages served up by Google itself—quite possibly even surpassing Facebook in total time spent per month. It's just that the visitor numbers don't place Google Maps or Gmail on this same list as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and all the others surveyed. Let's not forget that YouTube is also a Google property—adding its average visit time to Google's main figure nets some 3 hours and 10 minutes of visitor time, pacing Google not so far behind Facebook.
This debate is all about money, of course: The greater the face time you devote to a site, the more ads that can be served up. And yes, these stats could indicate we're all becoming serial time-wasters, if you imagine that all one does on Facebook is trivial. But is keeping in touch with friends, or using it for professional networking trivial? I'm not sure. Facebook is also definitely doing a good job of keeping its users on the page for longer...but I don't think the chaps at Google will be even slightly concerned by these stats—they're still getting nearly 150% more visitors than Facebook.