E-Mail Usage Plummets as Teens Turn to Mobile, Social Networking

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Time spent on Web-based e-mail suffered a walloping 59 percent drop among 12- to 17-year-olds.

E-mail is out, social networking is in, and all the advertising in the world can't topple Google, according to the ComScore 2010 U.S. Digital Year in Review.

The report, which was released on Monday, provides a snapshot of usage trends across the digital space. Perhaps most noteworthy was the shift in e-mail usage, particularly among young people. Total Web-based e-mail use was down eight percent last year, led by a walloping 59 percent drop among 12 to 17 year olds. The second biggest drop was among 25 to 34 year olds (18 percent) and third biggest was among 45 to 54 year olds (12 percent). The only age category to increase its use of e-mail in 2010 was 55 to 64 year olds (up 22 percent), which the report attributed to continuing Internet adoption among that age group.

"What's really happening is the emergence of so many new communications channels" such as mobile and social networks, said Andrew Lipsman, spokesperson for the Reston, VA-based research firm, which are siphoning off e-mail users. However, those channels are primarily affecting social communication, he said, accounting for the much larger drop-off among those under 17.

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Social networking continued its rise as the dominant Internet activity, with nine out of every 10 Internet users visiting a social networking site each month in 2010. "Social networking sites accounted for 12 percent of all time spent online in 2010 with the average Internet user spending more than 4.5 hours on these sites each month," the report read. Women continued to spend more of their Web browsing time on such sites (17 percent) than men did (12 percent).

Facebook was still the 800-pound gorilla in the social networking space, adding millions of users and accounting for 10 percent of all U.S. page views for the year. Three out of every 10 Internet sessions included a visit to the site. Despite MySpace's very public struggles - its audience declined 27 percent and total time spent on the site declined by half - the News Corp. property held on to the number two spot.

Tumblr was a surprise success among social networking sites in 2010, upping its monthly visitors to 6.7 million, an increase of 168 percent. Formspring.me also caught on with young users, growing over 1000 percent for the year and attracting 5.3 million visitors in December.

Lipsman attributed Tumblr's success to its unique balance of blogging and social networking. "It seems to tap into a couple of trends in terms of social media," he said. "And I think the simplicity of it is starting to catch on."

In the search category, despite the continued marketing onslaught of Microsoft's Bing, Google maintained its share of about 66 percent. Yahoo sites maintained their distant second of about 16 percent despite a minor drop of about 1 percent, and Microsoft sites came in third with 12 percent, a two percent increase over 2009.

Google also dominated "powered by" searches, Web searches conducted at third-party entities that carry the branding of major search engines. Google owned 24 percent of searches on the "powered by" market, whereas Bing owned 6.2 percent. Last year was the first time ComScore tracked the "powered by" market.

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