Last week Comscore released our December 2009 U.S. MMX data, which means of course that we can now look back at 2009 and take stock of what happened in the digital world during the past year. We’re in the process of summarizing these key stories right now and we’ll be releasing The 2009 U.S. Digital Year in Review report in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more on that…
As we’ve been poring over the data for the year, the one story that continues to stand out is that of Facebook. Ever since it opened registration to the general public back in the fall of 2006, Facebook has seen considerable growth, so it’s not like this story is new by any stretch of the imagination.
And yet, even in its native market, Facebook continues to add to its audience at an incredible rate. In the past year alone, Facebook more than doubled its U.S. audience from 54.5 million visitors in December 2008 to 111.9 million visitors in December 2009. It went from being the #11 ranked property to the #4 ranked property. It now accounts for 7% of all time spent online in the U.S.
These numbers alone are enough to impress, but it’s when you dig deeper into the other metrics that Facebook’s performance really becomes illuminated. This past year saw Facebook grow substantially across nearly every performance metric reported by Comscore. Unique visitors, page views, and total time spent all increased by at least double. Frequency metrics such as average minutes per usage day (up 6 percent) and average usage days per visitors (up 37 percent) also saw gains. In other words, more people are using Facebook more frequently to the point that the site accounts for three times as much total time spent online as it did last year. In fact, the only metric by which Facebook decreased was the average minutes per visit (down 11%), which makes sense when you consider the increasing frequency with which people are visiting the site.
To what can this success be attributed? I think there are a few prevailing factors at play. First, I think that Facebook reached critical mass in the U.S. a couple years ago at which point its growth began to feed on itself, allowing its momentum to vault it continually higher. Its growth also reflects in part the so-called “Zuckerberg’s Law.” At the Web 2.0 Summit in November 2008, Facebook founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously remarked “I would expect that next year, people will share twice as much information as they share this year, and next year, they will be sharing twice as much as they did the year before. That means that people are using Facebook, and the applications and the ecosystem, more and more.” In other words, once the network is in place and people are active and engaged, the dynamics of the social interaction taking place incentivize participants to share information about themselves more regularly, which in turn solicits more engagement from others, creating a virtuous cycle of interaction. With increased interaction comes newer and fresher content, which helps feeds the addiction to consume information about what’s happening with the lives of people in one’s social network.
Anyway, Facebook’s continued ascent is just one of several big stories from 2009 in the U.S. digital media landscape. We hope you’ll check out the full report when we release it.