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networking-webRISMEDIA, March 19, 2009-Now visited by over two-thirds (67%) of the global* online population, “member communities,” which include both social networks and blogs, have become the fourth most popular online category – ahead of personal email. Member communities are growing twice as fast as any of the other four largest sectors (search, portals, PC software and email), according to The Nielsen Company’s “Global Faces and Networked Places,” a comprehensive report revealing the new global footprint of social networking.

“Social networking has become a fundamental part of the global online experience,” says John Burbank, CEO of Nielsen Online. “While two-thirds of the global online population already accesses member community sites, their vigorous adoption and the migration of time show no signs of slowing. Social networking will continue to alter not just the global online landscape, but the consumer experience at large.”

According to the Nielsen report, the social networking site Facebook is visited monthly by three in every 10 people online across the nine markets in which Nielsen tracks social networking use. Orkut in Brazil has the largest domestic online reach (70%) of any social network in these markets.

The report provides insights into the changing size and audience composition of the global social networking audience and the increasing share of Internet time for which it accounts. The report also analyzes how the major players are faring and what advertisers and publishers can do to take advantage of the social network phenomenon.

Other key findings include:

One in every 11 minutes spent online across the globe is accounted for by social networking and blogging sites.

The social network and blogging audience is becoming more diverse in terms of age: the biggest increase in visitors during 2008 to “member community” websites globally came from the 35-49 year old age group (+11.3 million).

Mobile phones are also playing an increasingly important role in social networking. Nielsen found UK mobile Web users have the greatest propensity to visit a social network through their handset, with 23% (2 million people) doing so, compared to 19% in the US (10.6 million people). These numbers are a big increase over last year – up 249% in the UK and 156% in the US.

“Social networking isn’t just growing rapidly, it’s evolving – both in terms of a broader audience and compelling new functionality,” says Alex Burmaster, author of the study and communications director across EMEA for Nielsen Online

Among the markets Nielsen measured, penetration of visits to social networks and blogs was highest in Brazil, where 80% of the online audience visits such sites. The share of overall Internet time for which social networks and blogs account is also highest in Brazil, where nearly one in four (23%) of minutes spent online is spent on these sites.

Germany saw the greatest increase in penetration of social networks and blogs across 2008, from 39% of the online audience in December 2007 to 51% in December 2008 – a relative growth of 39%.

For more information, visit www.nielsen-online.com.

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