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The amount of time online Americans spent on social network and blogging sites in August 2009 accounted for 17% of all time spent on the internet, a figure that is nearly triple the percentage of time spent a year ago, according to statistics from The Nielsen Company.

Nielsen also reported that year-over-year, estimated online advertising spend on the top social network and blogging sites, including Facebook and MySpace, increased 119%, from approximately $49 million in August 2008 to approximately $108 million in August 2009.

The share of estimated spend on these sites has also grown, increasing from a 7% share of total online ad spend in August 2008 to a 15% share in August 2009.

“This growth suggests a wholesale change in the way the Internet is used,” said Jon Gibs, VP of media and agency insights for Nielsen’s online division. “While video and text content remain central to the web experience – the desire of online consumers to connect, communicate and share is increasingly driving the medium’s growth.”

Industry Spending on Top Sites Increases Across Board

While several industries – such as software, hardware, financial services and automotive – significantly decreased their overall online ad spend year-over-year in August, spending on the top social network sites increased across the board, Nielsen said.? The entertainment industry led in growing its online ad dollars, increasing ad spending on the top social network sites by 812%? in August.

Travel advertisers followed suit, increasing their ad spend on these sites by 364%.

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Facebook Draws Dollars from Most Industries

The growth of social networking sites has been fueled in part by the explosive growth of Facebook, Nielsen said, noting that most advertisers head to this site first with ad dollars. In August 2009, Facebook was the #1 social networking site advertised on by 10 of the 13 industries when ranked by display ad impressions. Myspace.com led in the other three industries.

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Though advertisers have had significant concerns with social media advertising in the past, Gibs said that the increases in spending suggest that many of these issues have been addressed or have gone away.? “Advertisers that want to connect with core fan bases, such as movie studios, are allocating more and more dollars to dnline communities like Facebook and MySpace, where they can engage in an ongoing dialog with their target market,” he noted.

Recent data from the Online Publishers Association (OPA) revealed that online time spent with content receives the largest share of internet time, though time spent on community-building activities – such as using social networking sites -? is supplanting time on communication sites that enable email and instant-messaging.

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