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The economic recession, coupled with the growing use of new technology and online channels, played a key role in shaping the US digital world in 2008 and promises to have a continued impact in 2009, according to a new report from comScore that highlights key trends in digital marketing and what marketers can likely expect this year.

Top Trends for 2008

The comScore “2008 Digital Year in Review” details the following 2008 trends in several areas of US digital marketing:? E-commerce, top-growing sites and site categories, search, online video, online advertising and mobile:

Economy, election propel top gaining categories: As previously reported, one of the top trends that heavily affected US internet usage in 2008 was the economic meltdown, with several of the top gaining site categories reflecting the current environment. Notably, the Job Search category was the top-gaining site category for the year, up 51% to nearly 19 million visitors in December 2008. Other top-gaining online categories in 2008 were Coupons (up 46% to 31.6 million visitors), Politics (up 43% to 12 million visitors) and Classifieds (up 27% to nearly 53 million visitors). Sites that targeted to women and those that appeal to gays/lesbians also showed strong growth.

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Search volume still trending upward: Nearly 137 billion searches were conducted at the five US core search engines in 2008, representing an increase of 21% over 2007. Search query growth was driven largely by an increase in searches per searcher, which rose 16% from 2007, while the number of unique searchers grew six percent. Google accounted for nearly 90% of the total growth in search query volume during 2008.

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Online video viewing increases: Online video viewing continued its rapid ascent in 2008, with six percent more people in the US viewing 34% more videos vs. 2007.? By November 2008, online video viewing accounted for 12.5% of Americans’ total time spent on the Internet, up from 8.5% in November 2007.

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Signs of display-ad softness: US internet users viewed a total of 4.5 trillion display ads during the past twelve months, with the average person viewing more than 2,000 ads per month. Despite the staggering total volume of display ad views, the number has declined somewhat over the course of 2008. comScore said this could be attributable to the recession and/or to companies changing strategies to meet market challenges.

E-commerce still growing: Retail (non-travel) e-commerce spending grew six percent to $130.1 billion in 2008. The year ranked as the softest year for retail e-commerce spending growth since comScore began tracking the industry in 2001.

Smartphone explosion: The mobile industry continued to witness the growing popularity of smartphones in 2008 with subscriptions to smartphones increasing more than 100% during the year and mobile internet use on the rise.

Looking Ahead to 2009

Based on the events of 2008, comScore predicts the following trends will gain traction this year:

Rise in online video viewing: Viewing of TV and movie content online continues to become a more mainstream behavior, offering advertisers a new opportunity to capitalize on this highly engaged – and often difficult to reach – audience. Effective monetization of online video will depend on demonstrating to advertisers the impact of video-related ad exposures.

Shift to online ad spending: The recession is causing major advertisers to re-evaluate their advertising expenditures, with several industries – including auto manufacturers and CPG companies – indicating shifts in spending to the online channel to take advantage of bargain CPMs, ad-targeting capabilities, and more measurable advertising ROI.

More widgets and applications: Distributed content continues to become more prevalent and offers publishers ways to reach incremental audiences online. Both? publishers and advertisers should begin thinking seriously about how to monetize this content.

Mobile internet penetration to soar: As smartphones (including the iPhone) continue to drop in price, and new entrants impress consumers, 2009 is expected to be another record-breaking year for the mobile internet, comScore said. Mobile Internet penetration and engagement will continue to soar, providing more opportunities for advertisers and marketers.

More online retail spending: Though the consumer retail economy is clearly suffering during the downturn, online retail spending growth was still positive in 2008 and the channel continues to attract new buyers. Those looking to weather the economic storm will find ways to draw more shoppers to their online storefronts through discounts, promotions and incentives.

A free copy of the report may be downloaded here.

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