While portals have long been the traditional online gateway for most consumers, social properties are gaining ground. And the increasing power of smartphones is also changing how consumers connect with the information they’re seeking. As a result, comScore’s 2012 U.S. Digital Future in Focus highlights the growing importance of social, mobile and search.

comScore’s report shows that as a percentage of online time spent, the following properties are tops:

  • Facebook 14.6%
  • Google Sites 10.8%
  • Yahoo! Sites 8.6%

Overall, portals like Google and Yahoo are seeing slower growth while social networks experience big jumps in traffic. Portals ended last year with 16.7%  of online traffic while social networks rose to 16.6% and appear poised to take top place in 2012. This shift in online activity has been accompanied by large drops in the following types of sites accessed through traditional PCs:

  • Web-based email
  • Instant Messengers
  • Online Personals
  • Weather
  • Job Search

The drops in IM, Online Personals and Weather do not mean consumers have lost interest in this information. They are simply accessing data through mobile or social channels. Similarly, web-based email saw a significant decline, especially in the 12-24 year old age group. But, it is largely offset by the growth in mobile email, especially for younger consumers.

The other growth story of digital 2012 will be search. As the web grows, the need for effective search tools increases. Overall, the number of searches carried out last year jumped 11%. The number of searchers rose 3% and each person increased his or her searches by 7% – a statistic that comScore researchers are labeling intense search. At the same time, consumers are narrowing the number of tools used to carry out searches. Google Sites delivered 10% more searches and Microsoft Sites had 40% more searches. Yahoo! Sites actually experienced a 1% increase in the number of people searching through its sites while Ask Network and AOL had declines.

As consumers spend more time on social sites, advertisers are likely to change their online ad strategy. For example, last year, Facebook delivered 27.9% of all display ads. And while the Apple platform appears to have a higher public profile than all other smartphones, Google’s Android has quietly been increasing market share, from 28.7% to 47.3% in the last year. The rapidly changing digital world mean marketers must stay on top of which properties and platforms are likely to draw the audiences they are seeking to reach.

[Source: 2012 US Digital Future in Focus. Comscore.com. 2012. Web. 1 Mar. 2012]