File this one under foregone conclusions.
A new poll from the fine folks over at comScore shows that usage of entertainment websites such as TMZ.com and TheInsider.com is soaring among Americans – and that almost half that use happens in the workplace, smack dab under the boss's eye. According to comScore, Americans spent more than 893 million minutes – something like 15 million hours – on gossip sites, with 44 percent of the total time spent in the category occurring on the job.
And that was just in May of 2009 alone.
“With more than one out of every four US Internet users visiting an entertainment news site each month, it’s clear that following entertainment and celebrity culture has become a popular online pastime,” Jack Flanagan, comScore's executive vice president, said in a statement. “What’s also interesting is that Americans are feeding their hunger for celebrity gossip by ‘snacking’ on these news updates throughout the workday."
Interesting, yes – but perhaps not surprising. After all, workers have long looked to the web for distraction, from browsing the latest videos on YouTube to flicking through pictures of cats with stuff on them. Over the past few years, entertainment sites have become sleeker, easier to use, and faster to the draw – TMZ, for instance, broke news of Michael Jackson's death long before any mainstream media outlet.
The allure of escapism + breaking gossip = a pretty potent mix.
Probably, at this point, many of you are already turning up your nose at this news. Read celebrity gossip, you say? I'd rather eat 10-week-old cereal. But consider this: It's not just a tiny slice of the Web-going public that's generating all this traffic. According to comScore, a quarter of all Internet users in the US – millions and millions of your fellow Americans – visited an entertainment website at least once in May.
So which sites are gossip hounds visiting? omg, Yahoo’s celebrity gossip site, led the category with 20.6 million visitors – doubling its traffic from the year previous. TMZ held on to second place with 9.9 million visitors, and People magazine's website came in third, with 8.2 million visitors. Meanwhile, USmagazine.com, was up 325 percent to 6.5 million visitors, and Entertainment Weekly's site soared 64 percent to nearly 4 million visitors in May.
As for June, look for the numbers to continue to soar.
"May was one of the heaviest months on record for entertainment news consumption, but it will almost certainly be surpassed in June with the shocking news of Michael Jackson’s death driving high volumes of traffic to these sites," comScore's Flanagan says.
Entertainment websites: Escapism or the end of modern civilization as we know it? You tell us – here, or on Twitter.