Americans Head Online for Love or Money: Valentine’s Day and Tax Preparation Drive February Web Activity

Comscore Media Metrix Releases February Web Rankings and Analysis

RESTON, VA, March 17, 2005 – Comscore Media Metrix today released its monthly analysis of consumer activity at top online properties and categories. In February, the Internet proved to be an important resource for those reaching out to others on Valentine’s Day and reaching for their checkbooks in preparation for Tax Day. Millions of Americans also turned to the Web for activities related to the Super Bowl and other sporting events.

“Valentine’s Day and the Super Bowl are two more entries on a growing list of events that channel people’s passions and interests onto the Internet,” said Peter Daboll, president and CEO of Comscore Media Metrix. “The acceptability of sending sentimental greetings online and the popularity of the Web leading up to and even during TV sports broadcasts are yet further reminders that the line between the online and offline worlds is increasingly blurred.”

Sites Benefit from Valentine’s Day Traffic
Whether to send e-cards, buy jewelry or send flowers, Americans turned to the Web for Valentine’s Day in greater numbers than ever before. In fact, categories related to Valentine’s Day made up 4 of the top 10 gaining categories. The Flowers, Gifts & Greetings category led the way, posting an increase of 33 percent over January 2005 (see table 2) and 23 percent over last February. Two flowers and gift sites, 1-800-Flowers and Proflowers, secured the first two spots on the top gaining properties ranking (see table 1), posting growth of 301 and 241 percent, respectively, compared to January. Comscore e-commerce tracking indicated that spending levels at flowers and gift sites were similarly strong; spending in the Flowers, Gifts & Greetings category topped $260 million in February – an increase of 55 percent compared to February 2004.

The Web also proved to be a useful resource for those with more ambitious gifts in mind. In February, traffic to the Jewelry, Luxury Goods & Accessories category jumped 33 percent compared to the month prior and 39 percent compared to last year. Fossil.com, BlueNile.com, Tiffany.com and Zales.com all posted double- or triple-digit increases. Online spending on Jewelry & Watches, one of the fastest growing product categories in e-commerce in 2004, grew 80 percent to approach $200 million in sales.

Traditional Valentine’s Day favorites such as greetings and fragrances continue to grow in online popularity. Led by AmericanGreetings and Yahoo! Greetings, which jumped 35 and 39 percent, respectively, the E-Cards category posted an 11-percent increase between January and February. More than 13 million consumers visited sites in the Fragrances & Cosmetics category, representing an increase of just over 10 percent compared to January.

Watching Sporting Events on TV Now Just One Part of the Experience
Fans of the Super Bowl and Daytona 500 were behind the traffic increases at a number of the top gaining properties and categories. Controversial Super Bowl advertiser GoDaddy.com landed the third spot on the top gaining properties ranking, with a traffic increase of 180 percent in February. Nearly five million spectators raced to NASCAR.com, doubling the site’s audience versus January and making it the fourth-largest gainer in February. Historically, major sporting events tend to produce an increase in visitation to gambling sites, and February was no exception – traffic to the Online Gambling category grew by 12 percent between January and February.

New Oprah Club Has Americans Joining Together to Get in Shape
Oprah Winfrey has added yet another success story to her portfolio as a cultural phenomenon with “Oprah’s Boot Camp.” This new diet and exercise club provides interactive access to Oprah’s training and nutrition experts, while allowing members to be part of a group that shares common goals. This program drove Oxygen Media sites into the top 10 gaining properties in February with an increase of 38 percent, yielding a total of 3.7 million visitors.

February Busiest Month for Tax Sites
The “Free File” partnership between the IRS and tax software manufacturers helped the tax category again earn top gaining honors in February, with a traffic increase of 43 percent versus January and 8 percent over February 2004. Although the delivery of W-2 forms generally drives significant traffic gains in January, February tends to be a busier month for preparations. Compared to January, the top ten sites in the Taxes category all showed double-digit traffic growth, and HRBlock.com, TaxAct.com and IRS.gov all grew by 50 percent or more.

Top 50 Properties
The rush of activity at tax sites was also visible in February’s top properties ranking, in which IRS.gov posted the largest and Intuit (maker of TurboTax) the third-largest overall gains (see table 3). IRS.gov shot up 28 spots to finish at the number 29 position, with over 17 million visitors. The 14.1 million visitors to Intuit helped the property climb 20 spots to finish as February’s 42nd ranked property.

Among sites in both the January and February Top 50 Properties, AmericanGreetings Property had the largest jump, as 16.6 million love-struck Americans turned to the site to send or receive Valentine’s Day cards, moving the property up 20 spots to number 30. Various promotional campaigns from BankOne helped JPMorgan Chase Property rise 10 places from January to the number 28 spot in February. Finally, consumers searching for spring break travel deals at CheapTickets.com drove a traffic increase of over 1.2 million visitors at Trip Network Inc. during February 2005, corresponding to a 4-spot gain to number 27.

Top 50 Ad Focus Ranking
Advertising.com and Yahoo! claimed the top 2 spots in the Ad Focus ranking, as they have each month since May 2004 (see table 4). Additionally, the rest of the top 10 Ad Focus entities stayed the same in February as in January.

Expedia Travel and CheapTickets.com each benefited from spring break travel and gained 2 spots to move to February’s number 24 and 43, respectively. Finally, Business.com Network and AOL Business Network finished at number 19 and 23, respectively, in February, their first month of inclusion in the Ad Focus ranking.

TABLE 1
 

Top Ten Gaining Properties by Percentage Change in Unique Visitors*
February 2005 vs. January 2005
Total U.S. Home, Work and University Internet Users
Source: Comscore Media Metrix
Property Jan-05
(000)
Feb-05
(000)
Percentage
Change
Rank by Unique Visitors
Total Internet Population 162,201 160,287 -1% N/A
1-800-Flowers 2,382 9,563 301% 68
PROFLOWERS.COM 1,100 3,780 244% 198
GODADDY.COM 1,112 3,123 181% 236
NASCAR.COM 2,461 4,911 100% 154
BEBO.COM 3,478 6,113 76% 116
HRBLOCK.COM 4,104 6,362 55% 112
IRS.GOV 10,989 17,023 55% 29
TAXACT.COM 2,206 3,312 50% 224
Oxygen Media 2,675 3,679 38% 203
Nestle 2,323 3,172 37% 233

*Ranking based on the top 250 properties in February

TABLE 2
 

Top Ten Gaining Categories by Unique Visitors
February 2005 vs. January 2005
Total U.S. Home, Work and University Internet Users
Source: Comscore Media Metrix
  Jan-05(000) Feb-05(000) Percentage Change
Total Internet Population 162,201 160,287 -1%
Business/Finance - Taxes 20,556 29,459 43%
Retail - Flowers/Gifts/Greetings 29,899 41,029 37%
Jewelry/Luxury Goods/Accessories 11,404 15,203 33%
Online Gambling 29,130 32,469 12%
E-Cards 37,154 41,042 11%
Retail - Fragrances/Cosmetics 11,905 13,107 10%
Travel - Car Rental 4,460 4,909 10%
Business/Finance - News/Research 44,027 46,887 7%
Retail - Toys 16,272 17,006 5%
Travel - Hotels/Resorts 25,560 26,686 4%

TABLE 3
 

Top 50 Properties
February 2005
Total U.S. Home, Work and University Internet Users
Source: Comscore Media Metrix
Rank Property Unique Visitors (000)   Rank Property Unique Visitors (000)
  Total Internet Users 160,287        
1 Yahoo! Sites 115,981   26 Gorilla Nation Media 17,609
2 Time Warner Network 112,199   27 Trip Network Inc. 17,153
3 MSN-Microsoft Sites 110,586   28 JPMorgan Chase Property 17,102
4 Google Sites 74,502   29 IRS.GOV 17,023
5 eBay 62,021   30 AmericanGreetings Property 16,641
6 Ask Jeeves 42,135   31 iVillage.com: The Womens Network 16,617
7 Amazon Sites 38,416   32 Gannett Sites 16,448
8 About/Primedia 37,969   33 Bank of America 16,088
9 Viacom Online 33,307   34 Target Corporation 15,775
10 Symantec 29,556   35 Apple Computer, Inc. 15,281
11 CNET Networks 29,136   36 E.W. Scripps 15,273
12 Weather Channel, The 29,054   37 ORBITZ.COM 14,690
13 Walt Disney Internet Group (WDIG) 28,267   38 OVERSTOCK.COM 14,647
14 Monster Worldwide 27,954   39 Shopzilla.com Sites 14,471
15 Lycos, Inc. 27,893   40 News Corp. Online 14,364
16 Verizon Communications Corporation 27,313   41 Comcast Corporation 14,272
17 Intermix Media 23,128   42 Intuit 14,070
18 Expedia Travel 22,876   43 Adobe Sites 13,945
19 Shopping.com Sites 21,044   44 COOLSAVINGS.COM 13,788
20 AT&T Properties 20,973   45 Sony Online 13,551
21 InfoSpace Network 20,572   46 Travelocity 13,153
22 Weatherbug.com Property 19,674   47 Classmates.com Sites 13,096
23 Real.com Network 19,207   48 Dell 13,014
24 Wal-Mart 19,197   49 Cox Enterprises Inc. 12,839
25 CareerBuilder LLC 19,091   50 SBC Communications 12,512

TABLE 4
 

Ad Focus Ranking
February 2005
Total U.S. Home, Work and University Internet Users
Source: Comscore Media Metrix
Rank Property Unique Visitors (000) Reach %   Rank Property Unique Visitors (000) Reach %
  Total Internet Users 160,287 100%          
1 Advertising.com** 124,423 78%   26 ClickAgents Network** 21,394 13%
2 Yahoo! 114,594 71%   27 CareerBuilder Network 21,025 13%
3 Fastclick** 113,539 71%   28 CNN 20,903 13%
4 MSN 95,851 60%   29 WeatherBug 19,397 12%
5 TrafficMarketplace** 90,044 56%   30 GATOR (App) 17,928 11%
6 AOL 83,274 52%   31 MaxOnline** 17,882 11%
7 Casale Media Network** 78,607 49%   32 iVillage.com: The Womens Network 16,617 10%
8 YAHOO.COM Home Page 73,242 46%   33 CNET 16,536 10%
9 GOOGLE.COM 72,076 45%   34 Disney Online 16,430 10%
10 Tribal Fusion** 66,931 42%   35 Travelocity All 16,248 10%
11 EBAY.COM 59,365 37%   36 Netscape 16,111 10%
12 MSN.COM Home Page 53,151 33%   37 REAL.COM 16,059 10%
13 BURST! Media** 50,692 32%   38 MONSTER.COM 15,302 10%
14 ValueClick Media** 46,672 29%   39 ORBITZ.COM 14,690 9%
15 Vendare Group Search-New.Net Sites 43,911 27%   40 SuperPages Network 14,185 9%
16 24/7 Real Media** 43,509 27%   41 EA Online Syndicated Games 13,839 9%
17 Ask Jeeves 42,135 26%   42 WebMD Health Network 13,750 9%
18 EBAY.COM Home Page 35,362 22%   43 CHEAPTICKETS.COM 13,302 8%
19 Business.com Network 34,251 21%   44 CLASSMATES.COM 13,096 8%
20 WEATHER.COM 27,912 17%   45 ESPN Network 12,481 8%
21 Lycos Network 27,807 17%   46 FOX Sports on MSN 11,830 7%
22 ABOUT.COM 23,939 15%   47 BIZRATE.COM 11,750 7%
23 AOL Business Network 23,035 14%   48 EA Online Games 11,126 7%
24 Expedia Travel 22,876 14%   49 TICKETMASTER.COM 10,883 7%
25 MSNBC 22,048 14%   50 IMDB.COM 10,695 7%

Reach % denotes the percentage of the total Internet population that views a particular entity at least once in February. For instance, Yahoo! was seen by 71 percent of the over 160 million Internet users in February. The notation “**”indicates that the entity is an advertising network.

About Comscore Media Metrix
Comscore Media Metrix, a division of Comscore Networks, provides industry-leading Internet audience measurement services that report – with unmatched accuracy - details of online media usage, visitor demographics and online buying power for the home, work and university audiences across local U.S. markets and across the globe. Comscore Media Metrix continues the tradition of quality and innovation established by its Media Metrix syndicated Internet ratings - long recognized as the currency in online media measurement among financial analysts, advertising agencies, publishers and marketers - while drawing upon Comscore's advanced technologies to address important new industry requirements. All Comscore Media Metrix syndicated ratings are based on industry-sanctioned sampling methodologies.

About Comscore Networks
Comscore Networks provides unparalleled insight into consumer behavior and attitudes. This capability is based on a massive, global cross-section of more than 2 million consumers who have given Comscore explicit permission to confidentially capture their browsing and transaction behavior, including online and offline purchasing. Comscore panelists also participate in survey research that captures and integrates their attitudes and intentions. Through its patent-pending technology, Comscore measures what matters across a broad spectrum of behavior and attitudes. Comscore consultants apply this deep knowledge of customers and competitors to help clients design powerful marketing strategies and tactics that deliver superior ROI. Comscore services are used by global leaders such as AOL, Yahoo!, Verizon, Best Buy, The Newspaper Association of America, Tribune Interactive, ESPN, Nestlé, Bank of America, Universal McCann, the United States Postal Service, GlaxoSmithKline and Orbitz. For more information, please visit www.comscore.com.

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