April 14, 2011 – In a new study, Penn State researchers calculated that real-time content from Web sources could be worth more than $30 million a day, or nearly $10.9 billion a year, to advertisers. This content includes microcommunication services (such as Twitter), blog comments, news feeds, photo sharing and other social media.

Real-time content is “immediate and tells people what's going on right now,” says Jim Jansen, associate professor, information sciences and technology, primary author of the study. This real-time content flows from social media comments on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The market for real-time search is likely to grow. The number of Twitter updates or "tweets" has increased 1,000 percent in about a year, according to the Penn State team.

In this research Jansen teamed with students Zhe Liu and Courtney Weaver at Penn State to analyze 1,005,296 user interactions with a real-time search engine, Collecta, over a 190-day period. Using query log analysis, they investigated searching behavior, categorize search topics, and measured the economic value of this real-time search stream with Google AdWords Traffic Estimator, which calculates how valuable ads might be to see what these real-time searches would be worth on Google on any given day.

The researchers determined that 30 percent were unique queries, which is low compared to traditional Web searching. Approximately 52 percent of the unique searches had economic value, according to their method of monetizing the ad words.

“Real-time searching behaviors are different from Web searching; however, many of the topics are the same,” Jansen emphasizes.

The researcher finds it notable that there’s large use (60 percent) of APIs to access search engines, which is different from Web search, indicating that real-time search is heavily leveraged by other applications.

Nearly 36 percent of the queries were classified as regional, indicating a localized or geographical inclination to real-time search interests. Researchers suggest this makes real-time search attractive for mobile searching, which already has a significant geo-location attribute.

The report, “Real-Time Search on the Web” is available here

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