Content online is king.

Internet users spend nearly half their time online viewing news or entertainment content, surpassing activities such as sending e-mails, shopping or searching for information, according to a study released by the Online Publishers Association on Monday.

The four-year study, conducted by Nielsen/NetRatings, tracked a 37 percent increase in amount of time spent viewing content such as online videos or news, surpassing a 35 percent rise in using search engines like Google Inc. (GOOG)

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The abundance of content and faster online speeds accounted for the spike, the study said. A proliferation of social networks such as News Corp.'s (NWS) MySpace and Facebook have helped boost content viewing as well.

Overall, viewing content accounts for 47 percent of time spent online in 2007, up from 34 percent in 2003. Web search accounted for 5 percent of time spent online in 2007 from 3 percent in 2003.

Time spent on commerce sites such as Amazon.com (AMZN) fell 5 percent and accounted for 15 percent of time spent in 2007.

Time spent on communications such as e-mail fell 28 percent to 33 percent of time spent online in 2007, down from 46 percent in 2003.

The popularity of instant messaging such as AOL Instant Messenger, which lets users send quick messages rather than e-mails, accounted for the drop in the amount of time spent corresponding, the study said.