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Americans spend 59 percent of their time on the open internet, but only 48 percent of advertiser budgets are spent there

A man handglides with a smartphone through the sky.

Illustration by Nick DeSantis / Shutterstock / The Current

Advertisers are underinvesting in areas where Americans are spending the bulk of their time online, according to a study out this month exploring U.S. consumers’ engagement on the open internet.

The survey, conducted by The Trade Desk Intelligence, found that, out of all the time respondents spend online, an average of 59 percent said they spend it on the open internet. There’s a disconnect though when it comes to ad spend. Only 48 percent of advertisers’ ad dollars are going to the open internet, according to the same report that also surveyed advertisers. This presents an opportunity for advertisers to invest their budgets in places where people are more likely to be.

Participants were asked how their online behaviors correlated with distinct digital realms. These realms were respectively categorized as “walled gardens,” including YouTube and social media, and “open internet spaces,” ranging from platforms such as online news and magazines to video and music streaming services.

The survey, conducted in April 2023, asked more than 2,000 U.S. consumers about their online habits and experiences. The sample represents key demographics like age, gender, and income. In tandem with the survey, qualitative interviews took place with a cohort of 14 advertising industry experts.

The Current is owned and operated by The Trade Desk, Inc.

Graph comparing consumer time spent online and on the open internet vs. ad spend on walled gardens and the open internet..