The Online Publishers Association is promoting a study [PDF] that says online content sales in the U.S. totaled $1.3 billion in 2002, an increase of 95% over 2001.

However, a closer examination of the data makes this billion-dollar figure suspicious. Here are some of my observations from their top 25, which I have classified into Content, Service, Entertainment, and Database:

  • The single biggest category is more properly described as “services”. It includes Yahoo, MSN, and personals.
  • Yahoo is seeing results from its efforts to increase revenues from fees, and MSN is falling behind.
  • Financial information is the biggest contributor to true content sale, with sales of $292 million.
  • The OPA describes financial content as “maturing”, with a growth rate of 18%.
  • Sales of “General News” rose from $52 million to $70 million. No “General News” site was in the top 25.
  • Consumer Reports and Encyclopedia Britannica are the two true consumer content brands on the list.
  • Consumer Reports has fallen from #5 to #11.
  • The IEEE.org site sells conferences, so it’s not clear how much of their revenue is really for content.
  • Pressplay, the much-maligned music service, is on the list at #22.
  • ESPN’s revenues are apparently mostly from fantasy sports games.
  • It’s not clear why Playboy is on the list, since “pornography” is excluded from the survey.

Here are the top 25 content sites, according to the OPA:

Content Service Entertainment Database
1 yahoo.com up from #4
2 match.com personals
3 real.com down from #1
4 classmates.com friend finder
5 wsj.com down from #2
6 weightwatchers.com x
7 ancestry.com x
8 consumerinfo.com credit reports
9 matchmaker.com personals
10 1800ussearch.com people tracker
11 consumerreports.org down from #5
12 espn.go.com fantasy games
13 carfax.com vehicle history
14 thestreet.com no change
15 bluemountain.com greeting cards
16 playboy.com OPA says it excludes “pornography”
17 kiss.com personals
18 msn.com down from #15
19 egreetings.com greeting cards
20 ieee.org Does this include conference sales from web site?
21 arttoday.com ugly clipart
22 pressplay.com Music service
23 britannica.com x
24 astrology.com x
25 smartmoney.com no change