More than half of the visitors to MySpace are reportedly 35 years old or older, a surprising statistic given the media attention the site has received as an Internet hangout for teens and young adults.
A recent analysis of the users of leading social networking sites found significant shifts in MySpace's demographics while the site grew dramatically over the last year, ComScore Networks said. In August, children and teens from 12 years old to 17 years old accounted for 11.9 percent of all visitors, compared with 24.7 percent the same month a year ago.
Meanwhile, the portion of older MySpace users has grown to 51.6 percent age 35 or older, ComScore said. Add visitors age 25 or older, and the amount increases to 68.3 percent. Last year, half the site's visitors were at least 25 years old.
The shift in demographics reflects the "mainstream effect," ComScore analyst Andrew Lipsman said. As the site gets better known to a broader group of people, it makes sense there would be a greater diversity of age groups visiting.
"It's really a broadening of the user base, rather than one user base supplanting the other," Lipsman said.
For example, while the percentage of teenage visitors has declined, the number of teenagers heading to MySpace has increased, since a smaller percentage of a far greater pool can translate into a larger actual number.
The demographics tend to skewer MySpace's image as a place for young people to socialize and share music and video. Its popularity among the young has resulted in tremendous pressure on site operators to implement tighter security to protect minors from sexual predators.
The ComScore analysis found that MySpace had the broadest appeal across age goups, while Facebook has, as expected, built a niche among college students. Until recently, people signing up for Facebook needed a school email address. The site is now open to everyone.
"It will be interesting to monitor the shifts in Facebook's demographic composition that will undoubtedly occur as a result of the company's recent decision to open its doors to users of all ages," Jack Flanagan, executive vice president of ComScore, said in a statement.
Friendster.com had the highest percentage of older Internet users, with 70.8 percent of visitors 25 years old or older. Among younger teens, Xanga.com was the most popular. Fully 20.3 percent of the users were from 12 years old to 17 years old.
"There is a misconception that social networking is the exclusive domain of teenagers, but this analysis confirms that the appeal of social networking sites is far broader," Flanagan said.
Lipsman, however, pointed out that the ComScore's findings related to visitors, and not registered users. So the demographics reflect people being directed to MySpace and the other sites to read blogs, listen to music or watch video.
"It's not that these people are going directly to MySpace and spending a lot of time there," he said. "Instead, they're being funneled to the site through other means, in a lot of cases."
Nevertheless, as the largest online social network, MySpace, which is owned by News Corp., has drawn much of the attention of child advocacy groups. In June, the site launched additional security measures to protect 14 and 15 year olds.
In August, MySpace was the largest social network on the Web with 55.8 million unique visitors, ComScore said. During the same month a year ago, the site had 21.8 million unique visitors.
No responsibility can be taken for the content of external Internet sites.