Last week’s release of audience demographics for MySpace set the industry abuzz. Is the MySpace crowd really that old?

New data from Nielsen//NetRatings reconfirm what comScore Media Metrix told us last week.

Nearly half (46%) of MySpace’s US-based visitors in September were ages 35 and older, up from 38% a year ago, according to NetRatings. Visitors in the 12-17 age group slipped from 31.5% of the total audience to 20.0%.

Data released last week by comScore revealed that 51.6% of US MySpace visitors were 35 or older as of August. Teens dropped from 24.7% to 11.9% of total unique visitors.

Will a lot more MySpace profiles look like the one maintained by 53-year-old Nintendo VP George Harrison, whose page highlights his favorite movie (Dr. Zhivago) and his interest in historical nonfiction?

It is doubtful. Tracking the percentage of old folks who visit the site is only part of the story, and may not even be all that relevant in the long term. What is far more relevant is the amount of time people spend on MySpace and how they interact with the content and marketing messages there.

As blogger Fred Stutzman pointed out, "A parent knows that their child has a Myspace page. That parent visits, attempting to learn about the service. In Comscore’s index, they would be validly counted as a unique visitor." But these visitors are not necessarily regular users of the site.

Young people still account for a vast proportion of usage of MySpace. They spend more time there than older people — which means it is quite likely that a lot of those middle-agers turning up in the NetRatings and comScore data are looky-loos who are there for work (see: George Harrison), who keep tabs on their kids’ activities or who are just plain curious.

"The average 12- to 17-year-old spent 260 minutes on MySpace and viewed about 808 pages. By contrast, the average 35- to 54-year-old spent 179 minutes on the site and took in 560 pages," Ad Age reported earlier this week (but did not cite the source of the data).

In other words, teens consumed 44% more content and spent 45% more time there. Those are much more intriguing statistics to pay attention to.

More here.