Net effect: It's all about who you know

Social networking sites continue to find niche and grow quickly

NEW YORK -- News Corp.'s MySpace continues to be the leader in the U.S. among social networking sites, but several portals coming from different angles are growing at a considerably faster rate, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

MySpace saw only 49% growth in April compared with the same month last year, according to NetRatings. That's far less than main rival Facebook, which saw a 152% jump in the same period, and Bebo, up 109%.

The fastest-growing sites year-over-year, however, were business-related networks ZoomInfo and LinkedIn, which saw 276% and 210% growth, respectively, compared with April 2006.

LinkedIn has a more traditional setup, hosting profiles set up by individuals for business networking purposes, but ZoomInfo, which had 2.8 million unique visitors in April, employs a different and, so far, more trafficked model. Using algorithms and information integration technology, the site looks at pages throughout the Web and automatically creates searchable profiles for professionals that link back to the sites where their name is mentioned.

ZoomInfo said in April that revenue increased 35% in first-quarter 2007 compared with same period last year. CEO Jonathan Stern wrote that he expects his site "to profitably exceed $15 million in sales this year."

A Reuters report in April said the company has made most of its money providing paid services, such as in-depth employee or company descriptions, to corporate clients such as Google Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. for a monthly subscription fee.

Bebo, which has been mentioned as a possible Yahoo acquisition, was the highest gainer in the social networking category for the month compared with March with a 44% increase, NetRatings said.

Faceboook, which recently partnered with several entertainment companies to enable widgets on the site, has seen impressive growth by any calculation. In September, the site opened up to anyone with an e-mail address, whereas before users had to have a high school or college address, which spurred growth for the portal.

Nielsen//NetRatings is owned by the Nielsen Co., parent company of The Hollywood Reporter.

All chart data provided by Nielsen//NetRatings. Deep Focus chart excludes