Reflecting the boom in online shopping, traffic to electronic-commerce sites is growing faster than any other category on the Internet. Sites focusing on news, entertainment and education are growing more slowly, according to the latest figures from Media Metrix Inc.

In August, the total number of Internet users--measured as "unique Web visitors," or individuals who visited at least one Web site in a given month--was 63.1 million, an increase of 11.5 percent from the same month in 1998.

More of those users--42.5 million--spent time shopping, the monthly survey found. The number of unique visitors to shopping sites was 32 percent higher than in the same month a year earlier.

Travel and tourism sites were next with a 30 percent growth rate, as more people turned to the Web for information on fares and destinations. Search engines showed a growth rate of 28 percent.

Web sites categorized as news, information or entertainment grew about 16 percent, but they still lead the pack in terms of sheer numbers of users, with more than 53 million unique visitors.

The slowest-growing major category was adult content, which had a 5 percent increase over the previous August.

SHOPPING TRAFFIC

Visitors to Web shopping sites increased 32 percent in August compared with a year ago. Here's how various categories grew:

Category: Shopping

Unique visitors (millions):

Aug. '98: 32.2

Aug. '99: 42.5

% increase: 32

Category: Travel/tourism

Unique visitors (millions):

Aug. '98: 16.6

Aug. '99: 21.5

% increase: 30

Category: Search engine

Unique visitors (millions):

Aug. '98: 37.8

Aug. '99: 48.6

% increase: 28

Category: Web services

Unique visitors (millions):

Aug. '98: 34.3

Aug. '99: 43.0

% increase: 24

Category: Directories

Unique visitors (millions):

Aug. '98: 13.0

Aug. '99: 15.9

% increase: 22

Category: Government

Unique visitors (millions):

Aug. '98: 16.2

Aug. '99: 19.7

% increase: 22

Category: Marketing/corporate

Unique visitors (millions):

Aug. '98: 43.8

Aug. '99: 51.5

% increase: 18

Category: News/info/entertainment

Unique visitors (millions):

Aug. '98: 45.7

Aug. '99: 53.2

% increase: 16

Category: Education

Unique visitors (millions):

Aug. '98: 23.6

Aug. '99: 25.8

% increase: 9

Category: Adult content

Unique visitors (millions):

Aug. '98: 19.1

Aug. '99: 20.0

% increase: 5

NOTE: Unique visitors means the estimated number of total users who visited the Web site once in the given month. Sample size is more than 50,000 individuals throughout the U.S.

SOURCE: Media Metrix