Most Web 2.0 Users Are Really Just Couch Potatoes
April 22, 2007
A study by Bill Tancer, an analyst with Hitwise, which measures Web 2.0 audiences, shows that only a tiny fraction of people using social media actively participate. A miniscule 0.16 percent of visits to YouTube actually involve people putting a video up on it, according to his online surfing data. All the rest are visits by people watching the videos of that tiny fraction.
Only two tenths of one percent of visits to Flickr are to upload new photos. Again, everyone else is watching. Just how many users are doing user-generated content?
Wikipedia shows much higher active partipation--4.6% of all visits are for editing. But think a moment--that is still a very small fraction of the total number of people using Wikipedia.
Tancer presented his data to the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. Visits to Web 2.0 sites constitute 12% of all web activity, according to Tancer, up from 2% two years ago. It's soaring.
So, the question is--who is shaping the conversation? These numbers suggest that only a very, very small number of people actively create content in social media. Nearly everyone watches.
So are we really just reinventing TV, with folks pretty much sitting back passively (like couch potatoes)? Is YouTube just another NBC or Fox TV network?
Could be. These YouTube and Flickr numbers are even worse than the 1% Rule--for every 100 users of social media, only ten actively participate, and only 1 actually creates something. Back in July, 2006, the ratio of creators to consumers on YouTube was 0.5%. Now it is 0.16%. Many more people are drawn to YouTube to watch than to create.
Mark Vanderbeeken, over at Experientia, links to a vnunet story that quotes Barry Parr, an analyst at Jupiter Research, saying: "Consumer created content is now the big leagues, but we still don't understand it all that well. It's a reasonable (and old school) rule of thumb that only one per cent of any site's readers will post content on it, but that's plenty."
And Ted Shelton, vice president of business development at Technorati, says that "a small percentage of a huge number of users can still amount to a significant impact.Two per cent of a billion people online is still 20 million people writing blogs on a regular basis."
Shelton has another point. "Very few of those 20 million people actually worry about getting paid for what they do. People under 25 are much more likely to blog, and contribute content of other kinds, so this may be a phenomenon that is increasing."
Another point: These huge social media sites may no longer define what people are doing in social networking. I'm guessing that people are shifting their own conversations toward more direct,intimate social media, such as blogging. Numbers already show that young people are beginning to move away from MySpace as it grows bigger and more commercial for smaller, closer social networking sites.
The conversation economy is still iterating.