A newly published study by web audience measurement outfit Hitwise has revealed that despite the media frenzy surrounding Web 2.0 sites and services, when it comes to the actual public only a minuscule number actually participate in the social networking and information sharing revolution when they visit.
For example, how many visitors to YouTube, which Google acquired for an arm and both legs last year, do you reckon actually upload videos and therefore fully participate in the video sharing process? 10% perhaps, maybe 5%?
Well, according to Hitwise the number is nearer 0.16% in fact. The numbers are hardly much better when it comes that other darling of the media headline, the Yahoo owned Flickr, which sees only 0.2% of visitors uploading new photos.
Some Web 2.0 sites do manage to buck the lurker trend identified by Hitwise. To be precise, one Web 2.0 site, and that is Wikipedia. Even then only 4.6% of visitors edit entries rather than just read them.
Of course, as long as there has been an online community there have been ‘lurkers’ to accompany it. These are the folk who read messages but do not post them in the forums, who absorb answers but do not ask questions on support site, and who pull down whatever data is available without ever thinking about putting something back. Not that there is anything wrong with this, it is an inevitable consequence of the medium just as everyone watches TV but only a small percentage create the content. The difference between TV and Web 2.0 being that the former is not sold on the basis of being a revolutionary interactive medium that is set to change the world and the way we all interact with it.
Interestingly, the report also suggests that there is a definite age related split between content creators and consumers. The 35 to 55 year olds are more likely to create, while the 18 to 34 years olds do most of the consuming.
So given all of this, why then have visits to Web 2.0 sites increased by a whopping 668% during the last 24 months? Could it be just a matter of media hype winning out again? I’m not convinced of that, despite it sounding like me defending my own back here. The truth is that even sites and services old off the participatory pitch are still deep down just content delivery vehicles, and while that content is fresh and exciting enough then the great unwashed will come and stare at it. That, I believe, is why Hitwise report an increase in visitors to such sites as a percentage of all US based Web browsing activity from 2% a couple of years back to 12.28% now.
Hitwise General Manager Bill Tancer, has analyzed some 860,000 web sites and the habits of 25 million Internet users and reckons this provides a crystal ball to predict who might be the next Flickr, Wikipedia or YouTube. Always happy to allow predictions to bring future glory or ridicule, and it’s usually the latter it has to be said, here’s what Tancer reckons you should be looking out for in the making it big stakes:
Oh, but I’ve saved the most fascinating statistic until last: only 0.2% of users, the so called ‘young digerati, money and brains, bohemian mix’ is responsible for defining and setting online trends as far as Web 2.0 sites are concerned.