Is the Internet out of Ideas?
Last week Forrester Research published an update to their popular (and useful) Social Technographics report which showed that- depending on which pronouncements you read- seemed to indicate that online social activity had reached a plateau, or was even shrinking. Just a quick sample:
- PCWorld said: “This year, a smaller percentage of U.S. Internet users are contributing to social media sites” and argued that “companies need to find ways to re-engage those U.S. Internet users who have stopped participating on their social media sites”
- CNN reported that “the report . . . says people joining online social networks aren’t uploading videos, posting status updates and engaging in conversations like those before them”
- Raymond Nuez at the Huffington Post went so far as to title his piece “Where have all the content creators gone?”
- VerticalLeap in the UK went with “content generation activity fading among social network users“
- ReadWriteWeb summarized it as “Social networking users are creating less content” and followed Forrester’s Jacqueline Anderson in suggesting that this is cause for concern because (their subhead) “Fewer Creators Mean Fewer Ideas”
Arguably all the fuss has its origin in a blog post on Forrester’s site announcing the new report, which notes:
many groups in the US market plateaued. Creators, the group that is actually adding content to the Internet, are one example of this lack of growth.
(Though she does note they still represent 41 million US online adults). She goes on to conclude:
The story behind the data is pretty clear. The initial wave of consumers using social technologies in the US has halted. Companies will now need to devise strategies to extend social applications past the early adopters.
Looking at the numbers in the actual report, though, shows a much more muted story. Yes, the percentage of US Online Adults identified as creators did change from 24% to 23% between the 2009 survey and the 2010 survey. This is the core data point folks latched on to (this plus a change in critics from 37% to 33%, and a rise of inactives from 18% to 19%). But does this mean we’re all fresh out of new ideas? Nothing new being created on the web? No more activity from “the group that is actually adding content to the internet” (as opposed to merely commenting, repeating, critiquing, consuming, and lurking around)?