Few Contribute to User-Generated Content

At the Web 2.0 Expo taking place in San Francisco this week, Hitwise analyst and general manager Bill Tancer offered his assessment of how many users actually contribute their own text, pictures, and/or video content to so-called "Web 2.0" sites and services. The answer: darn few.

Tancer’s study of Internet surfing data finds that while visits to so-called "Web 2.0" sites have incrased by 688 percent in two years’ time, only a 0.2 to 1 percent of visitors to Yahoo’s popular photo sharing Web site Flickr actually upload images; similarly, only 0.16 pecent of all visits to Google’s video sharing site YouTube are there to upload video. The findings suggest that while the Internet may be touted as a democratic force and a media that’s open to the masses, remarkably few people are actually participating in creating content. Instead, the vast majority of Internet users are not unlike television viewers: passive voyeurs who observe and consume, but don’t create and contribute.

One exception to Tancer’s findings of low-participation in user-generated and community-driven online offerings: Wikipedia where 4.6 percent of all visits were to edit entries on the site.

Amusingly, while Web demographers are all about chasing the youth demographic, Tancer found that a slightly older set—age 35 to 55—were more likely to upload photos or video, contribute content, and participate in community-driven sites.

Nonetheless, Tancer found that Web 2.0 properties are hot, and garnering an increasing share of overall Internet traffic. Participatory Web 2.0 sites now account for 12 percent of all U.S. Web activity, up from just 2 percent two years ago. Web 2.0 properties are particularly dominant in the photo-sharing market, where they account for 56 percent of all traffic; of that traffic 41 percent belongs to Photobucket.

Tancer was also willing to made some predictions about what Web 2.0 sites might become the Next Big Thing. Based on data filters from the activities of 25 million Internet users across some 860,000 Web sites, Trancer picked Piczo, iMeem, StumbleUpon, WeeWorld, Veoh, and Yelp as having the potential to leap frog into the Internet mainstream, like Flickr, YouTube, and Wikipedia have before them.

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