Analyst: Web 2.0 Users Would Rather Watch Than Upload

The so-called “New Web” has been hailed as a great place for sharing and interacting, but data released Tuesday by Internet traffic researchers suggests most cybersurfers are watchers, not uploaders.

In a presentation at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco this week, Hitwise analyst Bill Tancer noted that upload rates at participatory cyberstops like YouTube and Flickr were well under 1 percent — 0.16 percent for video-sharing site YouTube and 0.2 percent for photo-sharing site Flickr, which is owned by Yahoo.

The Hitwise findings beg the question, is the Web moving the realm of the couch potato from the living room into Cyberspace?

“Web 2.0 is to the Internet what the remote was to TV,” Jaron Lanier a scholar-in-residence at the University of California at Berkeley and a pioneer in virtual reality research, told TechNewsWorld. “It encourages skittish attention deficit behavior.”

80 Percent Watchers

By and large, most visitors to participatory Web sites are watchers, maintained Randall C. Bennett, former lead blogger for DV Guru and founder of Tech Check Daily, a daily video podcast about technology.

As a rule of thumb, he estimated that about 1 percent of a site’s visitors are “creatives” — enthusiastic and frequent uploaders of site content; some 20 percent are “contributors” who might do some uploading and add comments and tags to a site’s content; and the rest of the visitors are just watchers.

“They’re the kind of people who use Wikipedia just because the information is useful to them,” he exemplified.

Ironically, Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia written and edited by volunteers, had a relatively high participation rate in the Hitwise findings — 4.49 percent of visitors edited entries at the site.

Conversational Dynamic

“I’m not surprised that the percentage of people who upload videos is much smaller than the percentage of people who watch them,” John Battelle, a Web marketing analyst with Battelle Media told TechNewsWorld.

“But I don’t think the act of watching on the Web is necessarily passive,” he added. “You’re watching a conversation, which is different than watching a presentation.”

For example, he explained that many visitors to a video-sharing Web site aren’t just looking at a video. They’re looking at related videos, responses to video, commentary on videos and so forth.

“It’s a conversational dynamic as opposed to a receiving dynamic,” he observed.

Skyrocketing Growth

That conversational dynamic inherent in Web 2.0 appears even at sites that limit user uploads.

Jeffrey D. Neuburger, chairman of the technology, media and communication department at the law firm of Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner, cited a major record company that has moved all its talent acquisition operations to the Web.

“It’s like American Idol,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Artists upload their music and videos, but the public can post comments on them so the A&R (artist and repertoire) people can actually get a sense of what the public thinks about the content before they approach an artist.”

Even if participation rates at Web 2.0 sites remain low, visitors continue to flock to the cyberstops, according to Hitwise. Its presentation showed that in the last two years, visits to the top participatory Web sites increased 668 percent.

Hot Newcomers

Other findings in the Hitwise presentation included:

  • Visits to Wikipedia outnumber visits to Microsoft’s Encarta encyclopedia site 3,400 to 1.
  • Biggest users of Wikipedia are 18- to 24-year-olds (25.89 percent) and 35- to 44-year-olds (25.53 percent), while most of the editing of the encyclopedia is being done by 35- to 44-year-olds (27.35 percent), 45- to 54-year-olds (28.85 percent) and the over-55 set (25.59 percent).
  • Web 2.0 photo sites account for 56 percent of all photo site traffic on the Internet.
  • Most YouTube visitors are 18- to 24-year-olds (30.55 percent), while most video is uploaded to the site by 35- to 44-year-olds (35.65 percent).
  • In addition, Hitwise picked a half-dozen Web 2.0 outfits with a promising future. They were Yelp, StumbleUpon, Veoh, WeeWorld, Imeem, and Piczo.

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