new study from Forrester Research has found a decline in the number of content creators across social networking sites, even while general use and participation on these sites has risen. The group of users classified as "Creators" - those who record videos, post blog entries, write reviews and post comments to articles online - are less active this year than they were in 2009, with shrinking percentages of users in the majority of markets studied. In the U.S., for example, the Creators category dropped from 24% to 23%.A
The dips in each region may not seem like a lot - usually only a percentage point or two - but Forrester analyst Jacqueline Anderson says there's still reason to be concerned.
Forrester classifies social networking users into different categories - Creators, Conversationalists, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators and Inactives - whose self-explanatory titles refer to how they tend to use social networking sites.
Over the course of the past year, the Creator audience dropped from 24% to 23% in the U.S, went from 15% to 14% in the E.U., 44% to 41% in metropolitan China and 23% to 22% in Australia. The only country where content creation is on the rise is Japan, which saw an increase of two percentage points, going from 34% to 36%.
Fewer Creators Means Fewer Ideas
What this means, says Anderson, is that new content creation is now limited to existing Creators. "Creators are the elite group who power social content," she explains. "A lack of growth in this area translates into a lack of fresh ideas, content and perspectives."
Using YouTube as an example, she says that one third of U.S. consumers regularly watch user-generated videos on sites like YouTube, but only 10% say they've uploaded videos to public sites. It seems that interest in becoming a creator of content has plateaued.
Another group on the decline is Critics, the group responsible for posting ratings and reviews. In the U.S., Europe and metropolitan China, the percentage of Critics either remained flat or declined.
Meanwhile, the group known as Spectators, those that serve as the audience for Creators and Critics, is on the rise. In Japan, the number of Spectators grew by 6%, in Europe 4% and Australia 3%.
Some of these trends can be accounted for by the fact that social networking itself is on the rise. The group of new users joining social networks ("Joiners") has grown across the board, up from 51% to 59% in the U.S., going from 30% to 41% in the E.U., 26% to 29% in Japan, 50% to 61% in Australia and jumping from 32% to 50% in metropolitan China. These new users aren't likely to jump in head first with content creation, we would argue, but are more likely to sit back and watch. Whether that will change in the future as they get more comfortable with these new platforms is still unknown.