The End of User-Generated Content? Nah. Maybe.

Only a few months after Clay Shirky’s book on the glorious new age of amateur content creation on the Web, Forrester Research
reports that social media content creation in the U.S.  – that means posting blogs, pictures, comments, etc. – has decreased since last year. From PC World:

Social media “creators,” which Forrester defines as users who have a blog, upload videos and music and write articles, shrunk from 24 percent of the U.S. online population in 2009 to 23 percent in the second quarter of this year, according to data from the report.

“Critics,” those who rate and review products, post comments on others’ blogs, participate in discussion forums and collaborate on wikis, dropped from 37 percent to 33 percent.

Likewise, “collectors,” Internet users who subscribe to syndicated feeds, tag Web pages and photos and in general organize content for the benefit of other users, fell from 21 percent to 19 percent, Forrester said.

Even “spectators,” the folks who read, watch and listen to what the “creators,” “critics” and “collectors” post online, dropped from 73 percent to 68 percent, according to Forrester.

Taking a look at the actual numbers, the decrease is barely significant. Could this be, however, the beginning of an ongoing downward trend in the coming years? Perhaps. Judging from the number of social media related job postings I’ve seen in the past 6 months alone, social media content, like blogging, is quickly becoming professionalized. Could that be where the amateur content creators are going?  There’s another theory, one that is noted at the end of PC World article:

A new category this year is “conversationalists,” whom Forrester describes as people who post status updates on social-networking sites and microblogging services such as Twitter. Thirty-one percent of U.S. Internet users fall into this group.

My thoughts? Social media and social networking  are becoming two distinct categories, divided by professionals and non-professionals. Therefore social media types will continue obsessing over monetization and ROI while social networkers will continue their conversations within their own personal networks. Social media may start to look more and more like traditional media with a distinct divide between consumer and creator.  But as social media becomes saturated by professional “creators” and “critics”, will “conversationalists” retreat elsewhere online?

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