Post-Web 2.0 Internet Users Are More Passive, Study Claims

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The dream of Web 2.0 may be over. If a new report on internet usage is to be believed, social media has turned the internet into more of a passive experience again. The report from GlobalWebIndex’s Tom Smith, called GlobalWebIndex Wave 1-3 2010, suggests that the rise of “packaged platform” entertainment – that is, platform-specific, non-browser services on tablets, smartphones, eReaders, etc. – and the changing role of social media online has created an environment where “professionals are back in the driving seat when it comes to content,” adding that “we as consumers are going back to traditional needs and demands and seeking a more passive experience.”

The change, the report suggests, is that social media is more about content sharing than content creation, turning users into passive consumers – or, worse, distributors – of others’ work. ReadWriteWeb makes an important counterpoint to that argument:

These days, consumers are interacting with ‘professional’ content through their PCs, smartphones or tablets. They’re talking with peers and other people who are watching the same TV shows, in real-time. Or they’re watching a live music concert and talking with people on Facebook. Or they’re arguing in the comments of a news blog. They are analyzing content too, actively engaging in discussions about it. Even with books, a traditionally one-way consumption experience, readers nowadays can make notes about the book they’re reading and share that – via an eReader like Kindle or a service like Goodreads. While all of this is not as creative as recording a video or writing a blog, it’s not passive. Consumers are actively engaging with content.

I agree with that take, and have a feeling that what’s changed is not that users are creating less content than before, but that the rise of alternative platforms to web browsers/computers has increased the ability to consume media (and therefore the amount of media consumed) and also the type of content created in response – It’s easier to write 140 character thoughts on an iPhone than it is a lengthy, reasoned blog post, for example. Instead of a shift back towards professional/audience mode, this feels more like a blip as the landscape gets used to its new tools than anything else to me, but what do you think?

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