It’s always interesting to me to see technology data trends repeat themselves, even when the technologies themselves are seemingly completely different and designed for different purposes.
Case in point: blogging versus Twitter. Although Twitter is often referred to as a micro-blogging service, some have also suggested it is better compared to a social network, like Facebook. But the data clearly show how Twitter is simply another form of blogging, on a much smaller scale.
Last week, The New York Times’ Douglas Quenqua wrote a story examining all of the orphaned and abandoned blogs on the Internet:
According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.
Judging from conversations with retired bloggers, many of the orphans were cast aside by people who had assumed that once they started blogging, the world would beat a path to their digital door.
The New York Times story focuses on the disappointment and problems with blogging, ranging from too much unwanted publicity (what does one expect when one starts publishing one’s life online?), to not making the expected thousands of dollars from their blogs (really? people expect to get rich quickly online still??).
How does this compare to Twitter usage? Bill Heil and Mikolaj Piskorski released some Twitter analysis early last week that helps provide an answer:
A typical Twitter user contributes very rarely. Among Twitter users, the median number of lifetime tweets per user is one. This translates into over half of Twitter users tweeting less than once every 74 days.
At the same time there is a small contingent of users who are very active. Specifically, the top 10% of prolific Twitter users accounted for over 90% of tweets.[…]
This implies that Twitter’s resembles more of a one-way, one-to-many publishing service more than a two-way, peer-to-peer communication network.
Yes, that’s right — most people tweet once and that’s it. 75 percent tweet 4 times (usually all at one sitting) and that’s it. Which is far more similar to blogging data patterns than it is to social networking data patterns.
Slate’s John Swansburg and Jeremy Singer-Vine also had an interesting piece yesterday about these one-tweet wonders — Orphaned Tweets. It’s an amusing look at those single tweets that people post on Twitter, never to return. Not unlike those first blog entries that so many millions have published, never to return.
All of this suggests that despite the increased usage of Twitter, we’re seeing what we’ve always seen in data trends for virtually all new Internet services that people aren’t quite sure how to use — people give it a whirl, and most decide it’s not for them and never return. However, unlike blogging, Twitter’s personal value to individuals is very much likely tied into their own extended social network (I say “extended” since the more popular you become on Twitter, the less likely you actually know all of the people you follow).
Perhaps the data also show that while people are willing to try new technologies, if the value proposition isn’t immediately evident and rewarding, most won’t stay with it to find one. People’s attention span on the Internet is so incredibly short and divided, something that doesn’t immediately add value to our lives may be difficult for most of us to justify in our already overwhelming schedules.
Read the full New York Times article: When the Thrill of Blogging Is Gone …