Hyperventilating pundits like to portray the potential of new-media as endless. Broadcast radio is dead, soon to be replaced by Internet radio. Broadcast television is dead, soon to be replaced by Internet video.
We appear to be reaching an Internet usage inflection point. Usage isn’t growing like it once was. Total time spent online has stopped growing. Social networking growth is at the expense of search, and once hot networks like Twitter seem to be cooling.
A few weeks ago here we showed evidence that online radio had stopped growing, and now there is evidence that online video has stalled.
Nielsen has been measuring online video usage for several years now. In June of last year they beefed up their panel, and since then have published monthly reports showing unique viewers, total viewed streams, streams per viewer, and time spent viewing. A portion of the latest report is shown to the left. Read the entire report here.
Since Nielsen began measuring online video, there has never been a month when all four measures showed a loss. The graph above is year to year growth charted for the past year. As you can see, by most measures growth rates peaked in mid 2009. They started to decline in the Fall, and dropped into negative territory in March of this year.
The losses are small, but the over-all trend is unmistakable. By every measure, online video growth has stopped if not reversed. Fewer people are watching online video, and they are watching fewer videos.
Mobile video may provide a bump, but it is just as likely that mobile devices will simply replace computers. In other words, the growth of smartphones may not reverse the downward trend.
Next time you hear new rosy predictions about how soon everything will be online, remember that even on the Internet things don’t grow forever. And growth always ends before you expect it.