For most of the history of LiveJournal, you could take a look at archive.org and track the site's growth by looking at their archives of http://www.livejournal.com/stats.bml
. This changed in early 2005
, after LJ became a part of 6A, but there are a few LJers who are interested in this data, as it indicates that LJ has been effectively shrinking in usage for awhile now.
1488723 Jun. 16, 2005
1430672 Aug. 13, 2005
1372241 Nov. 6, 2005
1316574 March 16, 2006
1310048 Apr. 3, 2006
1301145 Apr. 19, 2006
1289993 Apr. 26, 2006
1203631 May 27, 2006
1197567 May 31, 2006
1196909 Jun. 6, 2006
1164416 Aug. 21, 2006
1137173 Oct. 12, 2006
1128562 Oct. 28, 2006
1092871 Dec. 19, 2006
We can determine a few things now with some degree of certainty:
1> LJ is shrinking, at least as far as the number of active users per month, which is probably the most meaningful stat LJ/6A tracks.
2> The rate of this decrease in LJ activity has been pretty constant since May 27, 2006. (LJ/6A may have made some minor changes in how they handle their stats between Apr. 26 and May 27 to account for the noticeable dip at that point.)
3> Based on the most recent data, LJ is currently about 1.65% less active every month than in the preceeding month.
This data is reenforced with the latest demographic data at http://www.livejournal.com/stats.bml
, which now indicates that there are more 19-year olds on LJ than any other age. This is a pretty recent thing, and clearly indicates an aging of LJ's population. The number of young users has decreased greatly, to the point that a user is nearly as likely to be 25 as they are to be 15, for example. The average age of an LJ user is also increasing significantly, and is well into the 20's.
To me, this indicates the potential for problems, not only for LJ, but also for SixApart itself. Gartner recently predicted that blog growth will reach its peak next year
, and, apparently, decrease from there. According to Gartner, even if new users create thousands of weblogs every day, twice that number are predicted to shelve their old blogs... and, as we've seen with LJ's stats, younger users aren't coming on board like they used to.
So, basically, we're in the blogging equivalent of the Golden Age of Wireless, and we're all the modern day equivalent of ham radio operators. While many people will read various big-named blogs for years, most will find that they don't want or need to keep a blog themselves.
To me, as much as I believe in blogs, this makes sense.
Based on the stats I've gathered, I can now estimate LJ's "number of users updating over the last 30 days" in the future as follows:
March 2007 - 1055900
June 2007 - 1004490
Sept. 2007 - 955584
Dec. 2007 - 909059
Dec 2008 - 744533
Dec. 2009 - 609785
Dec. 2010 - 499423
Dec. 2011 - 409036
Dec. 2012 - 335007
In other words, LJ will be pretty damn dead by the time the next president starts campaigning for reelection, unless things change somehow. Personally, I think these stats may be an underestimate, as there is a very singificant risk that as things start to get more quiet around LJ land, people will leave / become inactive at an accelerated rate...
Where will people go? Well, according to Gartner, many of them will just... go. They'll grow up and be too busy with their lives and families. Younger users are presumably being swallowed up in other online social networks.... the most popular of these being World of Warcraft and MySpace. It is expected that massively multiplayer console gaming will also expand greatly in the future, delivering people a more immersive social environment.
So, we're moving from the age of the blog, to the age of the avatar, basically. (Sorta makes permanent accounts not seem quite as valuable, eh?!)
Really, I have to wonder how all of this plays in to the idea of SixApart as a venture capital-funded company. How would you view stats like mine -- or predictions like Gartner's -- if you were an investor who heard that SixApart was about to make a public stock offering, for example?
To me, that's pretty depressing news, because it says that a the startup you're thinking about investing in has a shrinking market. And, let's face it, the difference between the hype of blogging and the reality of trying to make blogging profitable could be worth as much as 500 million dollars in a public stock's initial valuation. That's a big, big deal.
If I were at 6A, or one of their VC investors, I'd be second-guessing my initial thoughts about letting the company mature a bit or letting the marketplace for new public IPOs improve a bit before going public. I might even be saying "You must go public NOW! NOW! NOW!" to the people over at 6A, urging them on before the reality of the blogging business kills off the hype.
So far, I haven't seen any hard evidence of 6A becoming a profitable enterprise, aside from some foggy predictions that certain pieces of blog software might be profitable in a few years. I *have* seen signs of SixApart having some fairly difficult transitions this year, having a hard time selling advertisers on their sites, having unexpected difficulties with overseas partnerships, having higher than expected levels of competition
on the high-end business market, of them spending quite a lot of money, and now, of them letting their VP of Sales go
So, if the hype of blogging is dying, then where's the revenue?