visualizing the decline of the destination web, the rise of the social web

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the end of the destination web.

I think we are a long way off of the “end”, and brand websites and microsites will still have a key role in most marketing plans for some time to come. After all, millions of people are still visiting these sites.

However there is a definite trend away from destination websites that has major implications for brands and agencies.

As an exercise, pick any of the top 100 brands from the Millward Brown or Interbrand list. Then go to Google Website Trends and enter that brand’s URL (i.e. bmw.com), selecting “websites” above the resulting graph to get unique visitors.

For each brand you should find that visitors between 2007 and 2009 are trending down, or flat at best.

If you look at Quantcast, which gives data going back to 2006, the decline is even steeper.

Here’s a set of examples across a diverse group of industries and audiences to help illustrate the point.

Disney.com

Google Trends for Websites_ disney.com.jpg

Quiksilver.com

Google Trends for Websites_ quiksilver.com.jpg

Dell.com

Google Trends for Websites_ dell.com.jpg

ESPN.com

Google Trends for Websites_ espn.com.jpg

Nintendo.com

Google Trends for Websites_ nintendo.com.jpg

Sony.com

Google Trends for Websites_ sony.com.jpg

Comedycentral.com

Google Trends for Websites_ comedycentral.com.jpg

Where are the people going?

At first, this doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. More and more people are spending more time online. So where is all that time going?

Here’s a big clue from the new 800 pound gorilla on the scene:

Facebook

Google Trends for Websites_ facebook.com.jpg

And it’s not just Facebook…

Twitter

Google Trends for Websites_ twitter.com.jpg

Tumblr

Google Trends for Websites_ tumblr.com.jpg

Twitter

Google Trends for Websites_ vimeo.com.jpg

Vimeo

Google Trends for Websites_ hulu.com.jpg

Total time spent on Facebook is up 700% year over year. For Twitter it’s 3200%. Live Journal 273%.

Part 2: implications of what this means for brands, and some case studies from brands who are already riding this trend.

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99 Responses to “visualizing the decline of the destination web, the rise of the social web”


  1. 1 Con Frantzeskos

    Don’t forget the rise of RSS feeds and other “off-site” content distribution.

    Why go to a site when the site can come to you? The BBC have been utilising a goal that no more than 30% of total viewership should be site based - the rest should be accessed off site, including YouTube, RSS, Social Networking, etc.

  2. 2 Geoff Northcott

    Yup good point Con. And widgets still aren’t nearly as big as they will be, eventually.

    Love the BBC stat, that says it all right there. They are the largest broadcaster in the world, and instead of trying to pull you to their “channel”, they are looking to get their content out by as many means as possible.

    Obviously the difference between them and competitors like say NBC is that BBC is public rather than commercial entity, however in that respect they are similar to most brands who are trying to get content out by any means necessary, rather than trying to pull towards walled gardens (or destination sites).

  3. 3 René Schmalschläger

    Nice article. I guess YouTube can be added to the 2e list too. I think websites will have the function to show were you can get the content elsewhere on the web :-)

  4. 4 Leo

    Love the post, nothing like clear compelling charts to make an argument. Brand websites can have a role acting as a guide to where to find this distributed content as Rene says, but also to helpfully aggregate it, curate it, and enhance it. Tools like Netvibes and Friend Feed and conventions like the hashtag are making the aggregation element increasingly easy.

  5. 5 roland hachmann

    interesting collection fo data! Using most of the sites on the second list and having content coming to my own “startpage” via netvibes I do agree: brands need a strategy to enable free content moving to sites where users are due to sticky things like their social graph, instead of expecting users to visit stale brand presences…

  6. 6 roland hachmann

    by the way, i just noticed, that you got the titles of the last couple of diagrams wrong - it says “Vimeo” above the graph for hulu.com, for example.

  7. 7 Marc-Oliver Gern

    I just can’t see that happening. I did the same with Google trends just minutes ago and I can see a slightly different picture. Is yours “hand drawn”?

  8. 8 Maarten

    Agree with Marc-Oliver - don’t get same results at all. Can you specify how you got your graphs?

  9. 9 Johnny

    I guess I have to be the third to say I don’t see the same results. Perhaps I am doing something wrong.

  10. 10 Geoff Northcott

    Hey guys,

    As of now Google Trends only shows data from 2009 to 2011. You’ll note the graphs above were captured in 2009, and show from 2007 to 2009. That’s why you’re seeing different results. However that does reveal something of interest, which is that the decline that we saw in the period of 2007-2009 has leveled off, and in some cases corrected. It’s interesting that this has happened while social media has continued to take up more and more of our online time, and would be great to hear other theories as to why the decline happened in the first place and what’s happening to change that now.

    Cheers,
    Geoff

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