Wikipedia is dead, long live the 'pedia
I was a bit surprised when looking at the Wikipedia pageviews for 2013 (nicely presented here). After 5 years of consistent and reasonably stable growth, over 2013 monthly pageviews actually dropped, and to the tune of 2 *billion* views (10%) from their peak early in the year.
This was surprising to me. The problem Wikipedia has attracting new editors has been well-publicised, but it's never had trouble with PageRank or increasing its reach to casual viewers.
Well, it turns out one area seeing consistent and healthy growth is, as you would guess, mobile views, which are showing gains of about 150k pageviews a month on English Wikipedia. This makes up for almost half a billion of those lost over 2013 in the graph above, but still leaves some explaining to do.
Interestingly, another useful metric of web traffic, unique visitors per month, continues to grow considerably. Maybe this reflects how mobile visitors use the site differently, just looking something up (e.g. to settle an argument) and closing their browser as opposed to a few hours going from topic to topic and ending up admiring a list of Eiffel tower replicates.
A quick graph of mean monthly pageviews per visitor gives this theory some support, but the data seems pretty noisy and has varied a lot over the past few years.
Another possibility is that this data is telling us what we already know: the unique visitors with the highest total page views must be the article writers and the Wikignomes that built the place — and they've been in precipitous decline for nearly 6 years now. I'm speculating of course, but maybe that's starting to show through on the page views site-wide, emphasising how much work a small group of people have been putting in, and the dent they're leaving in Wikipedia as they leave.