I totally agree. It's sad to see a business shoot itself consistently in the foot so that it can't even walk without causing pain to an entire limb. This has been going on for many years now, and you're right - the older members are leaving and SL is not growing.
Land is expensive: when SL increased the land by 50% a few years ago, at the end of the RL world boom, they instantly drove many virtual realtors out of biz and created a land recession. Some of the larger and older "realtors" survived, but had to work much harder. They also made it easier for competition, like OpenSim, to get started and increase their members.
When SL bought and revamped the marketplace they drove the commercial sim land and commercial traffic way down and made it much harder for virtual shops to exist. No need to have a shop in SL anymore and if one does, they have to spend a few hours every week setting up events, and more hours keeping their product fresh, and some traffic coming in. All in all, commercial traffic is way way down. I rent shop land that was surrounded by shops a few years ago in a prime location. Now, I'm surrounded by for rent signs that have been there for many many months, now in a few cases, for well over a year.
When SL increased their rates to educators, a great deal of them left and went to OpenSim where they are thriving in a much more affordable environment. The bigger one's such as Harvard and Stanford stayed, but just about all RL minor universities, junior colleges, and highschools took off.
When SL gave homes to premium members they cut the sales of home builders in SL.
When SL introduced viewer 2 they increased the learning curve for new members to become immersed and made it difficult for many to see a reason to stay. Much easier to play WoW then move around in SL.
Now SL is adding new features for premium members: New free gifts and sandboxes: thus cutting the traffic of existing sandboxes and sales of existing marketplace vendors.
I've also seen the quarterly stats, see above, change to benefit SL and shade the real facts from members. As is true with many real world governments: putting a positive spin on dire news doesn't hide the real mood of the population. See Chernobyl, London's recent riots, and Obama's, world leaders, and politician's speeches for RL lessons of disattachment from reality.
I could go on in detail, but I'll leave that to others to point out. No need to point out more details, just look at the pics when starting viewer 1, you'll see lovely pics of empty sims which makes a perfect statement as to the condition of SL's traffic.
To sum up: in just about every marketing decision LL has made over the past years, LL has cut off a finger, or a toe and lost a significant amount of members. For myself, I'm around alot less now. My time is finite and I can no longer justify spending the time to try and increase marketplace sales, or even socialize in SL: sim owners used to use the no traffic excuse of blaming it on summer vacations, or holidays or such. They still do after many years, particularly hard hit are the roleplay sims, that cut back on virtual land and have decreased in size due to SL's constant fubars.
Too bad but whoever advises LL or is their "idea" consortium needs to take a lesson from Steve Jobs, and give the SL members, all of them, a positive reason to stay. SL is still the leader, but won't be much longer. Why should Phillip Rosedale want to lead a crew that has taken his dream and turned it into a nightmare for way too many in the community. Frustration with LL is consistently high. I realize one can't please everybody. But, demolishing bridges is making SL a very lonely place.
I would love to see a truly positive community, and if anyone has something positive to say, I would be more then happy to print out these words and eat them, but I forsee a time, not too far in the future, where virtual world competitors will overtake LL's biz, and turn SL into the MySpace of virtual worlds.