Who creates? Who consumes?

It’s great how an initial thread leads to new connections, and how different perceptions alter ones insights.

I was checking out Mathew Ingram’s blog to see if he’ posted on the Globe & Mail’s new lay out (A Webby Newspaper). Instead I’d found Mathews thoughts on a quote attributed to Bill Tancer (of HitWise) positing that social media is governed by the 1-9-90 rule (1% are creators 9% active participators and 90% consumers and viewers) The implication being that we have exchanged one elite for another.

While I agree with Matthew’s contention that not everyone is going to be a citizen journalist or social media creator I think the 1-9-90 analysis is a bit simplistic. First  the 1-9-90 ‘rule’ may reflect participation only at one instant in time; i anticipate that overall participation is vastly different. On the citizen journalism front if we accept Zuckerman’s models (which I do) at least two of those models imply broad opportunities for occasional participation – the opportunistic (right time & place) and citizen expert models.

Both of these are somewhat antagonistic to the concept of elites governing the conversation, as they assume individuals enrich the dialogue because personal circumstance gives them a unique perspective.  These people arise throughout society – and while their 15 minutes of fame may not occur frequently – it happens regularly enough to give lie to the proposal that 1% of the population may be creators.

I thought I’d check out the source for Matthews post at the Center for Citizen Media. The Tancer quote came via JD Lasica’s blog review of the Web 2.0 Expo.  Fascinating stuff! Aside from that Tancer quote there’s a discussion on the growth of the social web (from 2% of sites visits in 2005 to 12% today) there was interesting data comparing age and content creation on with the Wikipedia and YouTube – who’d believe and it’s actually old folks that contribute most frequently.


What’s equally interesting is that the relationship between contribution and the sex of the contributor


even though the consumption by the sexes of both sites is approximately even.

To me these usage patterns are more interesting than the 1 – 9 – 90 rule mainly because when one looks at the state of the social web in April 2007 one sees a vibrant and rapidly growing community – though no matter how often I hear it I don’t believe the 70 million number – at least for active blogs.
Getting back to the 1 – 9 – 90 rule I came across blog by some Forrester researchers (Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff) which seems to dispel the whole notion. They use a much more granular approach to the various stages of content contribution. The result is they see much higher contribution rates.


As well they go into the different types of motivations for contribution – entertainment, career or family and compare participation on different sites.
For myself I see a healthy and growing community of contributors, and research like this helps us all understand the areas that we need to work on to broaden even more the new dialog that is emerging at all levels of society.

Update: I visited Ross Mayfield’s blog (something I do daily) and found his review of the Forrester research

“I got a copy of the report, which is a pragmatic approach that starts by valuing different kinds of participation.  A given site could survey its users to understand existing psychodemographic profiles, then review participation points.  It may discover latent potential in the Creator category and create a participation point for them.”

 The details of participation is also vastly different from Tancer’s data with almost one third of youth 12-17 being creators. Anyway check out his summary of the full report.


One thought on “Who creates? Who consumes?

  1. Pete, thanks for picking up the threads of this conversation and expanding on it. I intend to read more about the Forrester report as soon as I can. It seems like a more nuanced and more interesting approach to the question of participation.

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