The 90-9-1 principle holds that just one percent of those who are online are creating content. Nine percent of those present respond to this content in someway, often by commenting on it, while the great majority, being ninety percent, of those viewing material online do just that, or lurk.
Paul Schneider of Socious, a US based company that creates online community software, contends that this participation ratio is actually closer to 10-20-70 though, meaning some ten percent of those online are producing content, while twenty percent are interacting with it.
The thing about the rule is that it infers that all users are doing something since the 90-9-1 all add up to 100%. The problem is that many organizations have profiles of users that are deactivated, past members, or guests. Also, not all members of an online community have access to the same tools, content, and functionality. So, to make a fair correlation, I ran two sets of numbers – one set accounting for all profiles in the system and one set with only the participating users making up the 100%.
Considering that content can constitute things like forum posts, tweets, or photos, I’ve often thought that a one percent participation rate was too low, while ten percent, which possibly a notch or two too high, is however closer to the mark.
On the other hand given that tools such as Twitpic and Instagram make it easy for someone with a camera, in other words just about anyone with a mobile phone, to post photos or content online, ten percent begins to seem quite low.
Aspiring content producers looking to make an impact online ought to study the methods of the three people behind New York based editorial website The Awl… one of a number of sites that thrives despite publishing content is not of the niche, or tightly focussed, variety.
In an age of hyper-targeted vertical sites, The Awl is all over the road. In the last week, the site published a column about foreclosures, a piece describing what it feels like to be chided by Gene Simmons, an illustrated essay on the virtues of the breaststroke, tips on picking up obnoxious hipster girls and yes, poetry in the, yes, poetry section.
If you’re a content producer with entrepreneurial leanings, you could call yourself a contentrepreneur.
You don’t have to worry about the word contentrepreneur, it’s too new to be in dictionaries. But to build a career in a digital culture, you have to marry content and entrepreneuring by being a contentrepreneur: a novelist or nonfiction writer who makes a business out of creating content.
Has the advent of the “citizen content producer”, who can be aided simply by the publishing capabilities of a mobile phone with a camera and video recorder, brought about the end of the “creative professional”?
As Henry Jenkins pointed out in Textual Poachers and as I labored to point out in Plenitude, the distinction between cultural producers and consumers began to blur in the last 20 years. Indeed, there was a vast migration from one side of the distinction to the other. Many people who once merely consumed culture (in the form of film, art, comedy, observation, journalism, criticism) were now surprisingly good at producing this culture. Suddenly in the economy of culture, the number of suppliers exploded.