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It used to be that we were all just consumers — or most of us were, anyway. We’d watch TV or read a book or listen to the music on the radio that was selected by others for us. But lately, there’s been an interesting shift in behavior going on, especially as it relates to how we interact with content on the Internet. A growing number of online tools like Tumblr and Pinterest are making it easier for users to create collections of interesting content and to share them with anyone else in the world.
The topic came up at South by Southwest this weekend while I was speaking with Ben Huh, he of the Cheezburger empire. For much of its life, Cheezburger and its associated sites have been editorially curated collections of the most popular memes on the Internet. That includes hit properties like I Can Has Cheezburger?, FAIL Blog and The Daily What.
But the media company recently unveiled a new platform last year, allowing anyone to create his or her own Cheezburger site. The platform, which was launched in beta last October, is designed to create a new platform for people to share what they find funny — and it has opened up an amazing new trove of content for the Cheezburger family. The Cheezburger team itself might not have had the interest or the wherewithal to launch individual blogs for Harry Potter LOLs or Words With Friends rage comics, but now it doesn’t have to — it’s essentially crowdsourcing the funny.
This new feature is part of a growing trend that has taken hold of the mainstream. Consumers are no longer content to just consume — they’re also becoming curators, and content creators in their own right.
The old 1 percent rule assumes that only one percent of an online audience creates content, while an additional 9 percent modify or edit the content, and the remaining 90 percent consuming it. But anecdotal evidence suggests that there’s a paradigm shift going on, with many more curators and creators popping up. The internet is becoming more participatory, thanks to the development of democratizing tools like Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr and now Pinterest.
It’s not that consumers didn’t want to be creators or curators. The availability of those tools is really just enabling a fundamental human behavior to be moved online, something Om talked about in his piece about Pinterest a few months ago.
Huh agrees with that premise, that it was never just a handful of people who were creators while the rest of us consumed. What held everyone back was that distribution channels of the past didn’t enable mass creation to reach a large audience. There was a power curve that kept most people from participating. But the Internet is changing all that. For users, that’s a good thing. Now anyone can create a Tumblr of pictures of people scanning QR codes or a blog about LOLGoats.
This article originally appeared in GigaOm.