A recent Nielsen Useit column seems to confirm that the ‘1% rule’ is alive and well. He states that:

In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.

Although the percentages differ the numbers are echoed in a previous Guardian article that states the 1% rule arguing that:

It’s an emerging rule of thumb that suggests that if you get a group of 100 people online then one will create content, 10 will “interact” with it (commenting or offering improvements) and the other 89 will just view it.

The stats do of course vary depending on the nature of the community. Given the debatable copyright status of a large proportion of YouTube’s content, the numbers are more firmly skewed to those viewing rather than interacting and creating content. Whereas the video editing environment at the likes of Jumpcut and Motionbox has a higher percentage of users interacting and creating.

However, I predict that the 1% rule and its respective percentages will have to evolve as the nature of people’s level of interaction with online media evolves. With the increasing growth of multi-media personal publishing and interaction tools available the barriers to entry are rapidly reducing to creation and certainly interaction.

Challenges to the 1% rule

Take video editing community Jumpcut’s acquisition by Yahoo. As Yahoo begins to integrate Jumpcut’s software into their wider offering the prompts to remix and engage with media will increase in visibility and usage.

Likewise, Google announced in its deal with Warner Music Group that it was looking to facilitate user-generated content by allowing users access to Warner content “for use in their creative user-generated productions”. That deal will be one of many.

As the social networking generation (which grows ever wider) continues to evolve, there is a whole body of users familiar with embedding and interacting with content and a growing body of tools for them to enable them to do so.

For businesses that monetise traffic, increased interaction with content equals increased traffic and increased new content which leads to more traffic – certainly firm commercial reasons to continue the trend.

Principles remain

Certain basic principles of the 1% rule will remain. There will remain a hard core of users that drive a community by investing considerable amounts of time in it. Equally there will remain a majority of lurkers surfing the community – time pressures, competing interests and familiarity with technology dictate that.

However, both the increasing ease of creating content and ease of interacting with it, mean that the 1% of creators and the 9-10% of interactors will grow putting the neat 1% rule in doubt.