Cats continue to pounce, stalk, purr, and claw their way through the Web and social media. From Mean Kitty to Colonel Meow, Internet cats with their memes and videos continue to garner millions of combined likes, shares, pins, and views, proving these Internet sensations are here to stay.
With the rise of feline Internet stars comes a new breed of entrepreneurship. From companies like The Cheezburger Network to micro-entrepreneurs who have set up blogs and websites to sell t-shirts of their favorite felines, Internet cats and Internet entrepreneurs are a logical connection. Cyberspace has proven once again there is always opportunity for those with genuine passion and a sense of humor.
Humor and Cats Mean Big Business
Ben Huh, CEO of The Cheezburger Network, is an Internet entrepreneur whose pet led him to his passion and way of life. Huh's network, which owns over 49 Internet sites, started from a blog about his dog. In 2007, when he posted research about a dog food recall, several sites including a site called I Can Has Cheezburger, linked to his blog. A friendship and eventual business relationship developed.
The site was purchased by Huh in 2007. Combined, Cheezburger's 49 sites enjoy over a million views each day. Though not all cat-based, the franchise started from a site featuring a meme of a grey cat asking "I can has cheezburger?"
Huh told the Sydney Morning Herald about the importance of passion in business: "I work all the time," he says. "People look at me and say: 'You don't have work/life balance'. I get annoyed with this because why should you impose your concept of work/life balance on me? I love what I do!"
Micro-entrepreneurship as an Afterthought
For most owners of remarkable cats, sharing their funny cat was the objective. Only after their feline friend rose to Web fame, did products and marketing begin.
The popularity of cats online is a remarkable phenomenon of our Internet age. In an article from Co.create.com, Abigail Posner, Head of Strategic Planning And Agency Development at Google explains our societal fascination with sharing cat memes and videos: "In the language of the visual web, when we share a video or an image, we're not just sharing the object, we're also sharing in the emotional response it creates."
Sharing cat videos, creating memes, uploading photos are all ways to connect with others on mutually agreeable terms. Cat content is usually humorous, hardly ever controversial, and almost always cute. Says Posner, "There are billions of [social] energy exchanges happening every day. Whether we're posting, commenting, liking, repinning, or +1ing, our new visual culture is one in which we're constantly offering each other little gifts, little moments of pleasure that remind us we're truly and deeply bonded to one another."
This passion for sharing also makes opportunities for products. Even though Keyboard Cat or Grumpy Cat may be a trivial part of someone's day, their images shared in memes become a symbol of a common societal bond. T-shirts, mugs, and other products come as a result of connecting with others through memes or video.
According to purriodictableofcats.com, there are products available featuring 30 of the top 50 Internet cats. The website, based on Friskies 50 Most Influential Cats, categorizes Internet cat sensations based on rank and attributes. Purriodictableofcats.com was released earlier this week. "When we saw Friskies top 50 list, it was a lightning bolt moment," said David Mink, CEO of Avalaunch, the Salt Lake-based digital marketing firm responsible for the Purriodictableofcats.com. "We knew we had to create an awesome graphic to celebrate these famous cats."
A New Breed of Job
While cat content is a fun way to share universally humorous feline photos and videos, sometimes parties with no association with the famous meme image see opportunity...and pounce.
Enter Ben Lashes, another Internet entrepreneur whose passion led him to his niche as a full-time Meme Manager. Though a singer for nearly a decade with the power pop band, The Lashes, Ben Lashes has always had a keen interest in the business and marketing side of entertainment.
Lashes told Digitaltrends.com, "I'm a huge fan of pop art, and the digital memes that go around now are a social art form that's going to be studied for years to come, and it's totally a new way of communicating with people...I hate when the snakes get in there and start making products and squatting on sites. It just steals the fun out of it."
The Internet, to Lashes, is an important social medium for art and culture. "Every day is like waking up in an Internet comic book. There's always a different weird thing going on," Lashes reported to Digitaltrends.com.
Lashes works with clients who are good natured about enjoying the random fame the Internet has provided. "Our goal is never to hijack what is already happening and change it to fit some outside need," Lashes says. "It's taking silly stuff really seriously. I have a sense of humor, that's why I'm into this stuff in the first place, because it's funny. But when you're going over contracts with lawyers, looking at all these details and making sure certain things are in there to protect certain rights, you're thinking as seriously as you do about anything."
Lashes has advised owners/creators of Keyboard Cat and Nyan Cat. Other clients include Scumbag Steve and Success Kid. Lashes' most famous client is Grumpy Cat, owned by Tabatha Bundesen.
Grumpy Cat received the 2013 Webby Award for Meme of the Year. While Grumpy Cat may not exude the passion typical of Internet entrepreneurs, she is ranked number one on Friskies top 50 list and featured prominently on Purriodictableofcats.com.