(proh.SOO.mur) n. 1. A consumer who is an amateur in a particular field, but who is knowledgeable enough to require equipment that has some professional features (“professional” + “consumer”). 2. A person who helps to design or customize the products they purchase (“producer” + “consumer”). 3. A person who creates goods for their own use and also possibly to sell (“producing” + “consumer”). 4. A person who takes steps to correct difficulties with consumer companies or markets and to anticipate future problems (“proactive” + “consumer”).

Example Citation:
  1. "In the parlance of the tech world, the new generation of digital film equipment is designed for the 'prosumer,' the consumer who thinks of himself as a semi-professional "
    —Doug Bedell, "Digital video revolution," The Dallas Morning News, October 12, 2000

  2. "'It's not just about retail, but medicine, design, architecture, fashion, interiors, even bio-technology and the internet,' says Shaw. 'All are moving towards a point where the purchaser or prosumer is key to determining the final look, feel and thumbprint characteristics of the product and service being sold.'"
    —Martin Raymond, "Made to Measure," The Independent, November 7, 1999

  3. "This urge to connect also has a more entrepreneurial side, marketing specialists say. Many young people say they are losing interest with mainstream consumer goods and are eager to sell their handmade goods to others. The ones that do sell their goods have been labeled 'prosumers,' short for 'producing consumers.'"
    —Netsuko Segawa, "21st century shoppers," The Nikkei Weekly, December 21, 1999

  4. "Sean Pillot de Chenecey, trend forecaster for youth markets, said: 'People are tired, and sick of being ripped-off, but can't get away from brands and branding. As a result they are becoming 'prosumers' — they are demanding their voice be heard.'"
    —Cordelia Brabbs, "Web fuels consumer activism," Marketing, September 21, 2000

Thanks to LeAnne Baird and Gerry Pareja for prodding me to post this word. I was reluctant because this is not only an old word, but also a very slippery one. The second sense of the term -- the producer consumer -- was invented by Alvin Toffler back in 1979 in his book The Third Wave. The "professional consumer" sense of the word first emerged around 1987, and is now the most common sense.

Checking the citations for all senses on the complete Lexis-Nexis database of newspaper and magazine articles, an interesting pattern emerges:

1990 - 3 citations
1991 - 11
1992 - 10
1993 - 6
1994 - 24
1995 - 24
1996 - 61
1997 - 110
1998 - 146
1999 - 169
2000 - 186
2001 - 205

As you can see, the use of this word has increased quite steadily, particularly since 1995, which would be around the time when it became associated with the video equipment market. ("Prosumer" is a well-accepted category for camcorders, VCRs, and other video playthings.)

Related Words: