I thrived on people's passion. You could be a lot of things like amateur voice acting, you can review as a critic, you had more voting power if you rated more movies, you had the audio portal for musical artists and they can be tagged in the animation you're working on. You'd even get trophies which made you want to be better. The front page was the best of the best. It wasn't so easy back then to get on it. You'd really have to pull in all the stops to get there or be an already established animator.
Now everyone has a camera on their phone that completely destroy old cameras so now you can literally do whatever with the lowest amount of effort with hardly any resources needed. You can be a instagram model, you can make vines off lil baby sketches that are funny yeah but wouldn't fly back then in Newgrounds. Everyone is just dangling keys in front of the camera and people either like it or not.
To be an animator right now with your own creative vision of a series is inspiring for sure but it has never been harder to get your footing with an audience. That's why there are so few now as opposed to back then.