Investors, builders and creators have shared their thoughts on the growing Creator Economy, but what's the bigger picture here? Amanda Silberling spends her time investigating the space for TechCrunch and gives us the lay of the land.
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Highlights From the Interview
Here are some insights Amanda Silberling shared during the episode.
What got Silberling interested in the Creator Economy?
- She's always been a creator as a writer, definitely in a position where she dealt with "a ton of W-9s" that she's filling out, something she says is the definition of a creator.
- Silberling is no stranger to thinking about how her social media usage impacts her (personal) brand, plus how she could grow her following and leverage that into "getting more paid work in a field that I care a lot about."
- "I think also because of that background, I think a lot about how creators can build sustainable businesses."
How does she view the Creator Economy today?
- It's all related to the Great Resignation: "I don't think 10 years ago, people would think that posting cooking videos on YouTube [would be] a viable career, but these are things that take a lot of skill and talent — you're developing recipes, you're marketing...and I think that...we're in a time when there's more unions than ever, and people are realizing that maybe they're not getting paid appropriately to do customer-facing jobs in the middle of a global pandemic."
- "In a lot of cases, if you have somebody who's really creative, then it is possible to try to build your own business on the internet. And I think that's really exciting...I also think that it's something that needs to be treated with a lot of care because burnout is easy."
- She cautions about fleeting fame: "I think there is intrinsic anxiety...maybe you're super famous on TikTok today, but in a year, what if people just aren't interested in your content anymore? Then what?"
We talk about Creator Funds and the Hank Green allegations
- "What Hank Green was pointing out in his video...a lot of the data on how monetization works on TikTok isn't public because it requires individual creators to go 'this is how many views I got in a specific time, this is how much money I made in that same time' and then you have to work backward to figure out how much you're getting paid per a thousand views of a year content.
- Silberling believes as platforms grow and creators become more popular, the size of the creator funds isn't scaling accordingly. She thinks a program similar to YouTube's partner program would be better since that offers a percentage share of ad revenue.
- "As YouTube succeeds, the creator is also succeeding. So YouTube over the last three years paid out, I believe, $10 billion over three years to creators. And TikTok's creator fund is like $200 million, I believe, give or take. Either way, like huge difference."
- "On one hand, TikTok is a super new platform, YouTube has been around forever. And also, the way that you monetize these videos is totally different.
- "But I think that generally, I think that it might be better for creators, in the long run, to do more of these percentage revenue share systems, than creator fund systems."
What does Silberling say about TikTok living rent-free in the heads of Facebook and Snap?
- "I think that TikTok is a threat to Facebook and Snapchat, and they know it because if you think about it, these are companies that have existed for over a decade and then TikTok has only risen to prominence in the last couple of years...but they really have had unprecedentedly fast growth."
- She brought up the highly sought-after Gen Z demographic which Facebook is losing and that TikTok is gaining more attention from as a reason why incumbents are concerned about the short-form video app.
- "I think it makes sense that they're looking toward TikTok, but I also think that sometimes these social media apps can be very copycat of each other."
Are there any companies she sees as a front-runner in the Creator Economy space?
- Patreon is a company she expressed an interest in: "I really like the model of membership platforms...I think it's a way of facilitating as a creator, that you're going to bring in a certain amount of money per month. And these are coming from, maybe like the top 10% of fans, and you can communicate with them directly about what they want to see, what kind of bonus paywall content they want from you."
- Silberling likes that Patreon is creating a "more sustainable way for creators to make a living" and that with Gen-Z, they "want more authentic interactions with creators."
- Yes, but: "Patreon doesn't really have a discoverability system, but I guess maybe that's not the point of Patreon." She remarks that generally people get directed to Patreon because of somebody's podcast.
- Don't put all your eggs in one basket: "Even if Patreon does help you have a sustainable business, you're still relying on a particular company for so much of your revenue. And I think that is a risk."
- The impact of crypto on Patreon: "It is such a divisive thing right now where I know creators that have had fans be like, 'I'm not going to support you if Patreon does crypto, because I think that's bad for the environment.'"
Is the Creator Economy synonymous with Web3?
- "I would say that the Creator Economy is not synonymous with Web3, but I think it's like a Venn diagram rather than a Venn diagram that's actually just a circle. There are some creators that are using blockchain technology to help them run their businesses and help them find new ways of creating money."
- "There's also creators that aren't and don't want to do that. And I think just generally, I feel like a lot of creators in my circles that I talk to are very skeptical of Web3, which I think is partially the marketing crisis of crypto."
- Silberling believes people are rightfully skeptical of Web3 projects especially with a lot of scams out there. She thinks more education needs to be done to help the average person understand the blockchain and less confusing. Silberling does acknowledge that scams are not representative of all crypto communities and there are some working on innovative and interesting projects.
- Do Creator Economy startups really need Web3? Can't the same thing be done using Web 2.0 tools? "I don't know. If you have somebody who's already running a sustainable creative business using Web 2.0 tools, if they don't totally understand Web3, or they think that there would be friction with their audience, then is there really a benefit at this moment to getting into it?"
What is Silberling interested in writing about?
- She wants to hear from companies doing something interesting with Web3 and the Creator Economy, but warns she's on the more skeptical side of Web3. Do not pitch her like PR via Twitter.
- Something she's started asking is that if your startup fails, what happens to the creators using your platform? Have you thought about that contingency?
- Besides the Creator Economy, Silberling writes about social media platforms, labor issues in tech, and digital culture. More broadly, she's curious about how tech affects people.
About This Episode
- Amanda Silberling (@asilbwrites)