What is the Creator Economy?
Updated: Nov 26, 2021
To understand what the creator economy is, you must understand the current stage we are at with the internet.
A Brief History On The Internet
~1991 - 2004: Web 1.0
Web 1.0 refers to the first stage of the World Wide Web evolution. This was the first time this technology was accessible to anyone. Computers were cheaper to make allowing more consumers to purchase them. Earlier, there were only few content creators in Web 1.0 with the huge majority of people who are consumers of content. Personal web pages weren't common but they were accessible. Websites consisted mainly of static pages hosted on ISP-run web servers, or on free web hosting services. Very basic website services.
TLDR: Access to a world wide web technology is accessible.
2004 - 2021: Web 2.0
Web 2.0 refers to websites that emphasize user-generated content, ease of use, participatory culture and interoperability for end users. The term was coined by Darcy DiNucci in 1999 and later popularized by Tim O'Reilly and Dale Dougherty at the first O'Reilly Media Web 2.0 Conference in late 2004. During this period, we were introduced to every social media site. Social media networking was invented and hit mainstream adoption in less than 10 years. For the first time in history, billions of humans had easy accessibility to create blogs, vlogs, podcast shows, software products, communication channels, virtual communities, all from their laptop and a WiFi connection.
During this period, smart phones hit mainstream adoption. This provided a way for so many people to access social media sites and Google in their pockets.
With so much technological capability at the fingertips of billions of humans, the Creator economy and the Gig Economy emerged. Two industries employing millions of humans.
Read my blog on what each of these economies are and how they differ:
TLDR: The mainstream adoption of social media content consuming and creation. Access to being your own media agency and creating your own platforms.
In Web 3.0, data will be connected in a decentralized way, unlike generation 2.0 of the internet in which data is primarily stored in centralized storage locations. In Web 3.0, users will also be able to interact with data through the use of AI and machine learning technology. The AI and machine learning powers the Metaverse. So what is the Creator Economy? The creator economy is an emerging marketplace built for motivated, creative, and skilled individuals that have started their own brand, business, or community utilizing the internet and digital platforms to share their work and ideas. This new economy answers the increasing desire that many people are looking for: easily accessible information, experiences, and communities. Why I’m Bullish on the Creator Economy? The creator economy gives more agency to the internet user. Rather than being dependent on normal 9-5 jobs, creators can rely on diversifying their income from internet users. They can choose which kinds of work they take on, whether it be newsletters, communities, live streams, or podcasts. We’ve seen a surge of the “creator economy” — creators earning income from creating and sharing online content. The idea of generating revenue from creator-produced, online content isn’t new. Patreon*, for example, has been around since 2013. Yet, the combination of a number of macro factors (ranging from the adoption of the gig economy to the effect of COVID-19), integrated with the development of tools and products to support online creators, has caused the category to grow rapidly. “*Patreon is an American membership platform that provides business tools for content creators to run a subscription service. It helps creators and artists earn a monthly income by providing rewards and perks to their subscribers.” This isn’t a fad but a structural shift with expanding tailwinds behind it. These include the pervasiveness of the creator economy among younger demographics; the normalization of independent and remote work, which has been accelerated by the pandemic; growing consumer demand for “authentic” content; and, most important, an explosion of new enabling tools, platforms and monetization models How is the Creator Economy emerging? The shape of media consumption is changing. One of the more notable mechanisms for the emergence of this new economy is the evolution of content “Type”. To quote, Julia Maltby in her “The Rise of The Creator Economy” medium blog, “Unsurprisingly, creator-produced content evolved as the tools and platforms available to creators matured. Video content, for example, saw clear shifts in 1) creator/fan ratios 2) content composition 3) content duration and 4) creator/fan engagement mechanisms. See below for a high-level summary of these shifts.”
Figure source: “The Rise of The Creator Economy” It’s key to note that the evolution of content “types” hasn’t only become shorter. It’s diversified in duration and formats more than ever before. We’ve seen the evolution of “YouTubers”, the early adopters of the creator economy over the last decade. YouTube started out as a platform for people to share random videos. But as more people started using the website as their “Go-to” for content, the demand for different types of content has expanded. Entrepreneurs saw this increasing demand for different types of content on the internet, so new platforms with different goals were born. Platforms with shorter content for shorter human attention spans. Platforms with longer content for humans who know what they want to watch. Doug Shapiro, former CSO for WarnerMedia, put together a great visual presenting the new platforms designed for the creator economy. Examples of platforms (marketplaces connecting creators and consumers) enabling the creator economy include…
Instagram (photos and video)
Twitch (mostly gaming streaming)
Itch.io and Unity (independent game development)
Medium (journalism & blogging)
...along with almost any niche category you can imagine, like Shapeways (3D printing designs), Ravelry (knitting patterns), Spoon (spoken word), Tingles (ASMR) and Insight Timer (meditation).
Figure source: Doug Shapiro Setting up a physical store remains the traditional way of trying one's hand at entrepreneurship. However, with the emergence of tools and of online commerce infrastructure, so much friction involved in setting up an online storefront has been removed -- it's exciting to think about the impact on the world with a whole new class of merchants who can create an online store and turn that into revenue in a matter of minutes. Five years ago, most people developed an online presence by hiring a web designer to build an expensive website. On the contrary, now, even the need for a website itself is up for debate. A simple YouTube, Instagram account, or blog can lead to a successful business. A micro landing page like a Bit.ly makes it easy and frictionless to have a digital presence with your own URL within just a few minutes. The creator economy isn’t going anywhere. The capability for a person to create their own business, brand, or community is easier now than ever before.
Subscribe to my Rocket Fuel newsletter.
Helping creators & brands scale by adding rocket fuel to their content strategy.
Own your corner of the web.
Writing about the future of the internet, brands, and the creator economy.