The Creator Economy market is worth over $100 billion

Influencer Marketing Hub estimates the Creator Economy to be worth $104.2 billion and growing. The Creator Economy is on a similar trajectory to the Gig Economy and could soon reach a $1 trillion valuation.

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Josef Lind
January 9, 2022 9:59 am

If the Creator Economy is worth so much, how does this explain the negative perception content creators still have by much of the working world? The Creator Economy is gigantic but you still hear people say “That’s not a real job” for a YouTuber or a Twitch streamer. Content creators do this to themselves too. I watch some creators on YouTube who frequently say “I’m just a YouTuber” as a means of self-deprecation and minimizing their jobs compared to bankers, doctors and lawyers.

Several years ago I was planning to pursue a higher degree in a business discipline to get some management experience. I honestly think if I had said I was a full-time YouTuber or an Instagram model, I would have been laughed out of the interview. As others have said, times are changing, so why then this snobbish attitude toward creators who are driving this $100 billion market?

My belief is this attitude arises because creators are circumventing barriers that have existed for years. In 2002, the first season of American Idol aired on TV. It was a spectacular success with the season finale getting 22 million viewers. Before the finals, the MTV Video Music Awards took place on 29 August 2002 and the American Idol finalists, Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini, were invited on stage to reveal the winner of the Best New Artist award. Avril Lavigne won the award and as she walked to the podium to collect her trophy, Kelly Clarkson gave her a hug. Lavigne was visibly uncomfortable and shrugged off Clarkson. The reason is because at the time there was a great deal of resentment towards Clarkson and Guarini. Sure, they were talented singers and performers, but by going on American Idol and having the possibility to win a record contract, they were bypassing all the barriers that regular recording artists had to overcome. The feeling was that they hadn’t “paid their dues” and were getting an easy ride to stardom.

I believe this is where some of the resentment toward content creators stems from. To be an actor, recording artist or entertainer, you would have to go through many rejections and hone your craft. Now popular content creators are getting book deals, releasing music albums and are being cast in major films. Some are having boxing matches and are getting paid more than the professionals. If I were someone who had gone to acting school and gained lots of experience working in different productions, I too would be resentful of a YouTuber who got a major acting role. They haven’t put the years of work in to the craft and have bypassed all the knocks that go along with it.

In 2004, season 4 of WWE’s Tough Enough aired. It was a show in which contestants competed to earn a $1 million WWE contract. This caused massive resentment within the industry, known for being brutal to get a breakthrough. During one WWE episode, the Tough Enough contestants were berated in the ring by Kurt Angle who said, “I hate you. You didn’t earn it”, referring to the opportunity they had. I think this sentiment exists in the world of the creator economy. Creators are getting opportunities that people could only have dreamed of years ago. Within a relatively short time of being a content creator, some are earning the same money it takes years to earn in other industries. People are bound to fight it at first, resenting the disruptive nature of the industry. But a $100 billion industry cannot be swept aside and will be respected. It’s only a matter of time.

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Rayan Tanwar
January 8, 2022 11:35 pm

The creator economy is growing so fast that new ways to monetize your online presence keep appearing. Tweetdecking on Twitter has been around for a number of years. This involves a group or ‘deck’ of Twitter users with large followings agreeing to retweet each others’ tweets. These tweets reach a large audience; large enough for brands to pay the decks to retweet their content. Even artificial virality has a price. Twitter has been trying to crack down on this for a while but it’s hard to control.

A new trend that’s being used to get a slice of the creator economy pie is through automation. I’ll describe how this works on YouTube. Users are creating ‘commenting channels’. These channels use automated bots to post comments on hundreds of thousands of videos across YouTube. “This song never gets old. No matter how much I listen, I never get bored.” If you’ve seen this comment, so have thousands of others😜

The second part of their strategy is to use the profile photo of a popular YouTuber. The image below shows Blue, the person using automated software, copying MrBeast’s profile photo. Part 3 of their strategy is to buy subscribers. It’s common knowledge that you can buy subscribers on YouTube for a cheap price. Most of them are sock accounts and won’t engage with your content. They will, however, bump up your subscriber count and trigger YouTuber to give you a verified checkmark. YouTube hasn’t cracked down on this practice yet.

The owner of the commenting channel (Blue) will then upload 1 video. In that video someone purporting to be Blue, but probably someone paid to do a voiceover, explains that he got all his subscribers from gaming videos but they’re now deleted. He promises good content is on the way.

Now this is the clever trick. To the unaware, they will see this YouTuber’s comment, see that they have a verified checkmark and see that they have hundreds of thousands of subscribers. They’ll also be intrigued by the fact he only has one video. How did someone with 1 video get so many subscribers? They’ll watch the video to find out. YouTube’s system will see that Blue has over 1,000 subscribers and he’ll quickly rack up over 4,000 hours of watch time from people inquisitive about who he is, enabling him to monetize his channel.

Blue can now run ads on his 1 video. As the automated bot continues to comment across YouTube, more people will come to his channel and watch his video out of curiosity, and Blue will earn ad revenue without doing any work. I expect many other schemes like this are in the works to take advantage of the growing creator economy.

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Hussaini Azri
January 7, 2022 2:54 pm

Attitudes really have changed in respect of the creator economy. I work in a family business. If I had told my parents that I wanted to be an Instagram influencer or a YouTube creator, they would have thought me totally crazy. I don’t blame them. 5 years ago the thought of being a full-time content creator was met with words like risk and instability. These words still apply to a content creator today but more people are coming round to it being a full-time job. We can point to the statistics. They are impossible to ignore.

While we are now accepting full-time YouTuber or Instagram influencer as actual jobs, people are still coming round to respecting the workspace of a content creator. I’ll explain this with an incident that happened with a friend. I was working on a new project for my business and I created an Instagram page to promote it. Every day I posted an image that took about 40 minutes to create. It was time well spent in my opinion because in a few weeks I had gained 300+ followers who were engaging with my content. During a lunch meeting with a friend, I told him about my page and he followed then and there.

About a week later I posted an image and was surprised to see my friend badmouthing my content in the comments section. I replied to his comment on my IG page, treating him like any other follower but he continued to make irrelevant negative comments. I banned him so I didn’t have to deal with him trashing my page. Although I tried to forget about it and move on, I thought the whole incident was strange. Why would a friend purposefully go on my page and make bad comments?

The next day he texted me on WhatsApp apologizing for what he did. I told him I was quite confused about it and not sure where it came from. It’s not like I posted anything controversial. He explained that he was having a bad day and lashed out in the wrong way. I accepted his apology and put the incident behind us. The experience taught me something. We haven’t yet learned to respect boundaries online. This Instagram page was my job. I was working on it as part of a business project. Putting this into context, he would never go to my office building, walk up to the marketing department and tear up the leaflets and posters. So why was it ok for him to cause problems on my Instagram page?

We haven’t learned to respect these boundaries online yet. With the rate of trolling we see on the internet, we are nowhere close. But for many people Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Twitch is a workplace! Content is their work! Like most changes, there is an adjustment period. People have come round to content creator being a proper job. But we haven’t come round to respecting their place of work. We need to respect their channels and pages as their workspaces. For an influencer, your Instagram page is your office. For a YouTuber, your channel is your office. These things take time. Hopefully we will see a greater understanding of this in the coming years.

Jason Ng
January 10, 2022 4:13 pm

Personally I think what makes the creator economy so appealing is the speed at which you can reach the top echelon of earning potential. Bella Poarch blew up overnight and has remained one of TikTok’s most recognizable names. Her view count has stayed strong despite many people/haters expecting her to fall off. MrBeast, one of YouTube’s most recognizable names at the moment, had a totally different path to the zenith of YouTube.

He started out making gaming videos but deleted his account after getting subscribers using the ‘sub for sub’ strategy. Doing this will get you subscribers but chances are they won’t be interested in your content. Buying subscribers would have the same effect. So he started over and pumped out videos over the years while slowly building up a following.

At one point he thought of quitting because he was uploading videos without much progress. He took a month off and got back to it. Unlike Bella Poarch, who stumbled upon her success overnight, MrBeast had wanted to be a YouTuber every since he was a young kid. He worked for years to make it happen and along the journey he could have easily given up. He went to college for 2 weeks and dropped out, having made his decision that YouTube was all he wanted to do.

These are two very different paths to reach the top of social media. What’s appealing to me and so many other people is that you never know what’s around the corner. MrBeast could have given up. Other content creators stay unknown for years and then blow up within a month, moving from occasional uploads (hobby economy) to becoming a full-time content creator (creator economy). Others like Bella Poarch get success overnight. It’s the unpredictability and speed at which things can change that’s so exciting.

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Melissa Chan
January 8, 2022 10:25 am

The creator economy offers something the traditional workplace never could. Ease of experimentation. At one extreme we have the shūshin koyō of Japan, lifetime employment in which staff stayed loyal to a company. Oftentimes workers would remain in the same role for their entire working lives. Times are changing, however. A divide between different generations reflected in the growth of the gig economy in Japan.

At the other extreme is the gig economy itself. You can pick and choose a job depending on demand and availability. But consider having a full-time job in an office, the traditional workplace. You are contracted to work from 9am till 5pm, 5 days a week. Let’s say you want to try something different. It’s not so easy to make that move.

Some companies give you the opportunity for a short term placement in a different team. If you don’t have that option, then you need to apply for a different role in the same company or find a job elsewhere. This entails a lot of work. Working on job applications and preparing for interviews can be draining. Chances are unless you’re one of the lucky few, you won’t always get an offer for every job you apply to. But if you want to keep experimenting, you effectively become a job-hopper every 1-2 years.

Now consider the ease of experimentation in the creator economy. A YouTuber might have built his audience by making gaming videos. But if they want to try something else, let’s say a video about global warming, all they have to do is produce it and upload it. They don’t have to go through the hoops of the traditional workplace, where you need to go through a whole job application process to try something new. The barriers to experimentation in the creator economy are very low. Many creators feel they can find their voice and their passion more quickly via this experimentation, in contrast to the traditional workplace where experimentation is limited by how often you can get a new job.

The creator economy provides an easy way for people to express their creativity. The traditional workplace has a lot of catching up to do in this area, reflected by the many stories we hear of workers who feel their talents are wasted in their current job. The creator economy’s popularity is therefore not just because of earning potential, but also because creative expression isn’t as constrained as it is in the traditional workplace.