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As I established last time, there is a growing awareness of opportunity in the creator economy. As with anything else, it takes a while for innovation adoption lifecycle curve to play out, but it’s fair to say we’re only in the early adopters phase now.
Image source: Wikipedia
Just because we’re in the early part of the curve doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a collapse, but if everything continues exactly at has been going, I don’t think there’s any reason to believe there will be any kind of implosion.
Many people assume the issue to be one of multiplication – in other words, one day the number of creators will be so great, and the competition so immense, that the sheer impracticality of entitled people sitting at home “doing nothing” instead of working a “real job” is unsustainable.
Not at all. There will always be a demand for public figures. We’re enamored with celebrity, and even those who have the guts to admit that celebrities are just as human, are still often beholden to names with a household stature, regardless of talent, skill, experience, or any other rational factor. Celebrity status, by definition, is irrational.Celebrity status, by definition, is irrational. Click To Tweet
The greatest threat to the creator economy isn’t that there will one day be too many creators and not enough people to consume their content. The greatest threat is the government, red tape, monopolies, and other factors that many write off as “tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theories.”
“Entitled People Sitting at Home Doing Nothing”
I will get to the greatest threats in a moment. And if you want to skip over this section, I understand. But if you’ll indulge me for just a moment, there’s no fair comparison for a creator’s daily schedule to that of the average worker.
Sure, there might be a few lazy and entitled creators out there. But aren’t there people like that at your workplace too?
Almost categorically, I have not found creators to be lazy.
Firstly, creators don’t work for a guaranteed paycheck. They work for advertising revenue shares, affiliate income, and sponsorships (though there are other income sources as we talked about last time). The slightest of changes in platform-based algorithms can mean more views one week, fewer the next. There are no guarantees. Income is always a moving target and planning for these changes is incredibly challenging.
To make advertising income on YouTube, a creator needs to grow their channel to 1,000 subscribers. Similarly, a new Medium writer would need to grow their following to 100 followers to be able to join the partner program and start earning on their articles.
That’s just to begin earning. There is no real money in YouTube until one can reliably generate hundreds of thousands if not millions of views per video. Similarly, there isn’t much money in Medium until one can reliably generate thousands if not tens of thousands of views per article.
Secondly, a creator’s workday is generally “all day.” There is no cutoff. When they’re not creating videos or writing their next newsletter, they’re busy editing their content. When they’re not editing their content, they’re looking for inspiration. When they’re not generating ideas, they’re working on their next piece of content. It’s a hamster wheel, even if it’s fundamentally an enjoyable one.
I don’t know how my life looks from the outside looking in, but most days I write “reams of essays” to the tune of 5,000 words or more. Even billionaire comedian Jerry Seinfeld considered writing 500 words per day (that’s five hundred, not five thousand) sheer torture. That should tell you something.
And if not writing, I’m working on client websites, my latest podcast episode (which can easily consume 10 hours of my workweek), community endeavors (The Indie YYC), stacks of social media posts, and other marketing activity. And no, it isn’t all fun and games. Most of it isn’t. Imagine that. I’ve scraped and clawed for everything I have, and some would say that empire doesn’t even amount to much.
Most people aren’t willing to tolerate this level of risk. Unpredictable income? 12-hour workdays? Yeesh!
And that’s one of the reasons it will never get to a point where there’s no one working a day job.
If you want to get anywhere with anything – Patreon, NFTs, Substack, or anything else creator economy oriented you can name – one must approach it like a business. Ask entrepreneurs and they will tell you – entrepreneurship takes everything you’ve got, and then some.Entrepreneurship takes everything you’ve got, and then some. Click To Tweet
The Biggest Threat to the Creator Economy
Many assume government is a fluid thing, adapting based on economic conditions, disasters, pandemics, the wellbeing of citizens, and so on. Not so.
Just for fun, research Agenda 21, which is a publicly released 20-year-old United Nations plan. For most, the details of Agenda 21 will fall under the category of “unimaginable,” and “that will never happen,” but people said the same thing about vaccine passports in 2020.
Government is much closer to a ridged set of railway tracks than a sequence of turns to be negotiated on a highway. There is a plan. And it is being followed. And it is usually mapped out well in advance.
And what do we know about the government? For the most part, exactly what they want us to know. This information is typically relayed through the mass media.
One of the things they frequently talk about is preventing terrorists and the illicit from taking advantage of cryptocurrency (typically without citing any real-world scenarios that have actually played out). It’s mostly government agencies publishing these types of works, by the way. Do your own research.
Web3, NFTs, blockchain-powered social networks, and cryptocurrency are fast taking center stage in the creator economy as we speak. How does that bode for the creator of the future, if the government intends to seize what is fundamentally decentralized and transparent?
Or how about the idea that the internet of the future will be ruled by few? Conversations around removing the address bar in your browser have been going on for years. What if the internet was Facebook? Or Amazon? Or Apple? Or some combination thereof? You might think it absurd, but Microsoft isn’t the only monopoly to ever exist.
Also consider the unfolding conversation around disinformation, which has become more pervasive in the last two years. We’re already using so-called “fact checkers” to validate the accuracy of information (unsuccessfully, in my opinion). How much do you think “they” really want to keep the internet around, when the only truth is their narrative driven truth, and if you so much as question it you’re labeled a danger to yourself and the world?
With Facebook groups being deleted, YouTube accounts being shadow banned, individual tweets being censored or monitored, the internet is far from neutral already. Should push come to shove, “they” shouldn’t hesitate to pull the plug on this infrastructure.
If all this is a little too mercurial for you, let’s hit a little closer to home. About three years ago, the controversy around YouTube’s adoption of COPPA threw many creators right under the bus for something that fundamentally wasn’t their fault.
COPPA is important, YouTube basically started enforcing it retroactively, putting many creator categories, like visual artists, between a rock and a hard place. It might be out of sight out of mind now, but at the time it was a heated issue.
Will the creator economy implode? At the end of the day, anything could happen. But there’s no reason to think it will come to an end because there are too many people pursuing the path of the creator. If there is a collapse, it will likely be because of external factors.
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