In the booming US designer economy, great tech battles for online talent

Katie Feeney, an 18-year-old from Olney, Md., Was in her numeracy class on Zoom in November when she learned that a week of posting skits and unboxing videos to Snapchat (SNAP.N) earned him $ 229,000. His $ 1.4 million in total income over the past seven months will be enough to pay for his tuition at Penn State to study business.

Portland-based personal trainer Julian Shaw cleared $ 18,000 in credit card debt during the pandemic by selling fitness education videos “with a bit of sex appeal,” on OnlyFans , a subscription site with content promoted by sex workers paid directly by subscribers for posts.

Last year, major social media companies rushed to announce dozens of features aimed at attracting creators, around 50 million people like Feeney and Shaw, who range from internet figures posting beauty tutorials to YouTube and TikTok to independent journalists selling newsletter subscriptions on Substack. live streaming video players on Twitch.

The popularity of upstarts like TikTok, whose tools have helped strangers generate massive audiences and whose $ 2 billion creative fund has helped bring attention to this growing field, has sparked an arms race among large incumbent operators like Facebook (FB.O), Twitter (TWTR). .N) and YouTube owned by Alphabet (GOOGL.O) to attract the most popular creators, sometimes referred to as influencers. They introduced new features, funds, and subscription or tip tools to make money from fans.

The trend also means changes for ordinary social media users. They will face more requests or demands to pay for content now available for free. And the new tools give them the ability to engage more directly with influencers.

The corporate race to attract and retain creators represents an evolution of the economy of social media creators, which for years was based on making money through ad revenue sharing and brand sponsorship. The sponsorship market reached $ 8 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow to $ 15 billion by next year, according to influencer marketing firm Mediakix.

“The power has shifted from the platforms to the creators,” said Josh Constine of venture capital firm SignalFire, which is investing in the popular one-year-old audio chat app, Clubhouse. “The platforms all stepped up and realized that they were in serious danger of losing their workforce if they didn’t add these features.”

Vine’s experience is an uplifting tale, said Constine. The short video app briefly purchased by Twitter was considered a predecessor to TikTok, but died after the creators quit the service because it didn’t earn them money.

Facebook (FB.O), which has long lacked monetization features, has announced a slew of creator-focused features and pays video gamers as it expands Facebook Gaming. Instagram director Adam Mosseri said this week that the app is “exploring” content subscriptions, which would be a first for the Facebook-owned app.

Even Twitter (TWTR.N) is struggling to catch up by teasing ‘Super Follow,’ a feature that allows users to pay popular Twitter numbers for exclusive content, and by announcing a paid ticket for its new audio chat rooms. live. This month, it also launched a way for the public to make online payments to a user’s “Tip Jar”.

When Los Angeles-based photographer Nesrin Danan learned in May that she could earn tips on the site, she tweeted to her 27,000 followers: “I’ve tweeted 40,000 times since 2009 for FREE, so if you have ever let out a single laugh at my deranged nonsense I would expect at least $ 1. “She said she made a few hundred dollars this month.


Social media personalities turn success on one platform into income on another. This reduces their dependence on an app, where they could be vulnerable to algorithm changes or moderation decisions.

To keep creators engaged, tech platforms have dedicated funds to pay users who produce the most engaging content. Snapchat says it has spent $ 130 million since November to fund contributors for its shorthand “Spotlight” feature.

Dominic Andre, a mental health therapist turned creator of TikTok science videos, said he has long wanted to get involved in Snapchat’s programs. A screenshot of the income he and his girlfriend earned last year from Spotlight – $ 966,546 – is framed in the Los Angeles home that the money helped them buy.

Feeney, who initially grew over 5 million followers on TikTok before expanding to Snapchat, says she was recruited by YouTube to participate in a beta test for her new clone TikTok Shorts.

Tech reporter Casey Newton, who left Vox Media to write their newsletter “Platformer” on Substack in September, said companies are also offering more favorable terms to creators than they have done before. One example is Facebook’s plan to allow writers of its next newsletter product to export their readers’ email addresses if they decide to use a different publishing service, he said.

“I think that speaks to the power of the creators right now,” Newton said.

YouTube, which has a long history of providing ways for video posters to make money and claims to have paid more than $ 30 billion to creators and media organizations over the past three years, recently launched a $ 100 million fund. for creators of short films.

Jamie Byrne, senior director of YouTube Creator Partnerships, said creators have requested such a fund if they want to make their YouTube channel the primary focus of their subscribers.

“Creators are taking their rightful place at the center of the universe of the designer economy,” he said. “We must be their home base.”

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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