Can you make a living creating content?

Updated: Jan 21


Spark! Studios insights


The rise of content


Over the last decade, or so, creators have been pumping out content (on one platform or the other) looking to gain nothing more than likes and followers. But as the game to grow became tougher (you know, because more creators started popping up), the players found that they had to invest more time and effort (both limited resources) to make their content stand out more in a sea of videos, podcasts, and pictures.


That left little time and energy to have a job and all, and so the content that they were creating needed to be monetized so that they could keep on creating. Alas, some platforms rewarded popular creators directly (think of YouTube’s shared ad revenue model).


But it hasn’t just been the creators fighting over social media budgets that’s been brewing – these content platforms themselves have been in a bit of tiff over luring these creators in against each other. In addition to offering “winning” features and functionalities, another (and most obvious) incentive has proven to be good old cash *cha-ching*.



Platform incentives = payday


YouTube has recently introduced the facility for viewers to “tip” creators called Super Thanks. Why not, right? If you like the service a waiter gives you, you give a tip. Only makes sense that if you derive value (be it educational or entertainment) from someone’s content, then you make a similar gesture as a “thank you.” Only problem is, tips for service works are often standardized as a percentage of your total bill. When you’re not paying for the content, to begin with, how do you benchmark tips to creators? I mean, 15% of my near-to-nothing YouTube premium subscription may not be enough to get some creators out of bed. In this case, YouTube has taken the call that tips will be one-off, for an amount ranging between $2 and $50.


Facebook has introduced something similar on its Live Audio Room feature (it does exactly as the name suggests it does), where it allows consumers to rewards creators – except they’re calling it “donations” instead. We’re calling it all #socialcommerce, or did someone say “telethon”?


Spark! Studios insights


This is why creator-set baselines work, as an alternative to nothing. When you go to a creator’s Patreon platform, for example, they’ve already made suggestions on how costly of a thank you they’ll appreciate from you. And so, monetization platforms such as these serve a purpose in an otherwise vague exchange of value to creation.



Recurring payments from fans


Membership/ subscription fees set by creators also help add clarity, and some content platforms are recognizing this – and therefore, extending it. Take Tumblr, who – for example – has recently started testing a feature that allows bloggers to charge a subscription fee for their posts, or Substack, who allows publishers to charge for newsletters and podcasts. Even Twitter introduced a feature (called Super Follows) for creators to put a paywall in front of tweets.


This model is no stranger to podcasts as Apple Podcasts has recently released a feature to allow creators to provide premium content for subscribers. Spotify is trying to provide similar value for podcasters too, but with a twist, as it introduced the feature for consumers to subscribe or tip podcast creators as well.


Even Quora has launched monetization features to allow its creators to charge for accessing "exclusive" Q&A content. They're calling this: Quora+.



Grants from Platforms


Other platforms straight-up are willing to give money away. Facebook, for example, recently announced a program to reward creators for content on Facebook and Instagram, in which they’re giving away $1b through till the end of next year. Yes, that’s billion with a “b.”

Bringing things back full circle to YouTube, they’ve recently announced a $100m fund to incentive creators to create short-form video content on its TikTok-like platform, Shorts.



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