To anyone following the trends around the creator economy, it’s becoming clear that we’re heading towards what will become an arms race amongst platforms to attract and retain the top creators.
Money, of course, will be a key factor in this battle for the best creators. Whichever platforms can pay out the most dollars to creators will have an inherent advantage. Cash, as they say, is king. Putting a stack of Benjamins on the table is a surefire way to get a creator’s attention.
That said, money only goes so far. Money can bring creators to a platform but it won’t always keep them there. Take what happened with prominent gamer Tyler Blevins, aka “Ninja”, for example. In 2019, Microsoft lured Ninja away from Twitch to their streaming platform Mixer for a reported $20-$30 million
. Yet, despite bringing the most famous streamer in the world to their platform, Mixer faltered and shut down less than a year later.
At some point, money starts to become table stakes. And it’s at that point where things start to get really exciting from the perspective of creators. Of course, the cash is exciting. But, it’s the realization that platforms need to offer more than just money that really gets the juices flowing.
As money becomes table stakes, platforms will need to come up with better incentives to attract and retain the top creators. At a minimum, part of those incentives will include better tools and infrastructure for creators to succeed. The best platforms will present creators with a full-stack offering that more or less spoon-feeds them a way to grow their audience and monetization through easy-to-use tools.
Beyond infrastructure, I think we’ll start to see some really interesting new types of incentives for creators. Incentives that are more akin to the typical compensation package for an early-stage startup employee. Things like ownership (equity), vacation, and L&D stipends.
What the creator version of these incentives will actually look like is still TBD, but you can begin to at least sketch the outline. Ownership, to some degree, will look quite similar to its counterpart in the startup world. New platforms can entice creators to join by offering them an equity stake. There’s also the potential for new types of ownership through NFTs, which is its own rabbit hole and one I’ll maybe attempt to cover in a future issue.
Vacation for creators will be a bit more abstract given most creators are unlikely to be full-time employees for the platforms they spend time on. One example of what this could look like is a platform’s algorithm not penalizing a creator for taking an agreed-upon break. Another, although slightly more far-fetched, is experimenting with “creative seasons”. Platforms could offer creators an off-season similar to athletes in the NBA or NFL.
The equivalent of L&D stipends for creators will involve platforms paying for tools/devices and training to both help new creators get started and established creators up their game. Substack is already doing this through Substack Bridge
, which is a two-month mentorship program that matches emerging and established Substack writers to help them reach their goals. YouTube could offer creators new cameras and lighting equipment to make better videos, Clubhouse mics and audio equipment, and so on and so forth.
As platforms start to roll out these types of incentives (and more) in the coming years, power dynamics between platforms and creators will inevitably level out. In order for platforms to succeed, their creators will need to succeed as well.