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Trends in the Creator Economy

by Staff GBAF Publications Ltd
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By Theo Normanton Freelance Journalist

Theo Normanton

There are over 200 million content creators in the world today. From seasoned streamers and influencers to part-time podcasters and promoters. Countless more make content recreationally, whether to boost their following or share an inside joke with friends.

This has nourished a new industry, with creators increasingly able to monetise their reach through multiple revenue streams including advertising, merchandise, premium content, and patronage. The creator economy is already valued at over $100 billion, and that figure is set to balloon as even amateur creators find new ways of turning their content into cash.

The lockdowns imposed around the world to curb the coronavirus pandemic turbo-charged the development of this new area. As people spent more time out of the office, consumer engagement with entertainment platforms spiked and the gig economy became mainstream.

In 2021 alone, startup investments in the creator economy were estimated to have hit $5 billion. As the creator craze gains traction, here are some trends to look out for on your favourite feeds.

The mighty meme

Memes are becoming increasingly important cultural reference points. They allow individuals to riff off the widely understood connotations of a particular moment, event, or phenomenon while introducing their own creative flair to the mix.

Because they’re so customisable, they afford creators enormous flexibility, and they also boast a remarkable economy of meaning, with layers of allusion packed into one image.

Although it helps social media companies rake in vast advertising revenues, this wildly popular format has so far brought only joy to its creators – the idea of monetising your memes is a relatively new one.

FunCorp, an entertainment tech company whose products include popular meme communities iFunny and Yepp, is trying to change that, empowering meme enthusiasts to turn their sense of humour into a side hustle. Yepp, FunCorp’s newest app, has pledged to share 50% of its weekly revenue with app users in proportion to the popularity of their memes and how many new users they invite to join the app.

According to company data, Yepp’s top performers currently earn between $400 and $1,200 a month, with the company constantly working on ways to increase user pay-outs.

The app has an integrated Meme Maker, which harnesses ML and OCR technologies to swap faces and captions on popular memes. The idea is to allow meme connoisseurs to turn it into a viable job by cutting costs on expensive graphic design software and streamlining the monetisation of their content.

FunCorp Group CEO Max Kraynov is betting on the meme format spilling into new industries and business processes. “Around half of gen-Z and Millennial internet users look for new memes every day,” he points out.

“This shows the power of popular memes to engage and to influence consumers. Incorporating memes into marketing strategy is becoming a big trend as companies and organisations realise the leverage of memes in helping their brands stand out. Memes elicit an emotional response and have been proven to provide better brand recall.”

One startup to recently raise funding is even planning to apply the format for educational purposes. The short-form medium is a great way of delivering complex messages fast for a young audience with limited attention spans.

“It’s not just a gag, memes are the tiniest stories that humans invented, which makes for a great assignment for teachers to make sure that students understand the topic,” Antimatter founder Jonathan Libov told TechCrunch.

“In a sense, shitposting is the highest form of consciousness,” he quipped.

Fan funding

One development which is already well underway in the content creation sector is the diversification of revenue streams. Where creators previously relied on payments from platforms in return for bringing an audience, they are now looking for ways to hedge their dependency on hosts like YouTube and Instagram.

As well as growing sponsorship and promotion deals, fan funding structures are becoming a significant force behind the growth of the industry. These can come in the form of subscriptions for additional content or merchandise, payments for services, or simple tips through platforms like Ko-fi.

A supportive community relieves some of the pressure on creators to adapt to fast-changing algorithms.

“Increasingly, creators are seeing the value of adding community to their social media presence and networks through platforms such as Discord and Guild.

Community helps deepen relationships with fans and also gives them an opportunity to explore additional revenue streams with members.

Creators are using monetization techniques such as tokenizing their communities and developing recurring revenue models through subscriber community spaces,” said Michelle Goodall, CMO at professional messaging platform Guild in an interview with uscreen.

Enter the micro-influencer

The rise of short-form video platforms like TikTok has given extra weight to the virtue of authenticity. Where micromanaged Instagram walls used to be the name of the game, a new kind of “micro” now rules: the micro-influencer.

Companies are increasingly recognising that a small but trusting following can count for just as much as tens of millions of relatively disinterested or casual subscribers. This accounts for the increase in personalised “ask me anything” and “my morning routine”-style videos which are likely popping up on your favourite apps.

One company trying to profit from this trend is Millions.co. It encourages athletes to become the creators of the sports world, providing a platform for them to connect with their fans by hosting watch parties, blogs, and pay-per-view events.

Athletes are a natural audience for micro-influencing due to their large, dedicated followings and their prominent position in society. Often the short, dazzling careers of athletes means that they find themselves looking for ways to convert their fame into money when their active sporting career ends – another factor which is set to fuel this burgeoning industry.

But the micro-influencer trend won’t stop at athletes. From pop stars to politicians, every valued expert in their field will soon have the opportunity to combine their insights with their creative flair to find jobs on a proliferating range of platforms and in diverse formats.

This means that finding your niche will be easier – and more profitable – than ever. Just as well, given that children today are more likely to aspire towards a career as a YouTuber than an astronaut!

About the Author:

Theo Normanton is a journalist who covers developments in tech, ESG, and the circular economy. He is a contributor at The New Economy Observer, where he writes about a range of topics: from innovative materials to regulatory trends. Theo also covers emerging markets for bne IntelliNews, and his articles on markets and geopolitics have featured in South China Morning Post, Riddle Russia, and Asia Times.