From YouTube to TikTok to Clubhouse, digital content creators have developed into an animating force in the media, communications, and technology industries over the past decade. And over time, a growing network of tools, products, and services have developed around content and social media platforms to monetize opportunities for creators—influencers, celebrities, artists, etc.— to earn income outside of traditional and ad-supported distribution channels. The economic relationship between creators and their audience is, in turn, becoming more straightforward than ever as fans pay directly for exclusive content, interactions, and experiences; with creator platforms sitting in the middle, earning revenue through each transaction.
Alongside social platforms, creators are turning to platforms such as Patreon, Cameo, Substack, and Teachable that prioritize paid content over freemium offerings and provide the opportunity to maintain a continuous engaging relationship with their audience from production, to discovery, to monetization.
The creator economy largely revolves around videos, live streams, photos, and podcasts. Therefore the market segment covering these areas is more mature and therefore more highly populated with incumbents compared to the other segments.
However, new concepts in creator-fan interaction—primarily facilitated by membership providers—can guarantee monetization for creators unlike more established freemium and ad-supported models. This segment includes established disruptors such as Patreon, escapex, and OnlyFans—providing an alternative to video content and blogs. Most of the disruptors in this segment are membership-based with creators and fans able to offer and purchase a range of interaction options at different price points.
Amid a sustained interest in cryptocurrency, adoption of blockchain-related services including NFT (Non-Fungible Token) platforms have also gained traction as a new way of creator content monetization. This segment lacks incumbents and significant fundraising activity and therefore includes several Seed and Pre-Seed level companies.
Major social media platforms including Facebook, Google, Twitter, and ByteDance are all key incumbents in the creator economy as well as global internet companies Amazon, Spotify, and WordPress maker Automattic. Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) is a common path into the creator economy, with Google and Amazon entering the space solely through their acquisitions of YouTube and Twitch, respectively. Facebook, on the other hand, maintains dominance by purchasing startups with developers building social products.