How we covered the creator economy in 2022
This summer, I went straight to VidCon The largest creator conference, to a labor journalism seminar with Sidney Hillman Foundation. I was talking with TikTokers about their financial worries (what if they get banned from TikTok tomorrow?) I was learning about American labor organizing history the next day.
These topics are not unrelated. Writing about the creator economy is labor journalism at its core. The creator beat is a labor beat.
Creators are resisting the traditional route to earning a living in the artistic industries. They want to take control of their income and make money for themselves rather than big media conglomerates. Think of creators as Brian David GilbertHe was a chaotically funny video producer for Polygon, a video game publication at Vox Media, and he built a loyal fanbase. Gilbert quit full-time work to pursue other creative projects, likely because he realized he could make more money with his audience than his media salary. There are also YouTube channels such as Defunctland And Swell Entertainment, which are essentially investigative journalism outlets that are run by individual video producers. We see chefs making their brand by becoming viral on TikTok. Or teachers sharing educational content on Instagram to supplement their income. YouTubers, Instagrammers, and newsletter writers are all proving that creativity can be monetized in an artistic industry that is notoriously underpaid for the expertise it provides.
This belief, that the creator economy is a labor beat, has guided my coverage of the industry over the past year. Below are some of my favorite stories about the state and future of the creator economy.
Chris McCarty, like many teens, spent a lot time on YouTube. But they had a serious question. How can influencers’ children protect themselves? They are too young to understand the ramifications of being a constant fixture on YouTube. McCarty and Emily Wicks, a Washington State Representative, collaborated to create a bill to compensate children for appearing in family vlogs.
Amateur YouTubers discovered that “cute kid doing stuff” was a popular genre from as early as 2010. David DeVore was seven years old when his father posted a YouTube clip of his reaction to anesthesia. It became an internet sensation.David After Dentist.” David’s father turned public interest in his son into small business, earning approximately$150,000 in five monthsVizio signed a licensing agreement with them and generated ad revenue. The Wall Street Journal reported that he intended to save the money for his children’s college expenses and charitable donations. The family behind the “” continued to live with him.Charlie bit my finger“Video made enough money to buy a house.
A decade later, YouTube’s biggest stars are children who don’t yet understand the life-changing responsibility that comes with being an internet celebrity with millions upon millions of subscribers. Seven-year-oldNastya, whose parents run her YouTube channel, was the sixth-highest-earning YouTube creator in 2022, earning$28 Million.Ryan KajiA 10-year-old boy named ‘Boyz’, who has been playing with toys online since he was 4 years old, won$27 MillionThere are many licensing options and brand deals.
I am fascinated by MrBeast but not in a “watching car crashes” way. MrBeast is still cruising along the highway, but I worry a lot about the guy (…. I’m referring to. He’s doing well. His business model is perfect It doesn’t seem to be sustainable I find it hard to believe that he has achieved such immense wealth and irreplaceable success. We’ll see if he can continue to increase his stunts while trying to raise a unicorn-sized VC round. David Dobrik.
Is going bigger always better? MrBeast’s business model looks like a snake eating its tail. No one is making as much money as him, but no one spends it like him. His margins were described by him as “razor-thinLogan Paul spoke to him about how he reinvests the majority of his profits back into his content. His viewers expect each video to be more impressive than the previous. From the outside, it seems like MrBeast will soon stop upping the ante. For other creators, this has resulted in.Disaster). If MrBeast’s unicorn business is real — and I would wager it is — then he will have two options. He can use the $150 million cushion to make his business more viable, so he doesn’t have to keep it.Burial of oneself alive? Or will he continue pushing for more until there is nothing left?
Casey Neistat, a longtime YouTuber, presented a documentary about David Dobrik at SXSW this past year. Neistat began work on the documentary to capture Dobrik’s Vlog Squad and the YouTube phenomenon they were. After Insider was published, the documentary took a different turn. Sexual assault allegations Dobrik almost killed Jeff Wittek on Dobrik’s film set in a terrible stunt. Neistat does an excellent job of capturing the creator’s fall from grace. Also, the way that YouTube film sets lack regulations can lead to disaster, especially when creators feel incentivized into doing crazier and more daring stunts to remain relevant.
Television series like “Hype House” and “The D’Amelio Show,” both devote entire plotlines to creators’ fear that they will be “cancelled.” But Dobrik is doing well, putting into question how far a creator must go to lose his fans. Dobrik has just opened a pizza shop In LA and has his own Discovery TV Show. Wittek has had at most nine surgeries since his accident on Dobrik’s set.
“I believe that there is always a pursuit. It’s important for musicians – how can you keep your music exciting?” Neistat stated. David Dobrik is different because they aren’t looking for the next song or the next movie. Their pursuit is to be more sensationalist. This is a very dangerous pursuit because once you have achieved something more outrageous than the previous, you must continue to do so.
The biggest secret in short-form video is that you cannot make it big on TikTok alone. Even the most popular creators only earn a small percentage of their income through the platform. TikTok has been a dominant player in short form video, but YouTube Shorts could challenge it next year, as it will be the first platform to share ad revenues with short form creators. Although ad revenue may not seem glamorous, I am excited to see how this program will transform the short form scene in 2023.
A big reason why TikTok and other short-form video apps haven’t unveiled a similar revenue-sharing program yet is because it’s trickier to figure out how to fairly split ad revenue on an algorithmically-generated feed of short videos. It’s not possible to embed ads in the middle of videos — think about a 30-second video with an 8-second ad. But, if you place ads between 2 videos, who would get the revenue share. Who would get the revenue share if their video was directly before or after yours? Or would you give a cut to a creator whose video was before or after it?
TechCrunch Disrupt interviewed OnlyFans CEO Amigan and Chief Strategy Officer Keily to discuss the future of the platform, particularly in relation to sex workers. OnlyFans has paid out more than $8 billion to creators in 2016 due to the success of adult authors. Comparatively, Patreon, a safe-for-work competitor, has paid out $3.5 Billion since 2013. Online sex workers are among the most savviest and highest-earning in the industry, but they are also the most vulnerable. Their business could be destroyed by changes in credit card company regulations or internet privacy laws. That’s what happened to OnlyFans last year. The company initially stated it would ban adult content but then reversed that decision. However, adult creators remain skeptical about how long they will be able to make a living on the platform. I asked Gan on our stage if onlyFans will still have adult content in five years. She agreed.
OnlyFans has spent a lot of time transforming its image from a subscription platform for adult content to a Patreon-like home that allows creators of all kinds to create, but it’s not moving away from them as users. Ami Gan, the CEO of the platform, confirmed today that adult content will continue to be available on the site in five more years and that those creators will be able to continue making a living from it.
Today’s confirmation was made on stage at TechCrunch. Disrupt. This confirmation is notable due to the difficult relationship OnlyFans has had over the years with adult creators. The company had announced last year that it wouldban adult contentAfter being pressured by card payment companies and other efforts, the site was taken downreportedlywas trying to raise outside funding. It abruptly ended.The decision was suspendedIt was less than a week after users protested.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.