Issue: 10 - Creator Economy explained for dummies

Best links to get you started. Top News: Pegasus; Afghan War; Olympics; US Open. Read the best long-form features.

A very good friend of mine had an intense discussion on the creator economy several weeks ago. We were both speaking in length about the ways people across the internet are monetising their skills.

Soon, we realised by the end of our conversation that we had a lot more to learn in this amazing field. It also made me think that it’s astounding how easy and at the same time, hard to make money — all you need is a plan, a smartphone/computer with an internet connection.

So let’s start with the basics.

What’s the creator economy?

It’s the economy made by ‘creators’. The creator economy is sometimes also called the passion economy — the economy made by your passion. You make money by creating content — videos, audio, photos or text, (or even unique products as well). A person creating content is a “content creator”.

Here’s a classification of the major types of content

  • Text: newsletters, e-books, articles, blogs, essays.

  • Videos: video courses, live webinars/workshops.

  • Audio: Podcasts, audiobooks, live audio hosting sessions such as music performance.

  • Photos: Digital artwork, photography, graphics.

  • Physical products: Arts, books, foods, clothing, etc.

To sell the content you create, you need different distribution channels. Here are some widely popular platforms with a description from their website:

  • Substack:A place for independent writing. Start a newsletter. Build your community. Make money from subscriptions.”

  • Scrollstack: “Your free personal website. ScrollStack enables everyone – writers, poets, podcasters, video makers, journalists and others — to be able to fund their work through direct payments from fans.”

  • Patreon: On Patreon, you can let your fans become active participants in the work they love by offering them a monthly membership. You give them access to exclusive content, community, and insight into your creative process. In exchange, you get the freedom to do your best work, and the stability you need to build an independent creative career.”

  • Buy Me a Coffee: "Start a membership for your biggest fans. Earn a recurring income by accepting monthly or yearly membership. Share exclusive content, or just give them a way to support your work on an ongoing basis".

  • Instamojo: "Online selling platform. Instamojo powers small, independent businesses, MSMEs & startups with online stores and online payment solutions to help them run an eCommerce business successfully."

(The above-mentioned platforms are ones I have used and tested myself. However, I obviously recommend you to test them out yourself and decide)

There are many other interesting platforms used by creators.

Source: VC Cafe: The creator economy is rising, but challenges abound. (Please note that some of the platforms in the photos above may not be available in India)

‘1,000 true fans’

One of the most important principles for those pursuing success in the creator economy is this concept called “1,000 True Fans”.

First postulated by Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of the Wired magazine, he wrote:

To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.

A true fan is defined as a fan that will buy anything you produce. These diehard fans will drive 200 miles to see you sing; they will buy the hardback and paperback and audible versions of your book; they will purchase your next figurine sight unseen; they will pay for the “best-of” DVD version of your free youtube channel; they will come to your chef’s table once a month. If you have roughly a thousand of true fans like this (also known as super fans), you can make a living — if you are content to make a living but not a fortune.

Li Jin, founder and Managing Partner at Atelier, an early-stage VC firm, gave the ‘1,000 True Fans’ a more amped-up meaning: She wrote:

More than a decade ago, Wired editor Kevin Kelly wrote an essay called “1,000 True Fans,” predicting that the internet would allow large swaths of people to make a living off their creations, whether an artist, musician, author, or entrepreneur… By embracing online networks, he believed creators could bypass traditional gatekeepers and middlemen, get paid directly by a smaller base of fans, and live comfortably off the spoils.

Today, that idea is as salient as ever—but I propose taking it a step further. As the Passion Economy grows, more people are monetising what they love. The global adoption of social platforms like Facebook and YouTube, the mainstreaming of the influencer model, and the rise of new creator tools has shifted the threshold for success. I believe that creators need to amass only 100 True Fans—not 1,000—paying them $1,000 a year, not $100. Today, creators can effectively make more money off fewer fans.

The art of success

For me personally, this concept of the creator economy sounds extremely hopeful and appealing.

Having observed the growth of a handful of newsletter writers, podcast creators, authors (whom I follow on social media), I strongly believe that to make a sustainable income in this field, you need to:

  1. Learn and improvise — Keep pushing your limits to offer the best content.

  2. Be consistent — Having a discipline lifestyle matters.

  3. Never hesitate to try new things — I have seen writers diversify their newsletters into podcast or e-books, adapting other ingenious methods to further monetise their skills.

  4. Build a community — You can’t succeed without knowing what your audience wants and more importantly who your audience is. Reach, listen, talk.

Further reading

  • If you are a person dreaming to make it big in the creator economy, then you should certainly follow Li Jin. The New York Times profiles her in the report, "She’s the Investor Guru for Online Creators." "Li Jin, 31, began backing creators years ago. She has raised her own fund to invest in influencer-related start-ups," it says.

  • In my first article early this year for the BusinessLine, I wrote "How tech platforms are supporting artistes fuel the passion economy". I spoke to content creators based in India to understand how creative artistes are using various online tools to monetise their skills.

  • Read this piece on Washington Post, “Reporters are leaving newsrooms for newsletters, their own ‘mini media empire’. As newsroom jobs grow scarcer, journalists are building their own platforms via email newsletter.”

  • The Economic Times had an interesting report on how teachers are monetising the creator economy: “A new playbook for customised learning: edutubers and the ecosystem driving a tutor-creator economy”: Several offline institutions and tutors using platforms such as YouTube and Facebook Live to teach students are moving to their own customised online-class setup. They are online entrepreneurs, whose channels and apps are their companies. An ecosystem has evolved to cater exclusively to this ed-tech segment. The lockdowns and uncertainty around traditional learning have further helped edutubers build their base.

  • Substack writer Elle Griffin of The Novelleist in this fantastic in-depth article, “The one where writing books is not really a good idea” talks about the economics of writing and getting your book published versus the possibility of churning out your fiction world via the creator economy. She asks “Could the creator economy work for fiction authors?” in this insightful post. You can listen her interview with the Substack team here.

The creator economy sure sounds awesome for budding entrepreneurs. I’ll do my best to write more on this sector in the coming weeks.

  • Eye spy the world

One of the biggest news this year is the ‘Pegasus scandal’ that is rocking the world. A surveillance company based in Israel called the ‘NSO Group’ is accused of selling its spyware ‘Pegasus’ which is allegedly used by governments to spy on journalists, activists, politicians, among others.

The Pegasus Project is a collaborative investigative journalism initiative by a group of 17 world media organisations that includes The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Wire (based in India), among others.

You can read in detail about the investigations on The Guardian, The Washington Post or The Wire.

  • The return of the Taliban

The fall of Afghanistan has gripped the world in the past few weeks. The country continues to suffer a number of crisis as it is now under the control of the militant group Taliban.

Ian Fritz, who served in the US Air Force from 2008 to 2013, writes for The Atlantic, "What I Learned While Eavesdropping on the Taliban". "I spent 600 hours listening in on the people who now run Afghanistan. It wasn’t until the end of my tour that I understood what they were telling me," he says, in this eye-opening piece.

Acclaimed investigative journalist John Pilger spoke to The Hindu on the war and said, “Taliban were a convenient target to satisfy a political lust for revenge for 9/11”, in the piece, “The invasion of Afghanistan was a fraud”.

To understand the reason for the collapse of the Afghan government, then reading KP Fabian's long-form report for The Frontline is a good start. He writes, "What has happened in Afghanistan can be traced to the United States’ ‘muscular’ foreign policy after the Cold War and the floundering global war on terrorism", in the article titled, "Afghanistan’s chequered history".

  • Olympics in time of the pandemic

Neeraj Chopra became the first Indian Olympian to win a gold medal in athletics. India’s paralympians too gave a stunning performance. The Indian women hockey team also inspired a billion.

The Hindustan Times, covered a motivating feature on "How the India women’s hockey team got fitter, faster and stronger". "A carefully tailored programme that continued through lockdown and a top-notch recovery process helped in the jump from last in Rio to fourth in Tokyo".

  • Teens - the new Queens of US Open

The tennis season this year saw the absence of the finest players — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams.

Yet people were overwhelmed by the performance of three new stars; Daniil Medvedev, who defeated Novak Djokovic, denying him a Golden Slam and the 18-year-old Emma Raducanu, who won the Women’s title, victorying over 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez.

Deepti Patwardhan wrote a lovely piece for The Mint Lounge, titled "This year, the US Open told new stories". "The victories of Emma Raducanu and Daniil Medvedev show that tennis is ready to move on from the titans of yesterday to the talents of tomorrow," she writes.

  • History rush in Tamil Nadu

One of the most exciting archeological discovery has come from Tamil Nadu. The Wire explains "What the Most Recent Archaeological Findings in Tamil Nadu's Sivakalai Mean". "Discoveries at sites in Tamil Nadu are expected to highlight, or even recast, a part of Indian history that has thus far languished in the shadows of the Indus Valley civilisation," writes Kavitha Muralidharan.

You can also watch this short video report by The NDTV on the findings.

My recent writings for The Hindu BusinessLine

  • Film Review: The Father: A poignant ode to caregivers. Florian Zeller’s directorial debut turns the lens on the everyday reality of caring for an elderly parent with dementia. Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman are just fantastic in this emotionally shattering movie.

  • Interviews: Rejigging superheroes: AC Bradley, the show creator of What If…?, on tweaking the Marvel universe. Since its release on Disney+Hotstar, the 10-part animated anthology series from the Marvel Studios, has managed to add more charm to the ‘phase four’ of the awesome Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

  • Loki throws the timelines of the worlds out of sync. My review for the BLink about the new Marvel series “Loki”, streaming on Disney+.

These are some interesting features/articles that I have read in the last few weeks.



  • Don’t miss this amazing documentary by Aparna Ganeshan for AsiaVille. She shows how cute little turtles are conserved by volunteers and wildlife experts on the coasts of Tamil Nadu.

  • “I Changed Astronomy Forever. He Won the Nobel Prize for It” - a documentary by The New York Times. This is one of the most inspiring (and a bit heartbreaking ) short documentaries I have seen.

  • A biopic on Serena and Venus Williams starring Will Smith is here!

  • Also don’t miss this emotionally-charged, brilliant documentary on the legendary F1 racer Michael Schumacher, now streaming on Netflix.

  • Keanu Reeves is back for the fourth installment of the Matrix!!!!

  • Marvel’s upcoming series — Hawkeye — promises an exciting new story!

This marks the end of today’s edition. See you soon! Stay safe, wear masks, wash your hands, and spread love. Feel free to forward this email to your family and friends. 😊❤️

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