The creator economy: Audience, community & revenue

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As per reports, there are about 637 million smartphone users in India who spend an average of 4.6 hours per day consuming content. The country also has the highest data consumption per smartphone with 448 million active social media users. These numbers have led to the establishment of the ‘creator economy’ – think influencers, bloggers, and essentially anyone building a community around their niche.

Thanks to digitization and the pandemic, the creator ecosystem is rapidly evolving in India with the last two years seeing blitz-scale growth in the economy. From being a casual content maker to a full-fledged professional, being a creator now is a high-value affair. Over 3000 Indian creators have already gathered one million subscribers or followers across platforms earning handsomely through direct and indirect ways of monetisation.

Today the content economy is quite the opposite of what it used to be earlier. It has become the most democratized sector with various avenues for creators to experiment with their content and simultaneously make money out of it.

Indirect Monetisation

So far creators were making money via indirect sources such as brand deals, affiliate marketing, and ad revenue. What this essentially means is that – brands would pay creators to use, review, or promote the product/ service to their audiences through videos, photos, and write-ups. In the case of affiliate marketing, a creator would promote a brand’s products and earn a certain percentage of sales generated from the channel. By allowing ads to play between their content a creator would earn a share of the revenue from the video ad shown to their viewers.

However, as being a creator evolved into a full-fledged career, indirect monetization has time and again proved insufficient. While top creators walked away with hefty checks most creators were and are scraping by with much less. This has driven creators’ to strive to own their audience and monetize on their own terms.

Direct Monetisation

Today a creator is far beyond an influencer, they are value addition players, entrepreneurs and individual business leaders; who are now owning their distribution directly and using the power of the community to crack the monetisation benefit. What this essentially means is creating value that meets the needs of the audience, directly. The value can be easily translated and delivered to the community via Telegram or Google Meet; which financially benefits the creator as audiences are willing to pay up for these communities.

Out of the several direct monetisation streams, we look at the top three through which the creator economy is tapping into the power of community and directly monetising it by giving value.

Conducting Workshops: The best example of this is motivational speakers and life coaches, who make a significant chunk of the Indian creator ecosystem. On one end of the spectrum, you have people like Sadguru; on the other, you have people like Sandeep Maheshwari. They are known to simplify the framework of motivational books so that audiences can apply it to their daily lives. The playbook is simple, they conduct a small portion of their session online and roll out extensive workshops and leadership coaching sessions on platforms such as Telegram. People not only want to join these exclusive communities but they are willing to pay a certain amount for it as well.

Subscription Plans: Think the likes of Patreon, where fans, through a subscription plan, get exclusive insight into their favourite creator’s content. The creators in return could share exclusive behind-the-scenes, give first access to shows and launches, share interesting trivia or even get on calls with their subscribers via Google Meet or Zoom call. Closer to home we have YouTube educator Dhruv Rathee who uses Telegram to give instant video updates on messages to his audience.
Teaching and Sharing Knowledge: These are the value-creating people who play in the knowledge economy. Such creators roll out courses for their audiences that want to learn more. For this, they build a community of their audience on Telegram and Zoom to get talking to each other. This works in two aspects: credibility and instant gratification. An audience consumes content they like; when such content comes from creators they have known for a long time, they sign up based on trust and credibility in the creator and the willingness to learn.

Even though not all creators are going to bring in an eye-popping amount of wealth yet it doesn’t stop them from living on their own terms. For instance, a college student, who initially couldn’t afford her college tuition fees of six thousand rupees now earns a respectable amount through her WhatsApp group by sharing notes with young aspirants all over the country.

To ensure less dependency on any one platform, the creator’s mindset has shifted from platform-centric to business-centric. New tools have emerged to help creators personalize, monetise and automate their audience. Investors and corporates alike are taking note of the creator economy and generating massive investment in this space. Although indirect monetisation has its perks, with direct monetisation, individual creators are becoming their own brands to reckon with.

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