Independence Day for Everyone Except Creators


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Because for all the breathless media coverage of the $250 “creator economy” – expected to reach half a trillion by 2027 – far less has been explored on the individuals who make up the market’s product and its labor force, which, fun fact!!! Are the exact same thing!

I don’t need to tell you this, but career content creators are getting royally fucked right now. All this money being generated off your work? You’re seeing maybe a dime of it, and half that dime is now being taxed by a government whose census bureau doesn’t officially recognize you as a profession.

Not only are views worth a fraction of what they were two years ago, but platforms like YouTube are actively working against your success with an algorithm model that pits your own content against itself in an A/B test that ends up promoting some of your work at the cost of de-incentivizing the rest.  Creator programs have been sunset; you’re all supposed to be getting your money from sponsorships or on-air ad reads, despite the fact that the majority of online creators are not influencers or hosts of extremely popular podcasts.

All that cash you hear about in the “creator economy” isn’t going to creators, because of course it isn’t. We’re talking about speculative investments from private equity firms looking to recoup their losses from the bust of the crypto and NFT markets. They see AI as the next big thing, and are looking at ways to inject funds to platforms and startups that will capitalize off the so-called “creator economy,” a term they found out about because two banks released reports on how much money could be gamed off of your work.

But let’s be very clear here: there is no creator labor force. You aren’t even independent contractors or participating in a recognized and regulated industry. There is no “creator community,” as much as marketers and conventions want to sell you on the idea that we’re all one big, homogenous entity. That creators think with one collective hive-mind, speaks with one voice, has one set of collected consumer and business needs.

You have a holistic awareness of being part of this larger collective, and self-identifies as influencer/creator, whichever one is easier to sell stuff to. You love AI, because it makes your content for you and then markets that content with AI-enhanced algorithm optimization tools, which you can find in your Creator Suite. Everything is one size fits all, but its also scaleable, and your goal is to become so famous that this somehow translates into actual money that isn’t immediately put back into production, and eventually, through some magical alchemy of the attention lottery and sponsorship deals, you will become the savvy owner of a business generating massive amounts of money off the brand of You.

Then it won’t matter what you slap that brand on: burgers, lipstick, videos, immersive experiences, candy bars. It’s irrelevant. Your content was always besides the point, a means to the end of getting to that household brand name status.

Products don’t need days off work, so neither do you, creator. That billion dollar figure about this “economy?” That number will never be relevant to you. But it will be used as both carrot and stick, to convince you that there is free money out there waiting for you, if you just hustle hard enough, get more views, more subscribers, more fans. If you just work harder, so later you can sit back and finally take a break.

This is why you, like me, are spending your 4th of July holiday at work. Quick check: are you reading this email right now? Then you’re working. Are you uploading videos instead of at a BBQ? Work. At a BBQ but checking your social campaigns to make sure you’re still monetized? Work.

You are always working, creator, but you’re not employed. You do not receive benefits, sick days, 401ks, PTO. There’s no maternity leave for making content on the internet. You are not given at-will employment contracts, you aren’t getting severance, there’s no traffic bonuses.

YouTube doesn’t give you equity or shares for being their biggest earner; Creator Initiatives don’t  come with promotions to management, where you’d be mentored and guided through learning an extremely different skillset of business management, and have a say in shaping future policies around a platform’s culture and practices.

Employees have coworkers; creators have competitors, who on the best of days may resemble colleagues, but on the worst will not share an HR rep with whom you can file a complaint about inappropriate behavior.

And while employees may roll their eyes at a company’s mandatory sexual harassment seminars or DEI initiatives sent down from corporate, creators aren’t given any such protections or career opportunities.

Content on the internet isn’t a meritocracy, but it is very much the embodiment of late-stage capitalism in that on the surface it looks like an even playing field but is actually the same rigged game of luck, money and access to resources.

You may have the means to produce (anyone can buy a podcast setup and a webcam these days); but on the internet, access to these tools is worth very little until you start subscribing to premium pro memberships for the services to promote your work.

If Karl Marx were a video essayist today, he’d be arguing that platforms separate workers from the means of distribution.

Can that change? I’m hoping so. But the first step has to be liberating yourself from the work = success employment model. It just simply does not apply to you.

So what does? I can’t say for certain, and it’s not really for me to tell you how to run your business. But I think it has something to do with another appropriated term you’ve heard bandied about recently: Community.

Not just for your fans and subscribers anymore, community could, theoretically, apply to a group of creators coming together and starting to share notes, tips, experiences. Who can teach and learn from each other, benefit from a shared pool of resources, information and contacts.

Over at Passionfruit, we’re not complaining that we, as a company that exists inside a larger corporate entity, can speak on behalf of you, the creator. But we can help provide the spaces where you can talk to each other; we can give your voices a platform and we will continue to advocate, tirelessly and through holidays, for the rights of the creative working class.

And if you’re interested in what we’re laying down here, join our (free!) Discord and if you can afford it, our Patreon. Check out our shows on YouTube like Reactorverse and Deep Linkers.

God bless America, or whatever.


Beyond Unboxings: The Future of Kids Internet Content

Kid watching tv over youtube logos


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