What Makes a Career Content Creator?


Words mean something. It’s important to define your terminology—especially now, during Hot Labor Summer, with SAG, the WGA, and several non-Hollywood-based unions on strike. 

Unfortunately, in the case of SAG in particular, a lot of the terminology has gotten quite muddled, sometimes leading to conflicting responses. If you’re not an Influencer—that is, someone that meets the SAG standards of their Influencer program and gets their money from brand partnerships—it may be okay to continue your YouTube channel doing reactions or reviews. That falls under “fandom,” which is something done “for fun” in someone’s spare time.

We can already see the problem with this definition is, and the same question asked pretty much the same way could also elicit a stern lecture from SAG about how even non-union “content creators” are expected to not cross picket lines, warning that posting anything from a struck studios’ catalog could potentially hurt future SAG eligibility.

Speaking to The Verge, SAG spokesperson Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said Influencers were a self-defined group of online creators: “If you’re somebody who thinks of yourself—or is looking to present yourself—as an influencer or a content creator, who is putting out content that’s intended to promote these projects and draw general attention to them, that’s really where the line is drawn.”


The Verge seems just as confused as we are, though: Their example of why online creators shouldn’t post any movie or tv-related content uses words to contextualize it as a moral issue, not an economic one. They give the example of “Quinta Brunson…(who) rose from posting comedy videos online and working for BuzzFeed to writing a hit sitcom in just a few years. Brunson is now on strike.” Which doesn’t really address the issue at hand: Would Quinta currently be on strike if she had remained making Buzzfeed videos? 

It’s this implication, both in the first and second SAG response, that Influencer is a one-size-fits-all model, one that SAG understands to be a stepping stone to a ‘real’ job instead of the destination itself.

Yes, many performers hope to join SAG one day, but not for the work they’re currently doing reacting to shows or movies on a YouTube channel. In a way, we’re still playing into the model that reinforces SAG’s thinking on this: that reactions and reviews are side projects to do in our spare time, at best, an audition tape for real opportunities. That fundamentally misunderstands the economic reality of channels that don’t make their cash from studio deals but from fans and Patreons. 

From this angle, a lot of content creators we’re talking about would be safe to continue covering struck work per the Verge’s explanation: “Reviews and coverage by news organizations aren’t the same as what an influencer might post—journalists don’t work for studios and producers and don’t accept payment for coverage.” 

(To be clear, this is also how SAG defined the term in “Variety.”)

Well, there you go. If that’s the definition of what separates some content creators from influencers, let’s use that: If you don’t work for studios and producers and don’t get paid to cover specific works (I mean, reviewers for The Verge certainly aren’t working for charity, so we have to assume that’s what they mean), then you fall under the definition of journalist. This should apply even if you don’t work for a traditional, accredited outlet but in the field of YouTube analysis, criticism, or news.


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