Guest Columns Reader Revenue
3 mins read

How content creators are using subscription services to make a living

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The Creator Economy is thriving. What was once the reserve of well-known journalists and established brands is now an opportunity for the masses, with thousands going it alone as paid content creators. Empowered by accessible publishing platforms and recurring revenue streams, in today’s world, anyone can start their own media company.

This new ability for individuals to make a living directly from their audiences is transforming the creative industries, from journalism to performing arts, with musicians leveraging platforms like Patreon and celebrities creating custom content on Cameo. In fact, the ability to reach audiences directly has caused a shift in power in Hollywood, with actors, not agents, leading the charge.

Monetising content creation

Creators with recurring revenue streams, such as paid subscriptions or established ads, are now able to get advances on their future earnings. Pipe, for instance, is a marketplace where organisations can sell their customer subscription contracts for up-front financing. This new surge in activity has prompted some media outlets to dub content creators the new start-ups, and many VC firms are now backing portfolios of content creators. In the same way VCs would seek out promising start-ups, they’re on the lookout for fresh creators with a strong following, offering to buy a percentage of what they do for an agreed time.

As the competition heats up, content creators are forming new collectives to share resources and create new and differentiated offerings. Sidechannel, for example – a brand new tech media venture currently comprised of just eight writers – recently hosted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on its own discord server. Sidechannel serves as a base for all sorts of collaborations, from hosting audio chats using Discord’s new Clubhouse-like features to spin up podcasts, to inviting authors or independent reporters to host temporary channels about their current or upcoming projects.

Zuckerberg isn’t the only tech leader to take notice of the rising content creator trend, either. All of the major social media platforms are rolling out monetization programs for individual creators; Twitter launched its newsletter product at the start of last year and Facebook is following suit. Instead of chasing page clicks to drive fleeting ad spend, there’s a new incentive at play focused on building and maintaining a dedicated audience through compelling content.

How the creator economy has impacted traditional publishers

As legacy publications made the transition to digital platforms, many got caught up in the whirlwind of the ‘disruption model’ of websites that, while backed by VC funding, didn’t have a circulation department because they didn’t have a print product to circulate. Instead, they ballooned web traffic figures as a proxy for paying visitors and tried to get the ad industry to increase rates to coincide with that rise. We now know that this was a fool’s errand, however, as whichever way you look at it, higher traffic doesn’t equate to more money.

Traditional publishers have been slow to adapt to the creator economy. Instead, they’ve continued to compete for direct marketing spend, becoming more and more entangled in adtech, which claims to help publishers scale the sale of their online ads. While it did drastically increase the amount of ad space for sale at first by connecting online marketplaces and switching out the ads on display in real-time based on the viewer, the trouble was that iconic publishers soon found themselves competing with every other site running ads frequented by the same viewer, and the fall out for the news industry, in particular, has been felt keenly. Ad prices plummeted, and journalism skewed towards getting as much traffic as possible with so-called “click bait”, causing audiences to lose faith in traditional media.

The Subscription Economy is helping creators across the world to shift their focus from quantity to quality of content. More doesn’t necessarily mean more; it’s about finding your niche and delivering consistent content to your audience.

John Phillips
General Manager EMEA, Zuora

Zuora is an enterprise software company that creates and provides software for businesses to launch and manage their subscription-based services. Zuora’s applications are designed to automate recurring billing, collections, quoting, revenue recognition, and subscription metrics.