Despite these massive shifts in how we operate, the length of the average video we watch is, in what platform we consume said video on, in how all of this is monetized and a plethora of other wrinkles along the way…blog posts are still a thing. There’s a lesson in that, isn’t there?
The Summer of YouTube
My first YouTube hero and introduction to the space was Ryan Higa and his How to be … series of videos. It the summer before grade 8, I had just learned to torrent but the prospect of a virus on my mom’s computer cut my ambitious plans short. I stayed indoors and dove into YouTube instead.
I liked how raw Ryan’s content was. This was a kid, a few years older than me, who enjoyed making videos decided to do…exactly that. Nothing was polished, the lighting was mediocre, and it was clear he didn’t have a team of writers editing everything beforehand, and somehow, that’s exactly why it was magical. All I saw was a funny guy, making hilarious videos because it was what he wanted to do. And to this day, Ryan Higa could probably sell me anything.
Why Ryan works – Authenticity and Choice
Ryan wasn’t shoved in my face to no end, nor was he 1 of only 5 options to watch on television at the time. The reason I binged every video he ever made was because I chose to and so did millions of people just like me. I could never say the same about the Brad Pitts of the world – they were chosen, but not Ryan.
That’s partially why I think the relationship between creator and audience is so powerful. Audiences aren’t being held captive, nor are they consuming specific content because it’s the best. Ryan isn’t popular because he’s the star of the only movie out this weekend with decent reviews.
In a world with nothing but options, Ryan is who his audience wants to listen to. And this element of choice breeds authenticity and trust and is why to this day, Ryan Higa could probably sell me anything. I feel like I might be repeating myself? Sorry, it’s been a while since my last blog.
It’s Niches all the way down.
What I’m about to say next and Ryan Higa might seem completely unrelated, but stick with me…
Remember when a grassroots political movement launched in 2009 fundamentally altered the course of American politics for the next 12 years? The tea party managed to mobilise a specific base very successfully and that mobilisation has since been reverberating through the entire American political system.
I think the creator economy allows us to leverage the power of such grassroots mobilisation in incredibly unique ways. After all if it can get certain people elected to the Senate, it can surely be used to help brands get off the ground.
In some sense, Ryan, despite his massive success and popularity, is a sort of niche. His personality and style are unique to him and so is his audience, despite its large size.
But equally interesting are all the not-quite-Ryan’s in the creator economy. The nano and micro-influencers and the YouTubers with 50K subscribers. The TikTokers who make cool videos, but don’t aim for mass appeal. The relationships they have with their audiences might not span the entire globe, but the depth of those relationships is powerful in its own right – not to mention these creators are generally more accessible to brands in terms of cost and availability.
It’s still niches all the way down.
There was a time when ads on YouTube videos weren’t a thing. Then they were playing at the beginning of the video. Soon more than one ad started to pop up. Now your favorite YouTuber will literally talk to you about a product in the middle of a piece of content. The delineation between an original piece of content and outside brand messaging continues to evolve and why wouldn’t it? The creator economy has proven itself to be a viable space for businesses to grow.
But there is so much untapped potential here. The Long Tail theory said that the internet and its removal of physical barriers would give rise to niche products and services that would thrive. I think over the next few years we’ll see a movement to better service this class of creator, the not-quite-Ryan’s of the world and in turn the brands they work with.
The TikTok creator fund is one example of this. It pays out based on engagement and views, as opposed to YouTube’s model which also takes into account how advertiser-friendly your audience is. Thus niche creators will be incentivised to keep putting in the work and niche audiences will emerge.
What this means for the Creator Economy:
A host of creator services have cropped up making it easier to navigate the space, capital is being provided to up and coming creators, companies like Creator.co are making it easier for influencers of all sizes to build a sustainable business and continue to grow the creator economy.
As this category of content grows more robust and viable, so will the opportunities for brand partnership. And all this while the delineation we discussed earlier continues to blur. Social commerce has a lot of people excited. Imagine Ryan Higa telling you about product X in a way only he could, and having the option of buying it then and there, without even switching tabs or blinking. Instagram Shops, Snapchat’s Brand Profile, Faceb – I guess the point I’m trying to make is, I don’t think this train is stopping anytime soon.
Which brings us back to the lesson about blogs still being a thing. User-generated content clearly has staying power. Where we blog might be different but the fact that we blog? That will never change. What’s in flux and still being figured out is how to best service this new space and truly leverage its potential.