At the mercy of social platforms’ ever-evolving algorithms, the creator economy is just as unpredictable, making the job of content creator a tricky one.

But for the seven creators featured in this year’s edition of the Digiday Podcast’s annual Creator series, it’s clear that those making a career out of content creation have been able to find the right workarounds necessary to amplify their posts and monetize their audiences effectively. 

Here are some of the key learnings that came out of the conversations with creators from YouTube, TikTok, X, Substack, Twitch and Patreon over the past month.  

Creator programs help but don’t always cover the bills

Ben and Lazara Martin, the parents of The Martin Family on social media, weren’t able to leave behind their 8-to-5 jobs by posting on TikTok alone.

Having launched the family’s account on TikTok in 2020, Ben Martin said he added Facebook into their distribution strategy much later than Instagram and YouTube. But just a month later, he said “Facebook was what got us to be full-time [creators].” Today, The Martin Family counts almost 8 million followers across on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat. 

“Our homebase is TikTok, [but] what Facebook did for us, it put us in a position financially to really feel comfortable” making social media a full-time job, added Lazara Martin. 

Meanwhile, X creator Jessica Davis said she wouldn’t advise any X creators to quit their day jobs thinking they can support themselves on the platform’s creator program earnings alone. But her X following of more than 40,000 has opened up other opportunities for revenue, including paid subscribers, brand deals and client referrals to her career coaching business, Resume Badge.

“That’s where I would say a majority of the value I gain from the platform is – just being able to be visible, and people know me for my work and want to work with me from that,” said Davis. “A lot of the benefits I see from [X] specifically come from the external benefits, not the platform itself.” 

Davis said the revenue she’s earned from X’s creator program varies and there’s little transparency into why. “A few times I’ve gotten anywhere from like $300 to $400 [every 60 days]. Sometimes it’s $50. Sometimes it’s $20,” she said. 

Building lucrative communities that improve the viewer experience

For creators in search of more predictable revenue, subscriptions have been a key business model – but it’s not available on every social platform.  

Molly Burke and Tyler Oakley spent more than a decade building communities on YouTube, but by joining platforms like Patreon and Twitch, respectively, they were able to monetize their most devout fans through monthly subscriptions, in exchange for access to exclusive content. 

It’s not just the viewer revenue that makes these cohorts lucrative. Oakley said that his Twitch following is significantly more engaged and collaborative than any other platform he’s been on. And that’s particularly helpful in making his video content entertaining as well as impactful, because he can incorporate whatever his audience wants to see or talk about in the moment.

Burke said that her community of almost 1,500 Patreon subscribers are equally passionate about the topics she covers and the advocacy she promotes in her content. 

“The same way that followers crave connection with their favorite creators, I think we as creators also crave that connection with our followers, because it allows us to learn and understand who’s watching us and why they’re watching us better,” said Burke. 

Twitter – I mean X – is still there if you know where to look

While the platform has undergone its fair share of changes and people have threatened to leave (or actually have left), there are pockets of communities that are still active and engaging on X. 

Davis said she’s tried every “Twitter alternative” that’s come along, including Threads and Bluesky, but ultimately the initial hype peters out and the audience finds its way back to X. 

The primary community she’s built on the platform consists of tech professionals, career seekers and recruiters, all of whom share the same niche interest of career development within this sector. Because of that, Davis said she’s worked with a few SaaS and technology companies on brand deals that are particularly interested in reaching that niche audience. 

“It’s one of those platforms that people don’t like but refuse to let go of … it’s going to take a lot, or something revolutionary, to really knock X out completely,” said Davis.   

Text-based vs. video-based creators 

Substack and X are two platforms that cater largely to content creators who favor the written word over filming video, but embracing video may be a growth strategy worth pursuing – particularly as these platforms themselves lean into video content as well. 

Davis hopes that video will provide her content a longer lifespan online than it does as posts on X, despite the fact that she’s camera shy. “I’m working on transferring a lot of my threads actually into YouTube Videos,” she said. “When I create threads on X, I like to create things that you can look back at five years from now, and it’s still something that you’ll find value in.”  

Meanwhile, Caroline Chambers, author of the “What to Cook When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking” Substack, which has 160,000 subscribers (20,000 of whom are paid), said that she credits Reels and Stories on Instagram for her newsletter’s subscriber success.   

“I really share glimpses into my life [on Instagram] and how I make that food happen within my busy, crazy working-mom life,” Chambers said, adding that it’s proof her recipes are easy and quick, just as she claims.  

On the other hand, relying on video to amplify written content is not always the right move. 

Hunter Harris, author of the “Hung Up” Substack and a former writer for New York Magazine’s Vulture, has 90,000 subscribers to her newsletter. And while her other channels have sizable followings as well – 157,000 followers on X, 42,000 followers on Instagram and 3,600 on TikTok – she said her Substack usually sends followers to her other channels, versus gaining newsletter subscribers from social media. 

X, Instagram and TikTok historically didn’t drive many clicks to her sign-up page in the first six months or so Harris spent promoting “Hung Up” on those channels. Now, to her, the idea of leaning on front-facing video to hype up each edition of the newsletter doesn’t seem worth it.

What we’ve heard

“When you think about the open exchange, it’s kind of a free-for-all. And so I think the buy side definitely is looking to do more on the programmatic guaranteed side, on the PMP side … The open exchange, that’s definitely, I think, where you’re seeing a depression.”

Geoff Schiller, CRO of Vox Media.

Personalizing TheSkimm

Newsletter publisher TheSkimm is rolling out personalized sections in its flagship daily newsletter starting this week, in an effort to boost email open and click-through rates and to sell branded content ad units.

The pitch was made to advertisers during the Cannes Lions Festival. TheSkimm’s CRO Mary Murcko declined to share its total newsletter subscriber base, but said AI and machine learning technology will be used to segment its audience into specific cohorts based on its email subscribers’ first-party data (such as what readers clicked on in past newsletters). Those cohorts will then be served tailored editorial content as well as specific messaging from advertisers. A spokesperson for TheSkimm said there is no set number of cohorts that will be created, nor is there a minimum number of subscribers in each cohort.

None of the content will be AI-generated, Murcko said, and the main news sections in TheSkimm’s daily newsletter will remain the same for everyone. The personalized sections will range from weather forecast and commerce recommendations to voter registration and local daycare information.

When asked if these ad units will cost advertisers more, Murcko said that it will depend on the campaign. She declined to share exact pricing, but noted the ads will have a “different rate structure as we go forward.”  But with branded content going to targeted cohorts, that means advertisers will inherently be getting less scale on their campaigns.

“Leveraging the AI [and] ML technology will get marketers closer to that personalized messaging approach akin to some direct snail mail tactics, but I would be concerned about delivery and scale against the target,” said one ad buyer, who requested anonymity. They could see this offering appeal to DTC advertisers, “as long as pricing isn’t too inflated with this advanced targeting to make it unappetizing.”

A second ad buyer said that, though reach would be smaller, the impact and performance of those ads should improve due to the ability to target a more specific audience. But ultimately, the “worth it” factor would come down to whether the client is prioritizing quality over quantity.

Dalia Youssefi, vp of retail media & data strategy at Mars United Commerce, said these ads could also be an opportunity to test how key performance metrics (like return on ad spend, cost per action and time spent on site) compare to more mass ad targeting.

This is not necessarily a new strategy among newsletter publishers. Digiday covered newsletter personalization back in 2022. At the time, some publishers found those efforts weren’t resonating with readers who simply wanted emails to highlight top stories from a publication. But the attention – and scrutiny – on using AI and machine learning technology to personalize content is a topic that’s gotten hotter than ever. – Sara Guaglione

Numbers to know

8%: The pay increase for two years agreed upon in a tentative contract deal between the union representing The Wall Street Journal staffers and Dow Jones. 

70%: The percentage of unionized staffers at The Daily Beast who are taking buyouts amid looming layoffs.

What we’ve covered

Publishers’ top tips for pitching advertisers at Cannes:

  • Increasingly, publishers are flocking to the Cannes Lions Festival as an opportunity to pack six months’ worth of face-to-face selling opportunities with marketers and agency heads into the span of a week. 
  • Executives from all genres of media companies shared with Digiday the best practices they’ve learned from pitching their publications at Cannes amid the chaos of the Croisette.

Learn more about how publishers are pitching themselves at Cannes this year here

The Trade Desk and Yahoo are locked in a trading dispute with a looming deadline:

  • The Trade Desk and Yahoo are entering the eleventh hour of crisis talks concerning how the latter labels its media inventory in a dispute that could result in the former party cutting advertisers’ access to Yahoo’s video content.
  • The industry’s largest independent demand-side platform began notifying media buying teams of such concerns and stating that it would cut open marketplace access to Yahoo’s video inventory if the issue were not resolved by June 17.  

Read more about the head-to-head here.

GARM and Ad Net Zero launch new standards to transform carbon emission measurement in media:

  • Standards for measuring ad carbon emissions have been overdue, but they’re finally here. Now, marketers can back up their green claims with solid benchmarks instead of fragmented data. 
  • This progress is thanks to the Global Media Sustainability Framework from the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) and Ad Net Zero.

Learn more about the new framework here

Daily Mail plans to debut a dozen YouTube shows in 2024 in long-form video push:

  • In a bid to earn more ad revenue, Daily Mail is making a big push into long-form video with plans to debut a dozen shows on YouTube by the end of this year.
  • Daily Mail hired 12 full-time staffers this year to oversee production on the newly formed shows, led by Patrick Bulger, who was hired in February. 

See why the Daily Mail wants to delve further into long-form video here.

What we’re reading

How Will Lewis became the CEO of the Washington Post:

Lewis is not the only British-born executive leading a U.S.-based news company, but his journey to the top of the Washington Post looks a little different, The Daily Beast reported. He grew rapidly as an investigative reporter at the Financial Times, but the period of his career spent working for Rupert Murdoch is a bit of a blemish on his résumé. Not to mention his history of questionable reporting tactics. 

ISIS is creating fake broadcasts made to look like CNN and Al Jazeera: 

Videos made to look like real broadcasts from mainstream news outlets like CNN and Al Jazeera are being posted online by the terror group ISIS, according to a report by Wired. Posted on YouTube in March, eight videos created by the organization remained on the platform for a month and a half before they were removed by the company.

Google’s CEO takes the stand during Ozy Media trial: 

According to The New York Times, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, testified in the fraud trial of Ozy Media founder Carlos Watson on Friday. Pichai said he never discussed a possible takeover of Ozy Media with Watson.

Vivek Ramaswamy’s plans for BuzzFeed are not a stunt, he says: 

In a conversation with Semafor, former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy claims that his investment into BuzzFeed (equivalent to an 8% stake) is well-intentioned to try and save the digital media company from bankruptcy. His plans include adding new political shows to BuzzFeed’s video portfolio, hosted by a range of political pundits from Tucker Carlson to Bill Maher. 

Con información de Digiday

Leer la nota Completa > Media Briefing: Top takeaways from the Digiday Podcast Creator series


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