LinkedIn Is Launching A Creator Program

Also: Mark Cuban’s plan to take on Clubhouse, Influencer unions, Triller’s latest content strategy, TikTok’s recipe-saving feature, and more

This week: We’re welcoming Sam Lessin, General Partner at Slow Ventures, and columnist at The Information covering creators, platforms, and startups writ large. Join us on Clubhouse or YouTube at 1:30 PM Pacific / 4:30 PM Eastern on Thursday (today)! If you can’t make it, no worries! It will be recorded.

Previously: We interviewed Allen Lau, the co-founder and CEO of Wattpad! Here is a full transcript to read-along with the podcast and the YouTube video. 

ICYMI: Our very own Li Jin just launched Atelier Ventures, her debut fund investing in the passion economy! (We strongly recommend watching the announcement on TikTok)

And now, onto the news…


Top Stories in the Passion Economy, 02/17/21

LinkedIn Is Planning To Launch a Creator Program 

What Happened? 

  • LinkedIn is building a creator management team. The platform’s editor-in-chief Daniel Roth will be hiring a ‘Head of Community.’  
  • Specific program details have not been revealed, but the job posting hints: “We’re starting a community management team to support and grow our content creators, with the mission to source, nurture, uplevel and retain these important voices.” 

What this means: 

Nathan:

  • Is this new? LinkedIn has had prominent creators (a.k.a. “INfluencers”) for a long time, and somebody had to have been in charge of managing them? 

Li:

Li: 

  • One interesting thing about this is that since LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft, they can afford to pay creators a lot if they’re serious.

Nathan:

  • Yeah, definitely! They want people spending time on the platform. Which means they need to retain their most engaging creators. Monetization is a logical way to keep them around. 

Li:

  • Totally. Also, it’s not just creators. I think LinkedIn can use content creators to improve platform engagement from regular users, too. 
  • Today, LinkedIn is the last to know the career-related moves that users make. Whereas, Twitter is the first to know. “starting something new” or “personal announcement”-type posts are leading indicators.
  • Once content creators make LinkedIn more engaging, more users will start sharing their latest professional updates. Then LinkedIn can monetize through its traditional revenue streams. 

Nathan: 

  • So do you think it will work?

Li: 

  • I am so far away from LinkedIn’s creator universe. I think Silicon Valley uses Twitter like LinkedIn is meant to be used. 
  • It could probably work for people with more traditional jobs outside of tech. 

Nathan:

  • It could work depending on the type of content creation they incentivize.
  • I think a great starting point would be Lynda, which they acquired and is now called LinkedIn Learning. Course creators are a natural fit!


Mark Cuban Is Launching a Clubhouse Rival 

What Happened? 

  • Mark Cuban is launching Fireside—an app that lets creators monetize live conversations with their fans. 
  • It also lets creators record these conversations for on-demand listening later—a feature that Clubhouse does not offer currently. 
  • The company is in stealth mode currently. Unlike Clubhouse, Fireside will be exclusive to a curated slate of creators, on an invite-only basis. It “won’t let everyone speak publicly” according to the founder. 

What this means: 

Nathan: 

  • It’s important to disclose that we’re both tiny angel investors in Clubhouse, so we’re somewhat biased!

Li: 

  • Yes, tiny angel investors.
  • Unlike Twitter Spaces or Facebook's Clubhouse-like product, the disadvantage that Fireside has is that it’s starting from scratch and does not have a built-in social network. They can only compete with Clubhouse on the basis of content. But Clubhouse has a year-long head start when it comes to content and the users using the platform.

Nathan: 

  • Agreed. I hope Clubhouse adds some of Fireside’s features—like letting creators record conversations for on-demand listening later—but I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t.
  • Of course it’s better for users if they have the option to listen later, but if Clubhouse let creators record rooms, they’d attract a very different kind of creator. It’d become flooded with podcast hosts who want promotion.
  • It’d also change the feeling of urgency that drives Clubhouse. It’s easy for me to set aside podcasts because I know I can always come back to them later. But Clubhouse is ephemeral, which vaults it to the top of my priority stack. I need to decide whether to tune in now, or never.

Li: 

  • Agree. Podcasts are about maximizing information density, while Clubhouse is about maximizing FOMO. 

Nathan: 

  • Yeah, totally.
  • The other thing is: Fireside will be exclusive to certain creators on an invite only basis and won't let everyone speak publicly. If Clubhouse would’ve done this they wouldn't be nearly as big as they are right now. 

Li:

  • I agree, this is reminiscent of the difference between YouTube and Vimeo (a more curated content platform). 
  • I don't know any examples of a more curated version of a UGC platform becoming bigger than the non-curated free-for-all version. 
  • It’s tremendously challenging for a centralized entity to anticipate what users want and which creators would fill this need. 

Nathan: 

  • Right. Is Mark Cuban gonna decide whether the “shoot your shot” room is a good idea? 
  • Trying to be a Clubhouse competitor without the elements that make it engaging (and also being a year behind on the network effects) will be really hard.


Influencers Can Now Unionize

What Happened? 

  • The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) recently expanded its membership eligibility to cover online content creators. The guild currently represents 160,000 professionals working in film, television, radio. 
  • There are no minimum follower-count requirements for eligibility, but health and pension benefits have certain work requirements.
  • The union will be able to represent creators in their dealings with brands, but not with creator platforms themselves.  

What this means: 

Nathan:

  • Li, my question for you is: Historically, management (especially in America) hasn’t liked labor unionizing. You've been serving as management, investing in companies, sitting on boards. Do you think companies should be more friendly to unions than they have been?

Li:

  • Sometimes, I feel very conflicted in my role as a VC because I think that platforms do have to extract value from their participants in order to be successful. But they can't extract too much, and need to align themselves with their creators to succeed. 
  • It’s a balancing act between extracting too little (Twitter) and too much (Instagram). For example: Twitter is chronically under-monetized because it does not extract enough value from its users. On the other hand, there’s a perception that Instagram extracts too much value (in the form of advertising revenue), which recently has led users leaving to join more creator-friendly platforms where they can get paid natively. 
  • People talk about the voice versus exit model of how to express feedback. You can either voice your dissatisfaction, or just exit, and withdraw from the relationship. 
  • We're at a moment in time when there are so many alternatives for creators that they don't really need to unionize or voice their dissent; they can just exit to another platform. 

Nathan: 

  • But can we really exit Twitter? Technically, yes. But..

Li: 

  • Of course there are some platforms that make you feel like you can't really exit them. We did exit Clubhouse (meaning we never really built Means of Creation on Clubhouse, but instead did it as a standalone podcast) but now we feel compelled to enter.

Nathan: 

  • Exactly! We had a choice but sometimes there are such strong incentives pointing towards certain platforms that they seem indispensable. 

Li:

  • The network effects compel you to be a part of them. It's like our conversation with Chris Messina. How much choice do Uber drivers actually have? People talk about how the drivers can stop  driving for Uber if they're dissatisfied with their working conditions. But can they really? Because there's no other viable alternative. 


Triller Is Roping In Celebrities for Original Content 

What Happened?

  • Triller is executing a linear content programming strategy through Triller TV—launching 40 half-hour shows featuring celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, the D’Amelio family, 2Chainz, Perez Hilton, and others. 
  • Triller co-founder and chairman Bobby Sarnevesht said: “The Triller audience made it clear they wanted more direct content, that offers a closer look into the lives of social media stars, musicians and other celebrities focused on music, sports, influencers, fashion and lifestyle,” 

What this means: 

Li:

  • This is reminiscent of the early YouTube strategy in 2011 where they spent $100 million on 100 different content channels and worked with a lot of celebrities and actors to bring original content to YouTube.
  • From what I know, that strategy was not successful.

Nathan: 

  • Triller is getting further and further away from the mechanics that made TikTok succeed. It’s operating like a Hollywood studio and not a social platform—moving from incentivizing creators to post frequently to paying creators to make exclusive content for Triller TV.
  • Creators aren’t organically posting on Triller because they have no incentive to. That’s an existential problem and solving it by paying for exclusive content won’t work. It might temporarily cover it up with a boost in platform engagement numbers, but it doesn’t build lasting value.

Li:

  • It kind of makes sense that this would be their strategy, though. You want content on the app that users can’t find anywhere else. Right now, Triller is in a distant second place and creators seem to be just cross-posting their TikTok videos to Triller. That’s never going to compel enough audience members to engage with the app. So enter original content.
  • However, I’m also not entirely sure if these traditional celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, and 2Chainz are really good at creating short-form content. 

Nathan: 

  • Platforms need to have native creators who push the medium forward. That's what we've learned from TikTok. 
  • If I were running Triller, I would try to figure out which community it can uniquely serve and be indispensable in. Twitter survived against Facebook despite being much smaller because it was indispensable to tech and journalism communities. Triller needs to do the same. 


TikTok is Testing a Recipe-Saving Feature for Food Videos 

What Happened?

  • TikTok is partnering with Whisk— an app that lets users convert recipes into shopping lists. 
  • A ‘recipe’ button will be overlayed on food related TikToks letting viewers save recipes as shopping lists. 
  • Both platforms are currently onboarding food-related content creators as early adopters.

What this means: 

Nathan: 

  • It's unusual for a huge social platform like TikTok to integrate with other apps. Then again, maybe it shouldn’t be? 
  • This integration basically means TikToks will now have links to recipe pages on Whisk. But shouldn’t they be able to have links to any webpage on the internet? 
  • The fact that special partnerships are needed to support basic integrations like these illustrates the amount of control certain platforms have over creating winners. It is anti-competitive and worse for the internet. 
  • But I understand why they do it. Opening up a platform as big as TikTok comes with a series of content moderation challenges. Content quality has a direct effect on user-retention. 
  • TikTok isn't the first or only app to restrict content sharing this way. It's a broader problem with Instagram, Snapchat, etc. 

Li: 

  • The objective of this integration is for TikTok to retain users on the platform instead of going off-platform in search of information. 
  • I see many user comments saying they’ve learnt more from TikTok than they’ve ever learned at school. (somewhat jokingly I hope?!)
  • This integration makes sense from a directional perspective given how Musically had its roots as an education app. 
  • TikTok also pushed initiatives like EduTok in India (before the ban) because education was one of the fastest growing content categories on the platform, along with food and cooking related content. The integration with Whisk will help retain these engaged aspiring chefs on TikTok.
  • P.S. I recently tried the feta pasta that was made viral by Tiktok—it was bomb. 👩‍🍳


ICYMI

Facebook Is Building A Clubhouse Competitor 

What Happened?

  • Sources for the NYT reported that Facebook is building a Clubhouse-like product, just 5 days after Mark Zuckerberg made an appearance on the platform.
  • The product will be built by Facebook’s ‘New Product Experimentation Team.’ 


Shopify Is Integrating With Instagram and Facebook 

What Happened?

  • Shopify is integrating it’s Shop Pay checkout technology with Instagram and Facebook. 
  • Shopify merchants selling their products on Facebook and Instagram can now let buyers complete purchases using Shop Pay’s checkout technology which is 70% faster.   
  • Shop Pay has facilitated $20 billion in total sales since 2017. It processed 137 million orders in 2020 alone. 


Twitter Is Considering Subscriptions 

What Happened?

  • Twitter is planning to add digital payment capabilities that will enable users to monetize their followers through tips, or recurring subscriptions. 
  • Twitter closed 2020 with 192 million DAUs, up 27% YOY. The company also registered $1.15 billion in advertising revenue in Q4. 


Mailchimp Integrates with Patreon

What Happened?

  • Mailchimp recently announced an integration with Patreon, which enables creators to run paid newsletters. 
  • Creators can target patrons based on their membership tier. Creators also have access to analytics such as open-rates and clickthrough rates. 
  • Mailchimp has existing integrations with Stripe for accepting payments, Eventbrite for organizing events,  and Canva for designing content. 


A Landing Page Builder That Lets Creators Monetize 

What Happened?

  • New startup Beacons recently launched a landing-page builder for creators that offers native monetization tools. (Apart from standard link aggregation features.)
  • The platform offers 4 monetization tools: A Cameo-esque feature that lets creators monetize fan requests for personalized content, the ability to accept donations, sell digital products, and also embed TikTok videos with affiliate links. 


Instagram Updates Algorithm to Demote Reels with TikTok Watermark 

What Happened?

  • Instagram is updating its algorithm to ‘deemphasize’ Reels that have a TikTok watermark.  
  • Instagram also issued other creator guidelines—encouraging them to start trends or challenges, and use licensed music from Instagram's library. 


Podz is Trying to Solve The Podcast Discovery Problem  

What Happened?

  • Podz is trying to solve the podcast discovery problem by creating an audio news feed with 60-second highlights from your favorite podcasts. 
  • Podz’s machine learning model detects the most engaging parts of the podcast and automatically creates a 60-second highlight. 
  • The platform has raised $2.5 million in pre-seed funding led by M13, Katie Couric,  and Paris Hilton. 


MrBeast Burgers Launches in Canada

What Happened?

  • Popular creator Jimmy Donaldson a.k.a. MrBeast is launching his food chain MrBeast Burgers in 5 Canadian cities. Consumers can place an order through the MrBeast Burger App or through UberEats and DoorDash. 
  • MrBeast is the second highest paid YouTuber in the world, recording a total revenue of $24 million. He has 53 million subscribers. 


Passion Economy Financings

  • Reduct.Video, a platform that uses AI and natural language processing to transcribe videos recently raised a $4 million seed round led by Greylock and South Park Commons. Reduct is being used by companies such as Dell, Spotify, Facebook, and others. 
  • TalkShopLive, a platform live video shopping platform recently raised a $3 million seed funding round led by Spero Ventures. The platform has worked with big publishers like Penguin Random House and Harper Collins, but also 3,500 small businesses. 
  • Circle, a community membership platform for creators, recently raised a $4 million seed round led by Notation Capital. Circle recently crossed $1 million ARR and currently hosts 2,000 communities. 
  • Zencastr, a platform that helps podcasters record host audio locally, raised a $4.6 million seed round. The platform reportedly hosts 6% of all podcasts i.e. 800,000 to 1.2 million shows across the world. 


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