Snapchat’s Attempt to Mint Their Own Celebrities

News Roundup #16: Andrew Yang bringing hype houses to NYC, Apple launching a paid podcasts, the power law on OnlyFans, and more

Welcome to Issue #16 of the Means of Creation weekly news roundup where we break down the latest news on the passion economy, including the happenings related to platforms, creators, startups, and trends.

This Week’s Interview: How Creators Became Digital Celebrities, with Evan Britton

This week we interviewed Evan Britton, founder of Famous Birthdays, the de facto celebrity wikipedia offering 200,000 biographies with a focus on Gen Z social media stars and creators. 

Currently, the site registers 30 million unique monthly visitors, with versions in Spanish as well as Portuguese. The site’s content on all four of its social channels (YouTubeTikTokTwitter, and Instagram) has been receiving more than a 100 million views every month. 

Find it as a podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotifyOvercastBreaker or wherever you listen to podcasts, or as a video on YouTube here. Or subscribe to the Means of Creation YouTube Channel. And now, onto the news. 

NYT Profiles Snapchat’s Newly Minted Millionaire Creators

(Image Source: Alex Welsh / NY Times)

What Happened?
  • This week Taylor Lorenz at the NY Times profiled several Snapchat creators that have become millionaires overnight. 
  • Since November, Snapchat has been distributing $1 million every day to creators to incentivize viral content creation using its Spotlight feature. 
  • The Spotlight feature lets users share short-form video content. The million dollars is split proportionally based on consumption/virality, similar to TikTok’s Creator Fund. 
👧 Li:
  • Snapchat is following the strategy used by Alex Zhu at Musical.ly. First you want to create the idea that anyone can be wildly successful, and then build out a strong creator middle class
  • Getting rich overnight is not really happening on TikTok anymore — CPMs are in the pennies for TikTok’s Creator Fund. 
👦 Nathan:
  • Snapchat seems to be incorporating lottery elements to incentivize posting. It’s more exciting to have a small chance of winning $1m rather than a strong chance of winning $10.
👧 Li:
  • Yeah exactly. TikTok does have lottery elements to it in terms of viewership and potential virality. But that doesn’t translate into dollars currently. 
  • I wonder how much creators are motivated by building an audience and status versus purely getting money. Are creators cross-posting the same video to try and get both — the potential audience growth on TikTok as well as the financial benefits on Snapchat? 
  • As a creator, we’ve been posting the same video on TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter Fleets, and Instagram Reels. Each one is good for different things: Fleets helps me reach older demographics like millennials, TikTok is best for going viral among the next generation. We know the Creator Fund isn’t going to pay us very much, but it creates great exposure. 
👦 Nathan:
  • I don’t think people care about money as much as the thrill and status of going viral. But for a company like Snapchat, money is easy to dole out and could be a way to get a positive feedback loop turning. You need a lot of content on a platform for some of it to be good, and for people to go there to view it and potentially create more. 
  • It’s the kind of thing you do to become more like TikTok rather than an alternative model to TikTok.
👧 Li:
  • Snapchat needs to demonstrate that they are a platform that will generate new stars, rather than just having most of them cross-posting from TikTok. Only then will they be able to attract new creators. 
👦 Nathan:
  • Yeah, generating a star is very different from generating a millionaire
👧 Li:
  • Exactly. Facebook tried to do something similar with Facebook Watch a year ago. Facebook was artificially inflating payouts to encourage creators who were getting paid a slice of their ad revenue, but it didn’t stick. 
  • It didn’t work because of two things. First, the payouts weren’t steady. Creators saw their payouts fall. And second, the folks who Gen Z really look up to weren’t there. There was no native Facebook Watch star. 
👦 Nathan:
  • I think The Beatles said it best:

Andrew Yang Wants to Bring Hype Houses to NYC 

(Image Source: Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images)

What Happened?
  • Andrew Yang recently announced his push to bring Hype Houses to NYC as a part of his mayoral bid. 
  • He wrote: “Our administration would also work to attract content creator collectives, such as TikTok Hype Houses, where young artists collaborate. We need to help create similar artist collectives that utilize new technologies.”
👧 Li:
  • I looked through the article and Yang only provides one quote. He hasn’t really made a real plan beyond suggesting that he wanted them to come to NYC. 
  • But it is interesting for what it implies. The entertainment industry is shifting from a few film studios and talent agencies controlling everything to these grassroots content creator houses. By attracting them, Andrew Yang could shift the nexus of this new model of entertainment to NYC. It’s easier, after all, to move a few creator houses than to move Paramount Pictures. 
👦 Nathan:
  • This reminds me of how different states have film subsidies: Michigan and Georgia come to mind. 
  • However, these subsidies exist mainly because of job creation. Filming in a new state could create hundreds of jobs, while creating a content house likely won’t. 
  • It seems to be a political tactic, and it seems to be working (we are talking about it!). It would be obvious for Yang to say “I support the entertainment industry” but it’s cool to specifically talk about Hype Houses. 
👧 Li:
  • It’s a tactic to make sure that he’s perceived as culturally in the know; in touch with the next generation. Like when AOC was on Twitch
  • I think it's going to be challenging to move content creator houses to NY because of the network effects of LA. In addition to all of the talent and infrastructure, many creators have aspirations to do traditional Hollywood things like star in TV shows or movies. 
  • Maybe he can move Type House to NYC. 🤷‍♀️
👦 Nathan:
  • Maybe he can take a page out of Snapchat’s playbook and randomly give $1m to lucky Hype Houses that spring up in NYC. 

Apple Rumored to be Launching Premium Podcast Subscription Service

(Image Source: Apple)

What Happened?
  • Apple is planning to launch a premium podcast subscription service later this year. The company is also set to produce original audio content as a part of this premium offering. 
  • The subscription will be a part of the Apple One bundle. The extent to which content will be paywalled is still speculative.
👧 Li:
  • I’m in disbelief that this is finally happening. Apple pioneered podcasting but has neglected it for so long and has made $0 from it. Per rumors (which I cited in my a16z Report from 2019), the entire podcasting team at Apple had a single-digit headcount. 
👦 Nathan:
  • If this rumor is true, the impact on the podcast world is going to be roughly equivalent to what happened when Spotify got into podcasting — huge. It’s hard to overstate. 
👧 Li:
  • I agree that this is huge news. Over the years, a few startups like Luminary tried to create a premium offering but failed, because the Netflix for podcasts a.k.a. Apple Podcasts already existed as a free service. Now that they are moving to a paid model, it's going to mark the end of the open podcasting ecosystem and lead to more walled gardens.
👦 Nathan:
  • I don’t think people realize how things will change now that Apple has a paid podcasting model. For example, they could partner with creators where they bring on exclusive content in exchange for a fee or revenue share. Spotify has been bolstering their business over the last year (acquiring Gimlet MediaParcastThe RingerAnchor, and Megaphone) in a similar way, and has Amazon as well with their acquisition of Wondery.
  • It’s kinda shocking that there isn’t a bigger response to this.
👧 Li:
  • Podcasters must be talking about it: maybe we just aren’t in the loop as much?
  • I think the negative response against this would probably stem from other podcasting apps such as Overcast, while the overall majority of the market i.e. publishers and creators perhaps view it positively. 
👦 Nathan:
  • While listeners just aren’t aware of what’s happening. 
👧 Li:
  • This also suggests that whatever Spotify is doing is working and that there is real money to be made in podcasting (or that Spotify is a threat to Apple). 
👦 Nathan:
  • That could be the case. But I could also imagine a scenario where it was more of a sequencing question. Maybe Apple envisioned this years ago and rolled things out one at a time. 
  • It makes sense under their Apple One bundle. Podcasting isn’t as appealing as a standalone offering. But it’s more compelling combined with iCloud Storage, Apple Arcade, Apple Fitness, Apple Music, Apple News, and Apple TV. 
👧 Li:
  • The 1.5 billion iOS users and 320 million Spotify users might suggest who podcasters would prioritize. However, opting for Apple Podcasts also means you aren’t reaching anyone on Android. 
👦 Nathan:
  • Yes, people do want to reach the widest possible audience. But they also want their projects funded. 
  • This shift to paid podcasts could be really good for podcasters who create expensive content and need a year or so for production. They could potentially sign an exclusive deal to get funding and at least break even. 
  • I experienced this when I was at Gimlet. Costly productions were the hardest to finance in a free, ad-based podcasting world. 

The Growing Financial Disparities between OnlyFans Creators

(Image Source: Getty Images / Via Bloomberg)

What Happened?
  • The NYT recently profiled OnlyFans creators revealing the financial disparities between them on the platform. 
  • The number of creators has grown from 120,000 in 2019 to more than 1 million in 2020. This rapid influx of models, porn stars, and celebrities with preexisting social followings has adversely affected upcoming creators.
👧 Li:
  • One of the things that I got from this article is that people are bad at marketing. People are confusing what it means to be a creator with just having a job. 
  • I looked up some of the girls’ profiles: they seem to be bad at adding links in their bios, posting intriguing & attractive photos, and optimizing their top of funnel growth. 
  • There needs to be a mindset shift between gig work (signing up to a platform and making money) versus creator work (building an audience and monetizing it). People are misunderstanding what it means to be a successful creator.
👦 Nathan:
  • The average level of success on any creator platform is going to be near zero, and this is not unexpected. 
  • But the more important point is the sad state of America’s socioeconomic support systems — the fact that anyone feels like they need to do this when they don’t want to. People should have more suitable options to make a living.
👧 Li:
  • Agreed. The fact that we have people with full-time jobs who need to resort to online sex work to make ends meet is indicative of deeper societal issues.
  • Aella (a previous MoC guest at top OnlyFans creator) shared the earnings distribution for OnlyFans creators - it’s an extreme power law:

ICYMI

Poshmark Offered Power Creators a Chance to Buy Shares Before IPO (Link)

Medium Acquires Social Reading Platform Glose (Link)

Of Note is Building a Network of Creator Coworking Spaces (Link)

Axios is Launching a $10,000/year Internal Communications Product (Link)

Fortnite Streamer Breaks Twitch Record with 2 million Concurrent Viewers (Link)

BI profiles Unruly — An OnlyFans Influencer Agency (Link)

Latest Twitch and Facebook Gaming Stats (Link)

Instagram Leaked Presentation Shows Posting Advice for Influencers (Link)

Passion Economy Financings

  • Descript, a platform that provides audio and video editing tools to content creators, raised a $30 million Series B led by Spark Capital with Andreessen Horowitz and Redpoint Ventures. Their clients range from NPR, Vice, The New York Times, and The Washington Post to smaller media outlets and individual content creators. 
  • Humanz, a platform that uses AI to connect brands with creators and micro-influencers raised a $3 million seed round led by NGN Partners and Buffett Group. The platform has 50,000 registered influencers and has powered 800,000 collaborations through its Tinder-like swipe to match feature. 


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