The Creator Gold Rush: A Tech Race to Own Your Subscribers


Did you hear the news? YouTube has launched a subscription feature to help creators drive subscription revenue from their audience! I’m sorry, I actually meant that Spotify just announced that they are releasing a feature for audiences to subscribe and pay for access to specific podcasts from their favorite creators.

Or wait a minute, am I thinking of Apple’s latest announcement? Or perhaps I am getting confused with Patreon’s recent announcement of an additional $155M? Or was this actually about Twitter announcing super tweets, or heaven-forbid, am I thinking of that legacy platform we all used back in the day called Facebook?!

Needless to say, there is a gold rush happening. In what feels similar to the desperate attempt from tech companies to rush to market and capitalize on the ICO craze that fueled crypto’s rise and fall back in 2018, major tech platform after major tech platform has jumped in their covered wagon to head westward after seeing the golden opportunity that Patreon and OnlyFans foresaw years ago.

These major tech platforms are all now desperately trying to position their platforms to gobble up as much of this sweet subscription revenue as possible.

But are they too late?

Maybe, but maybe not. Regardless of who wins creator subscriptions in the long run, there are a few things creators should consider:

  • The features in these major tech platforms are vertically integrated, but creators are and should be horizontally integrated. By this I mean that creators need to diversify their audience and the number of social media channels that they are active on. While I won’t say that all creators should be like Gary Vee and work to maximize one’s presence on every social media platform on the internet at all times, platform diversification is clearly becoming more and more of an important strategy as deplatforming becomes more common. The old marketing adage that still rings true today is that there is owned media, borrowed media and earned media. Owned media is your email list and website, borrowed is your YouTube channel, and earned is when another creator or publisher gives you attention on their media channel. If your borrowed media channel gets killed, you better hope your owned channel can stand on its own two legs.
  • So if the best strategy is to diversify, what incentive is there for a creator to fragment their audience significantly by chopping up subscription revenue on a channel by channel basis. Can a creator who is active on YouTube actively tend to their subscription fans and provide them with premium content on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter at the same time? Or does it make much more sense to focus on one major subscription community on Patreon and drive all activity through Patreon. This way, the creator could invest his or her time and resources into making that single channel the best subscription experience possible.
  • So we understand the incentives for creators to diversify, but what about the incentive for tech companies to begin building their platforms more and more in a way that penalizes creators for NOT using their platform dependent features. We’ve already seen this historically when Facebook suppressed (and still suppresses) posts from everyday users who link out to YouTube. It’s in Facebook’s interest to incentivize users to upload videos directly to Facebook rather than sending traffic to YouTube. Will we see the same content suppression techniques applied to platforms like Patreon?
  • This same concept and question applies not just to subscription features, but also to other monetization features that are platform dependent, such as Facebook’s recent brand marketplace announcement. While I have my own opinions on marketplaces and the creator economy in another article, the question remains: should creators be investing more time into one platform and it’s platform dependent feature set, or taking a platform agnostic approach?

As the leader of an organization that helps thousands of creators earn an income each year through brand partnerships, I continue to see first hand how most creators are continuing to take a platform agnostic approach and diversify their audience across media channels as much as possible. Just like investing in the stock market, diversification is important. It might not seem like it’s important when things are going great, but if anything should happen to one of your social media accounts, you’ll see just how important diversification will be.

What do you think? Should creators invest in subscription services on a single platform, or choose a platform agnostic provider like Patreon? Let me know in the comments

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