Why The Creator Economy Won’t Replace The Attention Economy
Attention economy companies will increasingly incorporate creator economy tools into their products, building another revenue stream while strategically entrenching their dominance.
Attention Economy Companies
In the attention economy, human attention is viewed as a limited resource, and the major social media platforms are the brokers. The major social media platforms all operate with a similar model - make it super easy for users to generate and share content, then surface this content at the right times to the right people (along with a range of other tactics) to maximise engagement (attention). Once this attention is gathered, these social media platforms can then sell it to advertisers. On certain platforms e.g. YouTube, a share of this ad revenue is shared with the creator generating the content. This model is highly interesting because the individual generating the commodity (i.e. attention) receives no financial benefit from this transaction. All that the individual receives is the utility from consuming the content created by the creator.
Main benefits to each party:
Consumer - Utility from consuming content
Creator - Distribution of their work, rented audience, [share of ad revenue]
Platforms - Advertiser revenue
Advertisers - Attention from potential customers
In many ways, this model creates a win-win-win-win situation where all parties receive what they want. However, the rise of the Creator Economy shows that creators are growing both in numbers and power.
The Rise of the Creator Economy
The creator economy refers to new models where the creator directly monetises their owned audience (e.g. direct subscriptions, VIP events, etc.)
The Attention Economy isn’t going anywhere
While the major social media platforms have all but monopolised the world’s attention, demand for human attention from advertisers has grown even faster. This is reflected in the upward trend in CaC.
Further, while the Creator Economy is often positioned as an alternative to the Attention Economy, there is nothing inherent to the two model that would prevent both from co-existing. In fact, most creators can't and don't want to leave the Attention Economy as social media platforms provide them with distribution (along with additional revenue).
The Fusion of these Two Models
The rise of the Creator Economy hasn’t gone unnoticed by the major social media platforms. Many have already launched new features or copycat products to build their creator offerings.
Twitter Super Follows - Charge for tweets
Instagram’s Affiliate Tool - Native support for creators to be rewarded for the purchases they drive
Facebook Bulletin - Facebook’s Substack clone
The success of these new offerings will have the effect of giving the major social media platforms another revenue stream, while strengthening their network effects by entrenching their dominance as the go-to destination for distribution and now creator monetisation. As the Creator Economy continues to grow, interest from the established social media platforms will only increase.
This is a simplified view of this rapidly evolving space and many nuances exist. For example, treating attention as uni-directional versus multi-directional, audiences versus community, etc. Each of these topics are massively interesting, and I will cover them in future posts.