The creator economy is growing steeply, imposing stiff competition on the few well-known journalists and media companies that once enjoyed monopoly control. While promoting decentralized creation and distribution of content, the creator economy empowers individuals to leverage their skills and creativity, directly reach their audience, and encash their talent. As a matter of fact, TikTok is launching TikTok LIVE subscriptions, "a new program that will allow creators to generate recurring revenue via payments from their top fans."

Indeed, today’s fastest-growing type of small business, the creator economy attracts growing interest among the Gen Z population. Interestingly, a survey suggests that more American kids desire to be a YouTube creator (29%) rather than an astronaut (11%) when they grow up, validating its growing popularity against traditional aspirations.

Attracting, monetizing, and retaining the right audience is key to a content creator’s success. If you are a creator or plan to become one, knowing the importance of owning your audience and its practical know-how is critical to maximizing your earning potential.

What is the creator economy?

The creator economy refers to an ecosystem of businesses built by independent content creators, curators, and community builders, including social media influencers, bloggers, and videographers. In this business model, creators produce exclusive content for their audience to consume and get directly funded by them in return for it.

Even though this concept dates back only a decade, it is thriving today. It’s estimated to be a $104.2 billion industry involving over 50 million creators worldwide. The younger demographic has a keen interest in this segment due to its ease of entry through accessible publishing platforms, availability of modern supportive technology, and the relatively lower starting up costs of digital media.

While most successful creators usually begin on a social media platform, their long-term focus is on owning their audience. This ownership may be through websites, apps, or other tools and is guided by the idea of building up a loyal community of content subscribers. 

Why is owning the audience important for a content creator?

The creator economy started on social media channels–platforms that initially monetized all the user data via ad revenue. This compelled the early creators to resort to product placements or affiliate marketing to keep their wheel moving financially. 

The practice of investing in owning the audience started shifting the power of monetization to the creators. Essentially, it preserves a creator’s autonomy and protects against the whims of powerful technology companies and social media sites. In addition, it introduces greater control, independence, and improved predictability of recurring earnings. 

Owning the audience through subscription models unfolds a chance to build direct and deep relationships, explore additional revenue streams, and scale faster. 

eMarketer shares that 41% of the U.S. creators use their websites or blogs to connect directly with their fans. Today, 15% of consumers subscribe to their preferred creator’s membership site, showing an 8% increase in direct subscriptions since last year.

How are content creators offering subscriptions?

Unlike traditional commerce, where brands monetize by selling a particular product or service, the creator economy enables exploring creative, less conventional ways to monetize content. Offering subscriptions forms a highly sought-after method to secure stable, recurring revenues for a creator.

Some popular ways to join the creator subscription industry include: 

  • Providing coaching and teaching for subjects that require specialized knowledge, ongoing support, or involve changing subject matter

  • Offering subscription memberships to resource libraries if you own a vast library of content that you can bundle up and offer unlimited access

  • Introducing paid newsletters if you love writing, have the knack for solving a specific problem, and can create specialized content for it

  • Building exclusive communities and networks to host regular meetups–virtual or in-person–and providing exclusive member discounts or specialized merchandise

  • Offering retainer subscription packages in return for a set amount of work that you can hand over regularly

How to build and grow a content subscriber audience

Building and growing a content subscriber audience requires consistency, creativity, and patience. It starts with attracting the right audience and transitions towards retaining their continued interest and engagement.

Some actionable ways to that end include: 

  • Starting strategically by clearly defining your target audience, subscriber audience size, and outlining a realistic time-bound goal that you want to attain with your strategy

  • Interacting with your audience regularly to ascertain the exact kind of content they like and investing focused efforts into producing and distributing that

  • Following SEO best practices to ensure that you’re discoverable for those searching for the type of content you produce

  • Engaging with the same audience across channels by following an omnichannel approach and ensuring that you always stay on top of their minds

  • Collaborating with other popular creators to achieve a shared, compounded growth in subscriber audience

  • Including a prominent, compelling call to action with your content and requesting the audience to shift to your platform and subscribe 

  • Providing a stellar experience at every touchpoint on your digital real estate – from the way the content is delivered, the graphics or interface quality, to a seamless subscription billing experience, and excellent after-sales support

The future of the creator economy

Given that the appetite for consuming digital content is growing exponentially among consumers and that Web 3.0 is almost here, the future for digital creators certainly looks quite bright. 

In an ecosystem that presently comprises about 50 million creators, the count of professional creators (those creating content full time) currently adds up to only two million. This implies that the remaining 48 million are amateur creators pursuing it part-time, well-indicating towards the possibility of a future shift to full-time. 

At best, that transition is a matter of time, how fast they can master the holy grail of monetization, and outperform their earnings in comparison to a typical 9 to 5 role. From a financial perspective, offering subscriptions as a creator is a potent strategy to secure stable, recurring revenues and ensure continual growth.