It’s hard to overstate how monumental and empowering the digital revolution has been for independent creators.
Prior to the early-oughts, the world was still dependent on print media, newspapers, TV, and the giant publishers and networks behind them. Even as those entities moved online, they still served as gatekeepers, deciding who was published, who got a show, and who wasn’t/didn’t.
Then, EVERYTHING changed.
I remember in 2005/2006 when Jessalyn was in grad school for fine art, YouTube started becoming a curiosity for some of the artists. Back then, after decades and decades of studio/network controlled programming, it suddenly felt like “wait, anyone can just film themselves and publish a video for the world to watch?”
It seemed like a novelty, but also felt revolutionary at the same time. We just couldn’t imagine where things were headed.
Now, just 15 years later, independent publishing enabled by YouTube, blogging, podcasting and social media has completely upended control of attention and audience building.
I read in the New York Times recently about a right-wing pundit who generates more monthly engagement online than The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN combined.
Politics aside, let that sink in for a minute. In what world do we live in where an independent publisher can not just compete, but win, against the biggest, most established, and well-funded media outlets in the richest country in the world?
It’s not just politics, either. Joe Rogan published his podcast independently for 10 years and quietly amassed one of the largest audiences in the world with 190 million monthly downloads as of 2019. Then, earlier this year, he signed a deal with Spotify worth $100 MILLION DOLLARS to move his podcast to the platform.
These are some of the biggest independent creator success stories, but the examples run deep lately. PewDiPie’s YouTube channel has amassed over 26 BILLION views of people watching him play video games. Marques Brownlee (MBKHD) has between 2 and 10 million+ peoplewatching every time he releases a new video reviewing the latest tech gadget.
Lilly Singh earned her spot as the host of A Little Late with Lilly Singh on NBC after years of building her own audience on YouTube. She became first openly bisexual person, as well as the first person of Indian and South Asian descent, to host an American broadcast major network late-night talk show.
These days, it’s not individuals who are in search of publishers to find an audience, it’s the publishers who are desperately courting independent creators who bring the audience (and relevance) with them.
I have a feeling we’re only at the beginning of this revolution.
Platforms and tools that give creators greater ability to reach and monetize an audience are being launched and innovated with increasing speed.
Just over five years ago, if a creator wanted to launch a paid newsletter or membership or online course, it might take weeks or months to build and glue the right technologies together. Now? It might take only a few hours. With more and more of the grunt work being automated, creators are increasingly able to focus just on… creating.
As I’m in the process of a massive digital housekeeping and sweeping contemplation of what I want to work on over the next decade or two, I can tell you one thing for certain, I’m 100% in on independent creators.
Whether it’s supporting or coaching or creating tools for, or just being one myself, I’ve never been more confident about the opportunities that lie ahead for individual people who make and publish great things online.
Creators rule the world. Don’t underestimate what an incredible change this is and will continue to be.
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