Charting the Course: Navigating the Perfect Storm of Challenges and Opportunities in the Creator Economy

Jordan Balke | January 9, 2024

As a Tom Scott viewer, I had been aware of his upcoming farewell video for many months. When I watched that video, I realized just how impactful this move was going to be for the creator economy and the influx of Content Creator Retirees we should expect in the coming year.

The phrase “Creator Economy” didn’t make a public emergence until early 2009, yet in the last year, the creator economy has been estimated to include more than 200 million active creators and $100 billion globally. In the next three years, it’s expected to double in size. In a fast-growing field, why would more creators want to retire, how can all creators enable themselves to have long and sustainable careers, and how can creators turn the retiring of colleagues into growth opportunities?

In addition to Tom Scott, MatPat, host of the Theorist channels, recently announced his upcoming departure from YouTube. While I appreciated Mat’s nod to Tom as well, I have no doubt this has weighed heavily on his mind for many months, if not years. If anything, the matched independent assessment and conclusion of the creator landscape by two major and established creators shows that now is very much a perfect storm of reasons why a creator may choose this year to retire from content creation.

The Perfect Storm

The contributing causes of these retirements are likely numerous and interconnected. Over the last several years, the creator community has experienced significant flux in revenue streams, posing a substantial challenge for creators seeking robust and stable income sources. The unpredictability of Adsense and other fluctuating income models adds stress to the creator's life. Moreover, establishing new revenue streams often demands more startup funds than many creators possess. Even with companies offering startup funds, creators are increasingly wary, having witnessed the havoc wreaked by poorly managed MCNs in the past.

Another notable trend is the rise of B2B consulting and work within the creator economy. Creators are increasingly leveraging their creative-adjacent expertise to establish their own consulting and management companies. This shift not only offers diversification but also presents an alternative career trajectory for seasoned creators.

Additionally, the shifting focus of audience attention across platforms has introduced new challenges. Each platform prioritizes different content elements, necessitating constant optimization. This shift, coupled with platforms making it harder to connect meaningfully with decentralized audiences, creates additional complications for content creators. Moreover, creative burnout looms larger when creators are forced to divert their focus from the creative process to non-creative aspects like platform and income strategy. As branded content changes, especially with the rise of microinfluencers and TikTok Shop, creators are dealing with an increasingly crowded space.

And of course, there are likely many other reasons that any individual creator might personally consider in their reasons for retiring. Certainly, I hope positive reasons will outweigh negative reasons for any retiring creator, but it’s also easy to see how the elimination of the above concerns might be a positive enough reason in itself to make retirement an appealing option. But not everyone wants to fly off into the literal sunset for their next chapter, so what are those who want to stick around on the platforms to do with all of this information?

What about thriving instead of retiring?

Even though we can expect to see more retirements from content creation throughout the upcoming months and years, the creator economy still has dozens of examples of “the old guard” of YouTube sticking around and thriving throughout the years. We’ve seen Philip DeFranco make versions of approximately the same show for 17 years with much success. The vlogbrothers expanded on their original videos into now one of the larger creator-founded companies, but still maintain their bi-weekly videos on the channel which started it all. WheezyWaiter started making videos in 2007 and was still experimenting with content in 2018 enough to skyrocket views and ultimately increase his subscribers immensely.

There are plenty of examples of creators who have forged paths in creation, landed somewhere sustainable, and want to keep on thriving! For current and upcoming creators, continuing the creative journey requires a strategic approach by honestly assessing pain points and identifying the best opportunities for growth, sustainability, and diversification. 

Firstly, outsourcing non-creative and draining tasks as soon as financially feasible reduces burnout risks. There are aspects of running a content business that cost far more than their time, and prioritizing the well-being of the creator(s) is paramount. Additionally, leveraging data-driven strategies, gathering specific audience feedback, and implementing best practices establish varied income streams with higher stability levels. These steps empower creators to navigate the evolving landscape and build enduring careers.

Finally, owning your audience involves collecting contact information, such as email, and creating a thriving centralized community to combat audience decentralization. And I hope with that knowledge, you’ll also be excited to add your email address to my company email list, where I hope to share insights about the creator economy on a monthly-ish basis.

Now What?

In the ever-evolving landscape of online content creation, retirements like those of Tom Scott and MatPat highlight both the challenges and opportunities creators face. The perfect storm of factors, from fluctuating revenue streams to the changing dynamics of branded content, may prompt reflection on the sustainability of a creator's career. However, within this storm lies a silver lining – a chance for creators to reassess, strategize, and forge new paths. By acknowledging pain points, utilizing data-driven strategies, and focusing on opportunities, creators can not only weather the storm but also thrive independently. As creators everywhere bid farewell to some, we welcome a new era where resilience, adaptability, and strategic planning pave the way for enduring success in the vast landscape of the creator economy. For those seeking guidance in navigating these changes, Springboard Creator Consulting stands ready to help turn your challenges into opportunities and your opportunities into successes.