The Passion Economy
Recently a new class of distribution channels and their accompanying business models (think YouTube, Substack, Patreon, Instagram, Teachable) have allowed individual creators to bypass the legacy institutions and capture more of the value for themselves. This means they are free to cater to a much smaller audience. If you can establish a direct relationship with your more narrow audience, you don’t have to produce a hit, you just need to please say 1000 or even 100 followers. As the endless niches of human interest are filled by creators, we will find content that is more meaningful and our time spent consuming media will be more fulfilling.
Today, this trend manifests itself in the passion economy, which describes a class of passionate individuals exploiting the dynamics described above to provide value for a highly specific niche and the tools, marketplaces, and platforms that support them. And while the passion economy is nascent, it is by no means small.
Ninja will draw a stadium’s worth of concurrent viewers on a good day (he averages over 38k),
PewDiePie’s YouTube videos each get more views than Fox nightly news (last quarter Fox averaged 3.4m primetime viewers while PewDiePie’s videos averaged 6.3m), and
An eight-year-old who makes toy review videos made $26 million last year.
Aside from these standout successes, there are countless examples of creators that earn a sustainable living without becoming household names like this family who sails around the world and makes videos of their adventures or this group that teaches science through animated videos.
There is also an “unlocking” of labor and creativity taking place. New platforms have birthed new media categories for creators to fill, as Twitch has done for video game streaming. Podia and Teachable give rise to otherwise nonexistent labor by offering a scalable outlet for creators to share their expertise.
We are always attracted to and crave authenticity!
Because creators target specific niche interests that are closer to consumers’ identities, they also achieve a level of proximity to their audience that was previously impossible. Something extraordinary happens when a creator finds its audience and vice versa. It feels like the way it always should have been. Creators are free to do what they are best at—maybe even something that only they can do; consumers find value in it and can transact with them more directly. By setting creators free to monetize their individuality, the endless barrage of content competing for our attention will give way to more meaningful, personalized consumption.
However, there is a massive imbalance between the time spent on individual creators and the dollars that flow to them versus traditional media. As individuals close the gap with more effective monetization, we anticipate a significant opportunity for brands to support creators and remove the friction between them and their audience further unlocking the passion economy.