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move over FB and Twitter…..it’s Substack and TikTok’s internet now
Honestly, if you want to get a decent understanding of the digital creator economy in 2020, I think all you have to do is read these two articles: First, The Substackerati CJR report from Clio Chang, which casts the most critical eye yet on the subscription-based newsletter gold rush that continues to send media Twitter into convulsions on an almost weekly basis with every high-profile “newcomer” (control + F “Baschez score” cause that shit was fascinating).
The second piece/platform on the other side of the “niche content but make it accessible” coin? TikTok, of course, and yes there are a million trend-pieces at this point on the influencer culture, the houses, the dances, the earworms, etc. but you would be hard-pressed to find a more straightforward way to understand how bizarrely creative and collaborative this platform can be than this BuzzFeed explainer on the gigantic group effort to make a Ratatouille musical a thing. (I beg of you: do not skip that last vid).
I’ve been wondering why I’ve been so obsessed with reading about the two platforms (obviously since Deez Links has been on the ‘stack since 2018, that part is a lot out of self-preservation), but I’ve been thinking about how both have became the resident Rumpelstiltskins of the internet, promising to turn good content into gold.
For Substack, that metaphor is obvious: there’s never been a logistically easier way to be a writer and have your readers pay you directly. Meanwhile, TikTok isn’t tying money directly to content (but imagine if they partnered with Stripe and let you tip your favorite videos…) but they’ve totally cracked the problem of discovery (Kyle Chayka wrote really well about this and how their algo is different because it manages to actually delight you, not give you more of the same); as a result, anyone can go viral and thus amass clout, which theoretically translates into lifelong juice brand sponsorships, etc.
The internet of Web 2.0 has long operated on this premise that, on the right platform, with the right audience, anyone can strike it rich (<— please read that in the Chef Gusteau anyone can cook voice). Substack and TikTok are now coming through on this promise of tying content to clout/income far better than the reigning internet giants like Twitter or Facebook are able to do anymore, at least for independent creators. (Ask anyone who runs social for an outlet and they’ll tell you FB is still the boss daddy traffic king, unfortunately).
At any rate, it’s clear that Substack and TikTok have transformed the expectations we have for good content. It’s a logical reaction: we saw what The Old Algorithms did to flatten everything into clickbaity headlines and formulaic “shortform videos;” no wonder our reaction is to hunger for the specific, via newsletters written like emails from our smart friends or just bizarro videos about rat choreography that somehow tickle the brain just right.
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