I recently interviewed Spotter CEO and Founder Aaron DeBevoise regarding the changing dynamics in media due to the growth of content creators. Spotter, the company building a home for creators, raised $200M at a $1.7B valuation in early 2022. With that fundraise and through reinvestment, Spotter indicated that it planned to invest $1B directly into YouTube creators – as of October 2023, it has already given creators over $857M. As Aaron then said, “the creator economy is maturing into a new era” and I wholeheartedly agree.
Show Me the Money
We’ve come a long way since “Me at the zoo,” the first YouTube video uploaded on April 23, 2005. More than 18 years later creators are creating across nearly every content category, on multiple platforms, and with great velocity. There are >60M creators uploading millions of videos per day on YouTube alone. Add in TikTok, Twitch, OnlyFans, and various other platforms and the numbers become significantly larger.
Content creator has become a legitimate occupation, particularly for Gen Z and Millennials. Three years ago, few would have guessed that the top five content creators could have a higher average annual income than the top five actors. And, even fewer likely could have envisioned average YouTuber annual income exceeding that of the American worker.
|Highest Paid Creators & Actors||YouTuber vs. U.S. Wage|
|Avg Top 5 Creators||$44.2M||Avg YT Wage||$60,004|
|Avg Top 5 Actors||$43.5M||Avg US Wage||$59,428|
|Sources: Forbes, ZipRecruiter, Variety|
Along these lines, I recently interviewed Spotter CEO and Founder Aaron DeBevoise regarding the changing dynamics in media due to the growth of content creators. See the full interview with Aaron below, but first our take on the creator economy…
AI Will Democratize Content Production
In addition to human creativity itself, the rise of the creator has resulted from innovation around platforms and tools. The internet democratized the distribution of content, which was the enabling spark for creators to have an efficient method of sharing creativity with the world. Devices and editing tools added fuel to fire by providing an ability to capture and refine content. AI will, undoubtedly, author a new chapter in content creation and further push the rise of the creator. While the internet democratized content distribution, AI will democratize content production.
Hollywood Must Adapt
Just as streaming services upended pre-existing media business models, the creator economy will upend overall interest in, and engagement with, traditional content. The “secret sauce” of the creator economy is how personalized, relevant, and meaningful the content can be to its consumers. The creator economy will not replace Hollywood content, but it will garner an increasing share of content consumption in the coming decades, if for no other reason than it provides unmatched choice and availability to the consumer. The smartest players in media will find ways to diversify and capture value from the rise of the creator, both alongside, and incorporated into, traditional content.
Creators Have Become Investible
But wait… doesn’t Hollywood have massive budgets and other key resources necessary to create highly engaging content, advantages which are not available to the content creator?
This is a critical question, and the answer is that this has been an advantage historically, but the tide is turning for a couple of reasons. First, it is becoming increasingly clear that not all engaging content requires a significant budget (see “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” from Bounce Patrol with 2.9 billion views to date). Second, the size and predictability of content creator monetization has created an opportunity for creators and/or third parties to fund content, as has always been standard operating procedure for traditional content.
The creator economy has experienced, and will experience, growing pains, but the cat is out of the bag and it’s not going back in (see pun-intended link above for a delightful ‘cat escaping bag’ video with 9.2 million views).
Interview with Spotter CEO (Aaron DeBevoise)
Deepwater (DW): How should we think about the creator economy relative to traditional (film, TV) content? Additive? Competitive? Both?
Aaron DeBevoise (AD): Creators are not only celebrities to their audiences, but they have even more influence on them than Hollywood celebrities. Younger generations increasingly turn to creators and influencers for news and information, emphasizing the need for improved storytelling. The creator economy is the future of storytelling, and our focus is to empower creators with the resources they need to craft compelling narratives.
DW: Is it accurate to say Spotter is a “creator accelerator?” How is this similar or different to how other entertainment products (movies, Broadway shows, etc.) are funded and cultivated?
AD: We are a creator resource and are building the home for creators. We provide creators with the capital, knowledge, community, and tools to succeed. We have set the standard of serving as a partner to creators rather than just working with them on a transactional basis. Where we are unique is that creators are free to do whatever they want with the capital that we provide. Most choose to reinvest into their channels and businesses, however, we provide creators with freedom while also giving them unparalleled creator-specific resources.
DW: How do you identify creators that can drive the most value from resources you provide to them?
AD: We are extremely data driven. While creators are free to reinvest the funds however they choose, we look for:
- Creators who have regularly uploaded new content on YouTube for at least 12 months.
- Typically, creators Spotter partners with have subscriber bases of 500k+
- Generally, creators are generating about 5 million monthly views when eligible for their first deal.
- We work with creators across a range of industries including automotive, food & cooking, health/fitness/sports, travel, music & entertainment, science & technology, how-to & DIY, gaming, kids & family, and more.
DW: Beyond funding, how does Spotter collaborate with creators to maximize their success and how is Spotter differentiated?
AD: While there are other companies that provide creators with capital, funding is just one aspect of how we are empowering content creators to build and scale their businesses. While capital was our start, from working closely with creators and hearing their needs directly, there are now a number of ways we support creators. Our other current resources include:
- Community: We’ve invested heavily in building a Creator Community team, facilitating ways to bring creators together to foster intimate industry conversations, mapping out their specific needs, and determining the ways in which Spotter can best support them and, more importantly, they can support each other.
- Knowledge: We provide valuable in-depth insights into the performance of their existing content, the value of their library, as well as the value of future uploads, so that they have the knowledge necessary to grow.
- Tools: Our team has been working on a suite of AI-powered tools for creators, called Spotter Labs. We announced the first of these tools called Title Exploder – which helps create the perfect video title by generating many different angles of the same idea.
DW: How many creators is Spotter working with and what other KPIs can you share?
AD: Since inception in 2019, Spotter has:
- Deals with over 700 YouTube creator channels
- Deployed over $857 million to YouTube creators
- 30% of deals to date with diverse creators
- Over 88 billion monthly watch time minutes
- Over 3.6 billion subscribers
- A catalog of over 730,000 videos
DW: Is Spotter implementing AI into any component of the business?
AD: From all of our conversations with creators, we’ve known that AI and its potential capabilities are top of mind for creators which is why we merged our knowledge of YouTube and technology to develop a suite of tools, called Spotter Labs, to help with all stages of the creator process. These innovative tools utilize AI to help creators enhance their daily workflows, ease their creative processes, and ultimately, help creators make better YouTube videos.
DW: Creators have coalesced around a few major platforms (TikTok, YouTube, Twitch, etc.). Over the next decade, do you anticipate that these big platforms will continue to get bigger or do you expect the emergence of new platforms?
AD: As the best platform for supporting creator monetization, we have honed in on YouTube and believe YouTube will continue to serve as the number one platform that enables creators to turn their passions into careers. Platforms are fighting for the attention of creators and we believe that platforms that are creator-first will continue to get bigger and succeed.
DW: What’s next for the creator economy?
AD: The creator economy has grown massively in the last few years, but what we’re seeing is not necessarily a ceiling, but a reformation in the space. For so long, this area wasn’t seen as a career or a true source of income. Now, there are finally tools that are allowing creators to pursue their passions full time. We foresee a massive influx of creators in the next decade, with content creation expected to account for one in four jobs. This will significantly shift power in favor of creators, driving diverse avenues for profitability in content creation. As the space continues to advance, we will evolve with the industry – constantly upgrading data insights, resources, and funding capabilities to remain the number one resource and home for creators.