This week we hear from Kaya Yurieff, The Information’s Creator Economy Reporter. We talked about how she covers an industry that is so new and sprawling, some of the challenges of being a creator, and how it fits with The Information’s other coverage. She also explains why businesses should take creators seriously, and why she expects to see more Creator Economy reporters at other outlets in the future.

In the news round-up, Chris, Esther and a freshly holiday-ed Peter discuss the closure of Ozy Media; the Theranos of publishing that none of us had heard of until this week. Facebook ends up in hot water yet again and will probably be dealing with fresh scandal as soon as this episode is released.

The full transcript will be live here later in the week, but for now, here are some highlights:

What covering the Creator Economy involves at The Information

I write a newsletter Monday through Thursday basically on everything that’s happening in this industry. That includes startups raising funding to service social media personalities in different ways like providing credit cards, or tax and accounting help, to profiles of creators themselves; how they make money and what platforms they’re on.

I also am tracking how the major social media platforms are competing for online talent. I spend a lot of time talking to investors, startup founders, and executives from tech companies.

We’re having our very first Creator Summit in October, so I’m helping with planning that. And we also have this database that we launched with information about startups in the creator economy, so I’m updating that as well.

Creators vs. Influencers

[A creator] is someone who has an online presence, they’re making some sort of content… and typically they’re making money from their audience and their fans, and they’re driving some sort of purchase or behaviour. So there’s definitely a commerce element to it.

I think influencer almost became this dirty word, a little bit, of just them shoving ads in front of their audience. So I think creator has slowly started to become more popular, because there’s a lot that goes into it. They’re producing video, they’re editing video, they’re taking photos, or they’re producing a podcast. So I think creator has a little bit of maybe a nicer connotation.

What’s sometimes ignored or not well understood is that creators are businesses in their own right, and are some of the savviest entrepreneurs of our time and are launching real products. It’s not just peddling ads on social media.

How creators fit into The Information’s coverage

We have a very business-focused audience. My readers are venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, startup founders, people who work at social media companies, bankers, research analysts. Just looking at the numbers, there’s been a tonne of investor excitement around the creator economy.

We found from our database that in just the first six months of this year alone in the US, more than $2 billion was invested in creator economy startups. So it’s definitely an area that our readers are paying attention to, and investors are paying attention to.

How the creator economy will evolve

I’ve spoken with YouTubers who have been on YouTube since 2006. They started doing music videos, and they’ve just kept evolving with their audience. And I think not everyone will be able to successfully do that; some people have stepped away and said they don’t want to do this anymore. But I think we’re going to continue seeing this area grow.

This industry is nothing new. But I think we’ve just got to a point where people are taking it a little bit more seriously and weighing it as a possible career path. There is definitely some draw there for people to be able to have their own hours and do something creative.

I think probably some of the investor excitement will probably fade a little bit. I’ve already seen one of these startups shut down – there’s hundreds of them – I think we’re probably going to see some consolidation as there’s a lot of startups doing similar things. But I don’t think this industry is going to go away.

Main story:

Ozy Media have closed down just five days after the New York Times published a piece raising questions about company practices and its leadership team.

  • One incident involved a top executive at Ozy impersonating a YouTube executive during a conference call with Goldman Sachs bankers while the company was trying to raise $40 million.
  • Co-founder Carlos Watson was an investment banker and ex MSNBC host, who raised more than $80 million back in 2013 to found the company. It was backed by investors including the Emerson Collective (run by Laurene Powell Jobs) and employed around 75 people to create articles, videos, podcasts and newsletters on subjects from espionage to the appeal of Grandma’s kitchen.
  • The NYT article – published on Monday – triggered an internal investigation as well as an FBI investigation. Days later, former BBC anchor Katty Kay, who had joined Ozy this year after almost 30 years at the BBC, announced on Twitter that she had handed in her resignation, saying the allegations were “deeply troubling”.
  • On Friday, the organisation shut down, after a number of investors wobbled and advertisers backed out.

We can recommend ex-Digiday EiC Brian Morrissey’s take on this:

  • “In the media business, the sizzle to steak ratio has always fluctuated. Traditional media has long been propped up by shared delusions and a high tolerance for bullshit.”
  • “As Max Read memorably wrote in 2018, much of the internet is fake. Underpinning all of this is the fuel of digital media: the expectation to show hockey-stick growth. But publishing doesn’t work like that. Building sustainable brands, built on trust and habit, takes a long time.”

News in brief:

  • Student news network The Tab has been in profit every month since it was bought by Digitalbox last October. The company, who also own satire site The Daily Mash, got The Tab into profit from its first full month of ownership by switching from a direct sales operation to an automated programmatic advertising solution.
  • Quartz is launching a new podcast called Obsession, a weekly 20-minute exploration of one object or idea based on its signature Obsession newsletter. The podcast’s debut is Quartz’s first foray into the audio world since previous efforts ended in 2019.
  • TikTok has hit the 1 billion monthly active users milestone, joining other platforms like Facebook, YouTube and WeChat as some of the largest social media platforms in the world. They’re also the fastest to 1 billion, aside from Facebook Messenger which forced through an update from the main app.
  • Daily Mail owner Lord Rothermere has been given an extension on a £810m bid to take company private. He now has until 28 October to make an offer, as negotiations continue with pension trustees.
  • We know that many media companies have struggled with their events strategy since the pandemic effectively shut the industry down – but a bet on virtual events is paying off for TechCrunch, which has doubled event revenue over the past year.
  • Facebook is continuing to deal with the fallout from the WSJ’s Facebook Files investigation. Its global head of safety Antigone Davis was hauled in front of the Senate on Thursday to testify about the effects of Facebook and Instagram on young users. As we’re recording this, the whistleblower is due to appear on “60 Minutes” to do an interview saying that Facebook’s decision to relax safeguards was too soon after election day, and allowed groups to plan the Jan 6th storming of the Capitol building.

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