On October 28th, The Information brought together Paco Suro, General Manager for payments software firm Tipalti, and Keith Kawahata, Head of Games for mobile game publisher and marketer AppLovin, for The Future of the Creator Experience masterclass. Moderated by The Information’s Kate Clark, the two discussed the explosive growth of the creator economy and how its unconstrained behavior may require companies to reshape their relationship with creators.
As the population of creators rapidly accelerates and the quality of content continues to improve, the need for market platforms capable of equipping them with an audience and buyers catered to their needs is becoming highly competitive. Acknowledging the evolution of the creator economy, Kawahata advises brands focused on bygone technologies to redirect their attention toward accommodating the fluidity of creators’ interests or risk losing them to competing businesses.
“It’s necessary for service providers and products to be very transparent and authentic with their creators,” Kawahata said. “One of the ways that companies struggle is in ensuring a service or product has aligned incentives with the creators.”
Another challenge raised because of the creator economy’s mass expansion is audience focus. Kawahata identifies that amidst an “explosion of platforms” and an abundance of “tools and services” at creators’ disposal, it brings more choice for viewers and leaves creators’ success in their hands. Suro also adds that competing for the attention of audience members means smaller brands do not have the “luxury of watching and learning” and may have to “jump in feet first.”
With this in mind, Suro compels businesses to recognize the importance of creating an infrastructure that braces the “hyper-growth and scale” of the creator economy. Concurring, Kawahata also advises companies to “continue to evolve and change” as the marketplace does. A company fixated on outdated practices may appear too brittle to creators and therefore undesirable for those seeking a relevant brand to support them.
“These platforms have unique opportunities presented to them. One day [creators] are coming up with an idea, and the next day it’s a billion-dollar revenue business,” Suro said. “[Businesses] have to be able to support everything, soup to nuts.”
Not only has the creator economy changed the way developers interact with creators, but it has also brought up flaws in the way creators were previously paid. Turning away from advertisement revenue and its unpredictable nature, Kawahata and Suro touched on the concept of decentralized finance and alternative payment methods for creators.
Amplified by a growing demand to amass revenue on their terms, creators are shifting towards collecting payment through cryptocurrencies, among other things. According to Kawahata, although cryptocurrencies are new to the marketplace and their effects on the creator economy are yet to be determined, they may sanction a more direct connection between creator and audience previously unavailable.
“Before [cryptocurrencies] you had all these gatekeepers and [the marketplace] was very opaque….Today a guy in a basement can make a game, hit a button, and next thing, you know, you’ve got billions of people playing it,” Kawahata said.
While cryptocurrencies as a concept are appealing to creators, businesses are more hesitant to embed them in revenue-generating protocols because of their pending effect on commerce. Until they are adopted, Suro has witnessed the music and gaming industries struggle with the “challenge on how to distribute their product” and how they can “effectively monetize it” in the meantime.
Aside from cryptocurrencies, Kawahata mentions tipping, product lines, and live events as potential direct monetization methods creators can use. Taking it a step further, Kawahata sees these practices as embedded “forms of interaction and content creation” that further enhance the audience experience.
With an assortment of channels in the creator economy designed to prioritize these forms of direct monetization, Suro advises creators should pay attention to brands that intend to take advantage of them because there are now ample alternatives. “Monetize your own brand, as opposed to brands monetizing you,” Suro said.
As the creator economy becomes more deeply embedded within various aspects of the media ecosystem, having the tools to navigate its complexities will fall into the hands of big businesses. From there, both brands and creators will drive its progress and ultimately shape the modern automated world people live in.
“It’ll be really interesting to see [the metaverse and reality] come together,” Suro said. “Maybe that means we are going to be living in a matrix world someday.”
The Future of the Creator Experience masterclass was held in partnership with Tipalti at The Information’s Creator Economy Summit.