1. Intro to Creator Studies

1. Intro to Creator Studies


The “creator economy” is fairly straight forward and popular term. However, the creator ecosystem is not. Creator, even as an identity is rarely defined.

In this section, we define exactly what are the individual dynamics and systems either set in place or structured to support an ecosystem that then creates the economy part of the “creator economy.” Creator Studies is interdisciplinary to media studies, sociology, psychology and network theory considering that it studies the progress of a term, an identity of individuals with shared experiences, and a community.

Definition and Scope

Creator Studies is the study of the profiles, behaviors, and motivations of individuals who participate in the creator economy or identify as a “creator”.


Although the origins of the term “creator” or “creator economy” are mostly unknown, in the past ten years as it pertains to an individual with online influence, it is safe to say that there are relative understandings to the definition.

“Creator”: An individual who plans on or actively generates value to the creator ecosystem by producing and sharing content such as videos, images, articles, audio (music, podcast, or audiobook) online. These pieces are first distributed to an audience online.

Full-time Creator: An individual who obtains the majority of their income from online influence (brand deals or paywalled content).

Part-time Creator: An individual who creates content online.

Creator Economy: The economic ecosystem that emerged around individuals who create, distribute, and consume content.

Creator Ecosystem: The interconnected network of individuals, platforms technologies and industries that collectively support and sustain the activities of content creators. It contains the components and relationships involved in the creation, distribution, and consumption of digital content.

Influencer: An individual who has the ability to affect the opinions, behaviors and purchasing decisions of a specific audience.

Influencer vs. Creator

Often times, “creator” and “influencer” have been used interchangeably. Anecdotally, these terms can be used when referring to two genders. In fact, the difference between the two [similar themes to Spectrum of Influence].


Niche Expertise
Influencers tend to have credibility and connection that allows for their followers to focus on their individual views over others. This comes from either lengthy and/or culturally prevalent experience or from credential.
Brand Deals
Influencers tend to make income off of brand-focused transactions (co-creator collaborations or brand collaborations) for money.
High Trust
Audience Centric
Influencers tend to have a more engaged audience naturally. This can be driven by their ability to connect with an audience.


Content Centric
Content creators create content for… content’s sake. Their product focuses on their quality of content and how the content fits in with… similarly keyworded pieces of content.
Varied Content
Creators are less likely to stick to one topic and nice of content.
Artistic Expression

Key Concepts and Principles

Core Concepts

Digital Content Creation

History of Social Media
History of Content
  1. Oral Tradition (Prehistoric Times):
    • In ancient cultures, information and stories were passed down orally from generation to generation. Narratives, myths, and histories were transmitted through spoken word.
  2. Manuscripts and Written Texts (Ancient Civilizations):
    • The advent of writing systems led to the creation of written content. Ancient civilizations, such as the Sumerians and Egyptians, developed written languages, allowing for the preservation and distribution of knowledge through manuscripts and scrolls.
  3. Printing Press (15th Century):
    • Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the printing press in the mid-15th century revolutionized content distribution. Books, pamphlets, and newspapers became more accessible, contributing to the dissemination of information and ideas.
  4. Periodicals and Newspapers (17th Century):
    • The rise of periodicals and newspapers in the 17th century marked the emergence of regularly published content. These publications provided news, essays, and stories to a broader audience.
  5. Photography (19th Century):
    • The invention of photography in the 19th century introduced a visual dimension to content creation. Photographs became a powerful medium for storytelling and documentation.
  6. Cinema (Late 19th to Early 20th Century):
    • The development of cinema brought motion pictures to audiences, offering a new form of storytelling and entertainment. Film became a major content medium.
  7. Radio (Early 20th Century):
    • The introduction of radio allowed for the broadcast of audio content, including news, dramas, and music, reaching a mass audience for the first time.
  8. Television (Mid-20th Century):
    • Television became a dominant medium for visual storytelling and entertainment, reaching households globally. It significantly impacted content consumption patterns.
  9. Digital Revolution (Late 20th Century):
    • The advent of computers and the internet in the late 20th century transformed content creation, distribution, and consumption. Digital formats allowed for more diverse and accessible content.
  10. World Wide Web (1990s):
    • The World Wide Web revolutionized content distribution, enabling the creation of websites and online platforms. Users gained the ability to publish and consume content globally.
  11. Blogging and User-Generated Content (2000s):
    • The rise of blogging platforms and social media allowed individuals to create and share content easily. User-generated content became a significant force in the digital landscape.
  12. Streaming Services (2000s and 2010s):
    • The growth of streaming services, such as YouTube, Netflix, and Spotify, transformed how users access and consume content. On-demand streaming became a dominant model.
  13. Social Media (2000s to Present):
    • Social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, reshaped content distribution and communication. Users could share a wide range of content with their networks.
  14. Podcasting (2000s to Present):
    • Podcasting emerged as a popular form of audio content, providing a platform for long-form discussions, interviews, and storytelling.
  15. Short-Form Video and Microcontent (2010s to Present):
    • Platforms like Vine, TikTok, and Instagram Stories popularized short-form video content, changing how creators engage with audiences in brief, dynamic formats.
  16. Virtual and Augmented Reality (2010s to Present):
    • Advances in virtual and augmented reality technologies opened new possibilities for immersive and interactive content experiences.
History of Text-based Content
  1. ARPANET and Early Networks (1960s - 1970s):
    • The precursor to the internet, ARPANET, facilitated text-based communication through early protocols like Telnet. Users could connect remotely to computers and share information in a text-based format.
  2. Usenet (1980s):
    • Usenet, established in 1980, provided a distributed discussion system where users could post and read text messages within newsgroups. Usenet played a significant role in early online communities.
  3. Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) (Late 1970s - 1990s):
    • BBS allowed users to dial into a computer system using a modem and interact with text-based interfaces. Users could post messages, download files, and engage in discussions.
  4. Email (1970s - Present):
    • Email, primarily text-based in its early days, became a widely used means of online communication. It remains a fundamental part of digital communication.
  5. Gopher (1991):
    • Gopher was an early protocol that facilitated the organization and retrieval of text-based documents on the internet. It provided a menu-driven interface for navigating content.
  6. World Wide Web and HTML (1990s):
    • The invention of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 led to the development of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), enabling the creation of web pages with text-based content.
  7. Early Websites and Search Engines (1990s):
    • The 1990s saw the proliferation of websites that presented information in a text-based format. Search engines like Yahoo! and AltaVista emerged to help users navigate the growing web.
  8. Web Forums and Discussion Boards (1990s - 2000s):
    • Web forums and discussion boards became popular platforms for text-based discussions on a wide range of topics. Platforms like phpBB and vBulletin facilitated community interactions.
  9. Blogging (1990s - Present):
    • The late 1990s and early 2000s saw the rise of blogging platforms like Blogger and WordPress, enabling individuals to publish text-based content in a journal-like format.
  10. Wiki Platforms (2000s - Present):
    • Wikis, exemplified by Wikipedia, allowed collaborative editing and contributed to the creation of vast repositories of text-based knowledge.
  11. Social Media and Microblogging (2000s - Present):
    • Social media platforms like Twitter introduced microblogging, enabling users to share short text-based updates. Social networks like Facebook also relied heavily on text-based content.
  12. Online News and Digital Journalism (2000s - Present):
    • The transition from traditional print to online news brought about digital journalism, where articles, reports, and opinion pieces were presented in a text-based format.
  13. Text-Based Online Learning (2000s - Present):
    • The growth of online education platforms, such as Coursera and Khan Academy, relies heavily on text-based content for lectures, assignments, and discussions.
  14. Text Messaging and SMS (1990s - Present):
    • The rise of mobile phones popularized text messaging and Short Message Service (SMS) as a form of concise, text-based communication.
  15. Forums, Q&A Sites, and Platforms (2000s - Present):
    • Platforms like Reddit, Quora, and Stack Exchange facilitate text-based discussions, questions, and answers on a wide range of topics.
  16. E-books and Digital Publishing (2000s - Present):
    • The emergence of e-books and digital publishing platforms transformed the way books and written content are distributed and consumed.
History of Video-oriented Content
  1. RealPlayer (1995):
    • RealPlayer, introduced by RealNetworks, became one of the first widely used software applications for streaming audio and video. It allowed users to play multimedia content over the internet.
  2. YouTube Launch (2005):
    • YouTube, founded by Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim, was launched in 2005. It allowed users to upload, share, and view video content. YouTube quickly became a major platform for user-generated and professional video content.
  3. Viral Video Phenomena (Mid-2000s):
    • The mid-2000s saw the emergence of viral video phenomena, such as "Charlie Bit My Finger" and "Evolution of Dance," showcasing the potential of online video to reach massive audiences.
  4. Google Acquires YouTube (2006):
    • Google acquired YouTube in 2006 for over $1.65 billion, solidifying its position as a leading video-sharing platform.
  5. Rise of Online Video Platforms (Late 2000s):
    • Other online video platforms emerged, including Vimeo (2004) and Dailymotion (2005), offering alternatives to YouTube for video sharing.
  6. High-Definition and 4K Video (2010s):
    • The 2010s witnessed the widespread adoption of high-definition (HD) and later, 4K video resolution, enhancing the quality of online video content.
  7. Live Streaming Platforms (2010s):
    • Platforms like Twitch (2011) gained popularity for live streaming content, particularly in the gaming community. Later, platforms like Periscope (2015) and Facebook Live (2016) brought live streaming to a broader audience.
  8. Short-Form Video Platforms (2010s - Present):
    • The rise of short-form video platforms, such as Vine (2013-2017) and later TikTok (2016), introduced a new format for quick, engaging video content.
  9. Subscription Video-On-Demand (SVOD) Services (2010s - Present):
    • Streaming services like Netflix (2007), Hulu (2007), and Amazon Prime Video (2011) gained prominence, offering a vast library of on-demand video content through subscription models.
  10. Virtual Reality (VR) and 360-Degree Video (2010s - Present):
    • The integration of virtual reality and 360-degree video technology provided immersive experiences, allowing users to explore content in new ways.
  11. YouTube Originals and Premium Content (2010s - Present):
    • YouTube invested in original programming, producing exclusive content through YouTube Originals to compete with traditional television.
  12. Social Media Integration (2010s - Present):
    • Social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, integrated video features to support short-form videos, live streaming, and video sharing.
  13. Emergence of Educational and Tutorial Content (2010s - Present):
    • Platforms like Khan Academy (2008) and Coursera (2012) utilized online video for educational purposes, offering tutorials, lectures, and courses.
  14. Monetization Models (2010s - Present):
    • Content creators on platforms like YouTube and Twitch monetize their videos through advertising, sponsorships, and direct viewer support.
  15. Continued Evolution (2020s):
    • The 2020s have seen further innovations, including the continued growth of live streaming, the development of short-form video apps, and the exploration of augmented reality (AR) in video content.
History of Image-based Content
  1. ASCII Art (1960s - 1980s):
    • In the early days of computing and online communication, ASCII art was a form of creating images using ASCII characters. This was often shared on early computer networks and bulletin board systems (BBS).
  2. CompuServe GIF Format (1987):
    • The Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) was introduced by CompuServe, providing a standardized format for compressing and displaying images. GIFs quickly became popular for simple animations.
  3. World Wide Web and Early Image Formats (1990s):
    • The launch of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s saw the use of early image formats like JPEG and PNG for displaying images on websites.
  4. Web Browsers with Image Support (Early 1990s):
    • The introduction of web browsers like Mosaic (1993) and Netscape Navigator (1994) with image display capabilities contributed to the visual enhancement of the web.
  5. Online Clip Art and Stock Photos (1990s):
    • The 1990s saw the rise of online repositories offering clip art and stock photos for use in digital documents and websites.
  6. Digital Cameras and Photo Sharing (1990s):
    • The proliferation of digital cameras in the late 1990s and early 2000s facilitated the creation of digital images. Photo-sharing platforms like Flickr (2004) allowed users to share and organize their photos online.
  7. Social Media and Image Sharing (2000s):
    • The emergence of social media platforms, including Friendster (2002), MySpace (2003), and later Facebook (2004), introduced image sharing as a central feature, enabling users to upload and share photos with their networks.
  8. Instagram (2010):
    • Instagram, launched in 2010, focused specifically on photo-sharing. Its square format and filters contributed to the platform's unique visual appeal.
  9. Pinterest (2010):
    • Pinterest, founded in 2010, popularized the concept of creating and sharing visual collections of images or "pins" organized by themes or interests.
  10. Snapchat (2011):
    • Snapchat introduced the concept of ephemeral images and short-lived content, influencing the rise of temporary or disappearing images and stories.
  11. Visual Content Marketing (2010s - Present):
    • Businesses and marketers increasingly utilized visual content, including infographics and visually appealing designs, to enhance their online presence and engagement.
  12. Emoji and Emoticons (2010s - Present):
    • The widespread adoption of smartphones and messaging apps led to the popularity of emojis and emoticons as a form of visual communication in text-based conversations.
  13. High-Quality Image Formats and Displays (2010s - Present):
    • Advancements in technology and the availability of high-quality displays on devices facilitated the consumption of high-resolution images and multimedia content.
  14. Augmented Reality (AR) and Filters (2010s - Present):
    • The integration of augmented reality features and image filters in apps and social media platforms allowed users to enhance and personalize their images.
  15. Visual Search (2010s - Present):
    • Developments in visual search technology enabled users to search for information using images rather than text, enhancing the way people discover and engage with online content.
History of Podcasts
  1. Concept of "Podcasting" Coined (2004):
    • The term "podcasting" was first coined by journalist Ben Hammersley in a 2004 article for The Guardian newspaper. It combined "iPod" (Apple's portable media player) with "broadcasting" to describe the distribution of audio content.
  2. RSS Enclosures Enable Automatic Downloads (2004):
    • The key technology behind podcasting emerged when Dave Winer and Adam Curry developed an enhancement to Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds known as enclosures. This allowed audio files to be included in the feed, enabling automatic downloads to users' devices.
  3. Launch of "Daily Source Code" (2004):
    • Adam Curry, often referred to as the "Podfather," and Dave Winer launched the "Daily Source Code," one of the first podcasts.
  4. iTunes Support for Podcasts (2005):
    • Apple added support for podcasts in iTunes 4.9, making it easier for users to discover, subscribe to, and download podcasts directly through the iTunes platform.
  5. Podcasting's Rapid Growth (Mid-2000s):
    • The mid-2000s saw an explosion in podcast creation and consumption. Podcasters from various genres and interests began producing content, contributing to the diversity of the podcasting landscape.
  6. Serial Podcast (2014):
    • "Serial," a true-crime investigative journalism podcast, became a cultural phenomenon and played a crucial role in bringing mainstream attention to podcasts. It gained millions of listeners and demonstrated the narrative potential of the medium.
  7. Podcast Advertising and Monetization (2010s):
    • As podcasts gained popularity, advertisers recognized the potential for reaching engaged audiences. Monetization strategies, including ad placements and sponsorship deals, became common for many podcasters.
  8. Spotify and Other Platforms Enter the Podcast Space (2015 Onward):
    • Major streaming platforms, including Spotify, entered the podcasting space, acquiring existing shows and investing in exclusive content. This contributed to the industry's growth and expanded the reach of podcasts.
  9. Podcast Networks and Studios (2010s):
    • Podcast networks and studios, such as Gimlet Media and Wondery, emerged to produce high-quality, professionally produced content. These entities played a role in elevating the production standards of podcasts.
  10. Increased Diversity and Niche Content (2010s - Present):
    • The podcasting landscape became increasingly diverse, with creators producing content across a wide range of genres, including education, storytelling, comedy, news, and specialized niche interests.
  11. Podcasting in Education (2010s - Present):
    • Podcasts became a valuable educational tool, with universities and educators incorporating podcast content into coursework, creating educational podcasts, and facilitating knowledge-sharing.
  12. Smart Speakers and Voice-Activated Devices (2017 Onward):
    • The rise of smart speakers, like Amazon Echo and Google Home, contributed to the accessibility of podcasts, allowing users to listen using voice commands.
  13. Remote Podcasting and Virtual Collaboration (2020s):
    • The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the trend of remote podcasting and virtual collaboration, with podcasters embracing online tools for recording interviews and discussions.
  14. Podcasting's Continued Growth (2020s):
    • Podcasting continues to experience exponential growth, with an increasing number of shows, diverse voices, and innovative formats. The medium has become an integral part of the media landscape.
2021 Art Reformation
  1. Increased Visibility for Artists:
    • Before Social Media: Historically, artists relied on galleries, exhibitions, and traditional media to gain visibility.
    • After Social Media: Social platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest allow artists to showcase their work directly to a global audience, bypassing traditional gatekeepers.
  2. Direct Artist-Collector Relationships:
    • Before Social Media: Interactions between artists and collectors were often mediated by galleries or intermediaries.
    • After Social Media: Social platforms enable direct communication between artists and collectors. Artists can build a fan base, engage with followers, and even sell artworks directly.
  3. Online Art Marketplaces:
    • Before Social Media: Traditional art marketplaces were dominated by galleries, auction houses, and brick-and-mortar establishments.
    • After Social Media: Online art marketplaces and platforms like Etsy, Saatchi Art, and Artsy allow artists to sell their work directly to a global audience. Social media often serves as a promotional tool for these platforms.
  4. Democratization of Art Criticism:
    • Before Social Media: Art critics and traditional media had a significant influence on shaping public opinion about artworks.
    • After Social Media: Anyone with an online presence can express opinions and critique artworks. Social media has democratized art criticism, allowing diverse voices to be heard.
  5. Artists as Brands:
    • Before Social Media: Artists often relied on galleries and curators to establish their brand and reputation.
    • After Social Media: Artists can actively cultivate their personal brand, share their creative process, and engage with fans. Social media turns artists into influencers and entrepreneurs.
  6. Crowdfunding and Patronage:
    • Before Social Media: Funding for art projects often came from galleries, grants, or personal savings.
    • After Social Media: Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Patreon allow artists to secure funding directly from their audience. Social media is a crucial tool for promoting and sharing crowdfunding campaigns.
  7. Global Art Movements and Trends:
    • Before Social Media: Art trends often emerged slowly through galleries, exhibitions, and word of mouth.
    • After Social Media: Trends and movements can gain global recognition almost instantly. Viral art challenges, online exhibitions, and hashtag movements shape the narrative of contemporary art.
  8. Art Fairs in the Digital Space:
    • Before Social Media: Physical art fairs were primary events for artists, galleries, and collectors to connect.
    • After Social Media: Virtual art fairs and online exhibitions have gained prominence. Social media platforms provide a space to promote and navigate these digital events.
  9. Artistic Collaboration and Community Building:
    • Before Social Media: Artists relied on local communities and physical spaces for collaboration.
    • After Social Media: Global collaboration and community-building among artists have become common. Platforms like Instagram foster art communities and collaborative projects.
  10. Art Education and Tutorials:
    • Before Social Media: Art education was primarily institution-based, and tutorials were often found in books or workshops.
    • After Social Media: Artists share tutorials, techniques, and educational content on platforms like YouTube and Instagram. Social media democratizes art education and makes it accessible to a broader audience.

Online Communities



Characteristics of Online Communities


Power Dynamics of Online Communities

There’s never been a better time to be a fan of either a celebrity or online persona with influence. There’s also never been a better time to be a celebrity of online person of influence. Online communities give both parties an opportunity to share their talents, create content, and communicate with the other at almost any time of any day.

Traditionally, offline individuals of influence were, obviously, stuck to either their work or how the media portrays them.

Fandom: Fandom refers to the collective community of fans who share a common interest, passion, or devotion to a particular celebrity, TV show, movie, or cultural phenomenon.

Stans or Stan Culture: "Stan" is a term derived from the Eminem song of the same name and is used to describe an extremely devoted and enthusiastic fan. Stan culture refers to the intense, often obsessive, loyalty and support shown by fans.

Parasocial Relationship: A parasocial relationship is a one-sided emotional connection that a fan develops with a celebrity, where the fan feels a sense of intimacy and connection even though the celebrity is unaware of the individual.

Celebrity Worship Syndrome (CWS): CWS is a term used to describe an intense and obsessive interest or adulation of a celebrity, characterized by behaviors such as collecting memorabilia, closely following the celebrity's life, and feeling a deep emotional connection.

Fame-Seeking Behavior: This term is used to describe behaviors exhibited by individuals who actively seek attention and recognition from celebrities, often through social media interactions, attending events, or trying to gain the celebrity's notice.

Fan Engagement: Fan engagement refers to the various ways in which celebrities interact with their fans, including social media interactions, fan events, and other forms of direct communication to foster a sense of connection.

Fanbase: A fanbase is the collective group of fans who support and follow a particular celebrity. The size and dedication of a fanbase are often indicative of a celebrity's popularity.

Fan Loyalty: Fan loyalty refers to the level of dedication and allegiance that fans have toward a celebrity. Loyal fans are likely to support the celebrity through various ups and downs in their career.

Fan Hierarchy: In some fan communities, there may be a hierarchy among fans based on factors such as the depth of knowledge about the celebrity, level of engagement, or length of time spent as a fan.

Fan Service: Fan service refers to actions or gestures by celebrities aimed at pleasing and satisfying their fanbase. This can include special shoutouts, exclusive content, or other efforts to acknowledge and appreciate fans.

Celebrity Endorsement: Celebrity endorsement involves a celebrity publicly supporting or promoting a product, brand, or cause. Fans may be influenced by their favorite celebrity's endorsement choices.

Fan Culture: Community & Creator Relationship

Audience Engagement Codewords: Subtle Communications

Subtweet Culture Audience Participation: Edits, Mobilization of Fans for Positive and Negative Movements

Influencer Theory

Digital Ethnography

Significance and Contributions

Financial Contributions

The Creator Reputation

2023 Connotation

Even worse, I’ve realized that the “creator” genre has been seen as a “phase” - of course, this context was created from VCs. This is naturally incorrect and a few reputable names within the creator ecosystem have spoken out on how this connotation is generally incorrect.

2024 Connotation

The creator economy is not the entire state of creators as individuals, as a job or as a community.