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Creator Economy

  • 6 mins

What the creator economy can learn from traditional media

Cam Mulvey

February 13, 2023

The creator economy has been growing rapidly in recent years, with many individuals looking to become the next big social media star or viral sensation. It’s an industry that offers endless opportunities, but also presents challenges. As a result of its massive growth, many players in traditional media are looking to learn from the creator economy. We’re here to do the opposite: help the creator economy learn from traditional media. 

An artistic depiction of online content creator platforms with traditional media sources like newspapers and TV

Why revenue diversification is essential

The most successful players in traditional media understand the importance of revenue diversification. Just like multinational companies, creators can expand their income beyond their main content, typically monetized through sponsorships, merchandise, subscriptions, and other opportunities. 

One prime example of a company that has successfully diversified its revenue streams is Disney. Their brand is so strong that it connects across multiple channels, both physical and digital. They generate income from more than just their blockbuster movies through wildly successful theme parks, branded merchandise, iconic cable networks, and their streaming services. While it takes time and scale to build multiple sustainable business segments, Disney’s corporate executives have always taken a deliberate approach to building their brands for the long-term throughout the company's life. 

This is not only present in companies. Take the example of George Clooney and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, both of whom are stars on the big screen and have also generated a significant return through their tequila brands. These stars understand the importance of diversifying their income streams to reinforce their financial futures. Though not an obvious choice for diversification, Clooney and Johnson clearly felt that a tequila brand would be consistent with their personal brand. For creators, this means being willing to adopt new revenue streams and exploring all available options, while staying true to your audience. 

Creators should consider developing a diverse range of revenue streams that connect with their audience in various ways. By building a strong brand, rather than just producing entertaining content, creators can establish themselves as sustainable businesses for the long-term.  A successful brand doesn’t only have multiple income sources, but it also must reach customers at multiple points. For creators, this means building a brand that transcends multiple platforms, services, or products. 

Staying focused as a creator

To achieve long-term success, it's important for creators to stay focused. This means identifying a specific area of expertise, interest, or audience and creating content that caters to that niche. This not only helps the success of individual pieces of content, but also helps build a consistent omnichannel brand that resonates with your audience.

Traditional media companies have mastered the practice of staying focused. Think of news networks like CNN, sports channels like ESPN, or home renovation shows like HGTV. These companies know their target audience and tailor their content accordingly. Whether it be a sitcom or a nightly news broadcast, viewers know what they’re getting before they turn the TV on. If your dad turned on Fox News and saw a baking competition, he’d probably turn it off - it didn’t meet his expectations. 

For creators, this familiarity helps build trust and loyalty with your audience. As you become known for your expertise in a specific area, you will be able to monetize your content and grow your audience more effectively. This leads to brand sponsorships with companies in your field, collaborative partnerships with similar creators, and an audience that feels an intimate connection with their favorite creator. Creators should resist the temptation to try and do it all, and instead focus on what they do best.

Replicating success 

As the saying goes, "success leaves clues." This holds true for traditional media players, which have long relied on replicating each other's successes to stay competitive. Creators in the modern digital age can learn a lot from this approach.

When it comes to creating content, it's important to remember that there's a reason why certain formats or topics are successful. Creators should look to data and analytics to understand what's resonating with audiences and how they can replicate it in their own unique way. Film writers wouldn’t go down the street asking people what movie they should write. They’d check the box office ratings to see what’s popular right now. 

Of course, this doesn't mean simply copying someone else's work. Instead, it's about taking inspiration from successful creators or platforms and adapting those strategies to fit a unique brand and audience. Just as traditional media companies have learned to adapt to new technologies and trends, creators must be willing to evolve and experiment to stay relevant.

One example of this is the rise of email newsletters. Once a few platforms gained success with this format, other media companies quickly adopted it. Today, it's become a staple of many news organizations and content creators alike, offering a direct and intimate connection with audiences.

Ultimately, the key to replicating success is understanding what sets you apart and finding ways to differentiate yourself from the competition. By keeping an eye on industry trends and learning from the successes of others, creators can develop their own unique voice and style that resonates with their audience.

Be authentic  

When it comes to building a following as a creator, authenticity is key. Authenticity builds trust and loyalty, and it can be the defining factor between a successful creator and one who falls by the wayside.

Authenticity has always been a highly valued trait in the entertainment industry. Actors who are able to be themselves on screen tend to build cult-like followings. Fans connect with them on a deeper level and are more likely to follow their careers, watch their movies or shows, and buy products they endorse.

This doesn't mean being unprofessional or casual all the time. It simply means being true to oneself and not putting on a facade for the audience. Authenticity can come across even in highly-produced settings like Instagram, where filters and editing tools are abundant. The key is to showcase your genuine personality and values through your content.

One prime example of authenticity in action is TikTok. The app's casual nature encourages creators to be themselves, resulting in a flood of authentic and relatable content. As a result, many TikTok stars have gained millions of followers and built loyal communities around them.

The key to authenticity is about building trust with your audience. By being genuine and honest, you show your audience that you're a real person with real experiences and values. This builds a connection and loyalty that can't be easily replicated. So don't be afraid to be yourself and let your true personality shine through in your content.


​​The power of community is undeniable. It can bring people together, foster relationships, and create a sense of belonging, even for massive audiences. Traditional media companies like Marvel have been successful in building communities around their programming. Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe eagerly anticipate new releases and eagerly discuss theories and speculations on message boards and social media platforms. Whether it be waiting in long lines on opening night of a new movie, or writing fanfiction for your blog, or talking endlessly to their friends about “Phase 4,” even outsiders recognize the communal bond that Marvel has built around its content. 

Take Wikipedia, for example. The site has only 4,000 contributors who write most of the new content and articles. They don't get paid for their work, and only a few get recognition. But they do it for the community. The community of Wikipedia editors is what keeps the site running, and it's what makes it one of the most visited websites in the world.

But it's not just the big companies that can benefit from building a community. Creators of all sizes can use their content to bring people together and foster a sense of belonging. Building a community around content doesn't just benefit audiences. It can also benefit creators themselves. By engaging with audiences and listening to their feedback, creators can gain insights into what works, what doesn't, and what’s missing. Successful creators use this feedback to improve their content, build stronger relationships with their audience, and ultimately grow their business.

While traditional media companies can certainly benefit from building a community around their content, creators have a unique advantage in fostering personal connections with their audience. By focusing on building a loyal and engaged community, creators can cultivate a following that is not just interested in their content, but invested in their success as individuals. So don't be afraid to get out there and start building your own community. You never know where it might take you.

The creator economy is booming, with more and more people turning their creative skills into a source of income. At Sute, we are committed to supporting entrepreneurship, careers, and financial literacy oriented creators, and we invite you to join our community and connect with like-minded individuals who share your passions and goals. Creators can apply now to become a Founding Creator on Sute