Before 2010, success in the film industry was dependent on convincing producers and broadcasters to allow you to airtime or other production resources. Today, you only need an internet connection and a smartphone or laptop.
In the past decade, social media entertainment has emerged as a new creative industry. It is populated by young activists and entertainers you may not have heard of, such as Hank Green and Casey Neistadt from PewDiePie, Tyler Oakley, and Tyler Oakley.
These creators began as amateurs and have since become media professionals, making money through the content they post on social media platforms. They’re incubating their media brands, creating global fan communities and improving Australia’s image among young people all over the globe.
Separate inquiries are being conducted by the Australian government into the future of Australian television and film content, as well as the market effects of digital platforms. These decisions could have a significant impact on social media entertainment. It’s crucial that we fully understand the industry to avoid it becoming a chokehold.
The Australian Market Is Expanding Industry
Soon after Google purchased YouTube in 2006, social media entertainment was born. This coincided with the launch of Twitter and their counterparts in China, Youku, and Weibo.
This can be a very lucrative career. Over three million YouTube creators make a living from the content that they upload. There are also Twitch and Instagram. The more people you have, the more money you can make. Content creators made more than US$5.9 trillion in 2016 alone, across nine social media platforms and digital.
While the US is home to the majority of highest-paid creators, the most popular Australian creators are the Van Vuuren brothers and Wengie. According to estimates, the number of content creators has increased by more than two-thirds over the past 15 years. This increase is almost entirely due to the addition of 230,000 online video content creators.
A New Revenue Model Industry
The gig economy is definitely part of social media entertainment. It is inherently unstable and has seen huge growth over the past ten years. However, the business models for social media entertainment have seen fundamental changes.
In response to competition on platforms, creators have learned to diversify their offerings and manage risk. Instead of making money only from YouTube advertising, creators can now make revenue from multiple sources including licensing, crowdfunding, and live appearances.
One of the most significant changes has been the rise in the popularity of influencers who make money through brand integration. An example is when an Instagram star gets paid to post photos of themselves using a company product.
Social media entertainment creators who are successful engage in an entrepreneurial model that places as much emphasis on building and maintaining a community of subscribers as it does creating content.
These fan communities are passionate enough that they will follow creators through thick or thin. Feedback is instantaneous, continuous, full-bodied, and often confronting. Negative feedback, such as trolling, is also included.
Activated community support is the key to any revenue model in this industry. Creators have much to offer the mainstream arts, culture, and screen industries.
This takes effort. Creators upload content multiple times per week, manage their communities and deal with algorithms. They still enter the industry in their thousands.
Engage In A New Way
It is premature to place social media entertainment in the same bracket as other entertainment formats like film, television, and print – all of these are subject to Australian content regulation, or receive public subsidies. There is still much for the industry, policymakers, and regulators.
The problem is deciding where to draw the line between professional creators and amateur creators. This isn’t always easy. When it comes to content for screen, taste and quality are very much in the eyes of the beholder. However, quality debates must be more demand-side in order to be of use to policy makers. It is not just about the quality content but also the quality, and variety of engagement.