In this episode I’m joined by Kaya Yurieff. She is the Creator Economy Newsletter writer for The Information. It’s the publication I read when I want to know what’s going on in startups and funding, learn about Spotify’s latest launch, find out what’s going on with Instagram, and things like that.
Kaya has a great approach. I love her writing. I love the way she profiles both individual creators and the moves happening from big businesses in the creator space.
We talk about her writing process and her system for publishing four days a week. We talk about how they’ve grown the newsletter and what they pay attention to for monetization. We also talk about what it means to be a creator through crises like the pandemic, the social justice issues of the last few years, and now the war in Ukraine.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- Tips for finding your niche in a crowded field
- How to get more paid subscribers
- Benefits of adding visual content to your newsletter
- How to balance free content and paid content
Links & Resources
Kaya Yurieff’s Links
People want a point of view, and that doesn’t have to be a hot take or some crazy opinion. They can go to any kind of news source and get the news.
But I think people increasingly want to know what you have to say. You’re an expert in this. I’m not necessarily an opinion writer, but I have a point of view on things. I’m inserting my expertise in it, and I think people want to hear that.
In this episode I’m joined by Kaya Yurieff. She is the Creator Economy Newsletter writer for The Information. It’s the publication I read when I’m trying to figure out what’s going on in startups and funding, what did Spotify just launch, what’s going on with Instagram, and all these other things.
She has a great approach. I love her writing. I love the way she profiles individual creators, as well as what’s going on, what are the moves happening from big businesses in this space. Super interesting.
In this podcast we talk about her writing process; publishing four days a week requires a good system for publishing. We also talk about how they’ve grown the newsletter, what they pay attention to for monetization—because it’s part of a much bigger business—and then probably one of the most important topics we talk about is what it means to be a creator through crisis, through the pandemic, through the social justice issues of the last few years, and now through the war in Ukraine.
That’s the episode. I think you’re gonna love it.
Let’s dive in. Kaya, welcome to the show.
Thanks for that.
I want to get some more of your backstory and all of that in a second, but I’d love to hear a little bit first about your day-to-day of writing at The Information. You are writing a daily newsletter. I struggle with sometimes to write a weekly newsletter, and that’s significantly less work than what you’re doing.
So, take us through your process of how you’re actually writing a daily newsletter.
Ours comes out Monday through Thursday, so pretty much daily.
Yeah, from about April to November, I was doing this completely by myself, four days a week.
We brought on another reporter to help, so we kind of divvy it up depending on the week. So that’s really great to have so to have some help. but basically my process is on Fridays
When we’re off from the newsletter, we have a meeting with my editor and the other reporter and I am a hero and we kind of look ahead to the week, you know, are there events that are happening? Are there earnings reports are, you know, do we get a heads up that there’s a feature launching from a company and we try to map out each day, what kind of.
The newsletter will be obviously it’s the news business. So, you know, something can happen and totally torpedo the whole plan, but we like to have some evergreen stuff in the can of reporting. So if there is a quieter day where there isn’t some major headline to kind of analyze, we have something. So I like to be prepared.
And I think that helps a lot with the anxiety or trying to, you know, do a daily newsletter. But the day-to-day process is really just in the morning, waking up and doing a big sweep of the news. I have Google alerts, I read all sorts of newsletters. Twitter is just a huge source of news for me too. And I do that several times a day, right?
Like in the morning you have kind of the first release of news. And then I do another one around 3:00 PM. Eastern. our newsletter comes out around 5:00 PM. So we kind of have all day and you’re doing the sweep to make sure you’re really up to date when it goes out. and the way the newsletter is structured is it’s really digestible the second half of deals and new features and stuff that’s happening in the creator economy.
And then the top is a column or an original piece of reporting or analysis.
Nice. Is there a time recently that, you know, where you had a whole plan for the newsletter and then, you know, a big feature announcement came out or some piece of news that you didn’t expect and you had to like scrap it and rewrite the whole thing that afternoon or like, okay. Today’s is actually gonna be a lot tomorrow.
And now I have to write all this new stuff in the next 45 minutes or two hours before this goes live.
Yeah, I think the best example of this was, last summer when only fans decided to ban explicit content and that happened in the afternoon. So I had this whole, you know, profile of the startup and I ended up running both. I just kind of moved the startup down and even shortened it a little bit. and then I just had to kind of scramble to. To write about this only fans news. And I think that the challenge we have with the newsletter is because it comes later in the day, if something breaks, you know, in the morning or mid-afternoon all the news is out, all the headlines are out, everyone’s seen it. So our challenge is really what can we do to further the conversation?
You know, we’re really trying to do the day, do the day to story on day one and trying to push it forward and do something different. So that’s always the challenge. And when you have news like that, that comes out, it’s kind of like, oh no, I have to really think of something smart to say about this.
Okay, well on that topic, because I’ve always wondered. what do you think was the behind the scenes story with, only fans there? Cause that was wild. That was, you know, very core to their business models, explicit content. And then they’re like, you know, presumably have all this pressure from banking and financial institutions.
And so they, they, say that banning explicit content. Yeah, I have no idea.
What I, what am I Follow Up newsletters to? That was a timeline of this because I was like, there’s so much news that’s happening. I think people might be a little bit lost in it. So I wrote out a timeline kind of looking at, at all the statements they’ve made and rolling back the decision. I mean, the official story that they’ve come out with is that banking and processing payments was an issue. No one has really done the story on kind of what really happened behind the scenes. But I think ultimately this was a case of what is it? no, publicity is bad publicity.
You know, I remember I was driving and every single radio station in New York was talking about only fans and I wanted to kind of get some data behind what had happened.
And I looked at Google provided me some data on what the top search terms were. And I thought it would be like only fans ban or something like that. But the top search term was what is only fans. So I think sometimes when we are in this, you know, media bubble or create our economy bubble or whatever, we’re really invested in, we think everyone knows what these platforms do or, or not.
And I think this really showed of like, this was actually, you know, a big publicity, you know, I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but it ended up being, just giving them more publicists.
I think we’ll need, you know, like, like a handful of executives who have moved on from only fans and then to be like in their NDAs have expired or something for us to ever, like fully know the real story.
Okay. So we were talking about the evening newsletter. There are a bunch of these newsletters, right? that that come up and they’re trying to give you like your morning news, whether it’s a skim or the hustle or one of these others, What do you think about, of being like that first thing that hits in the morning versus the end of the day kind of Roundup?
Is there a business philosophy that goes into it as an editorial philosophy? What, what goes into that decision?
It’s a good question. I mean, I really rely on a lot of morning newsletters to catch me up. I think the downside of doing a morning newsletter is that it’s a more crowded space. So the feedback I get sometimes from people as like, oh, I don’t get a lot of newsletters and you know, whether you’re on the east coast or west coast in the afternoon or in the evening.
So for some people they’re like, oh, it’s kind of a nice thing to read at the end of the day. So I think also it just really depends on the topic and what you’re doing. I mean, I think the general newsletters are super important to keeping up to date. but I think where you can differentiate as going kind of deeper on a certain topic that has a really engaged audience or that people really want to read about.
Yeah. Yeah. I always try to think about. The audience that I’m targeting, what newsletters are they already reading? you know, if people aren’t, we’re not talking about a daily newsletter, we’re talking about weekly. It’s like what day of the week, you know, is going to be most interesting. if you like, for example, if you’re writing content about, how creators should start their side hustle, well, maybe Saturday morning or Sunday morning is a good time to send that because your target audience is people who are busy at work.
And then have time on the weekends, you know, versus if it’s a, like a very work-focused, you know, this is reading this as part of your job, then sending it during the week, is a good thing there.
Yeah, I think it was just about building a habit too. I mean, you can definitely do that with a, we can weekly newsletter, like Sarah Fisher’s media trend, newsletter and Axios. Like I look for that every Tuesday morning in my inbox.
I think too, it’s just about building something that’s really valuable to people. and that provides value to them. And then just building that habit of them, checking at that time on that day.
Yeah, for sure. Okay. So I want to talk about your path coming to, you know, running this newsletter at The Information where you like, did you go to college for journalism and, you know, as, being a reporter where, where you wanted to start.
Yeah, it was, I went to GW, for undergrad and they have a really fabulous turtles in school there. It actually kind of started in high school when I did my family’s Polish and I did a semester abroad in Poland and I always really liked writing in English, but I didn’t really know what I would be able to do with an English major.
So I came back from Poland and I wrote a local column in my, you know, newspaper about just my experience studying abroad. And, you know, I’m from a very small town in Vermont. And I, you know, I don’t think many people have traveled to Poland from there. So I just wrote something about my experience and there was just something really fun about, about doing that and telling people about, you know, The country that I was in and where I’m from and, just seeing your name in print.
And I joined my high school newspaper, and then I, you know, I went to GW and I really thought I would go into political journalism though. I was in DC and it felt kind of like the path, but I, I ended up in business journalism.
So you went, yeah. I saw that you did a few different internships and then you ended up, at CNN. you know, and you’re talking about, it was more general beat, right? Talking about business and tech and all of that. how did how’d you end up getting the role at CNN
Yeah. So, when I graduated from college, I did an internship with Bloomberg news and I didn’t, I didn’t take a single business reporting class. I really. You know, it just seemed like a really good opportunity. And that was kind of my, you know, my entrance point to this, to this beat. And from there, I went to the street, which is a financial news, news site, which was founded by Jim Cramer, who you might know from CNBC.
And I was on their breaking news desk and I was covering stocks, you know, so I, we had this program that would populate every day. And it would show stocks that were trading at unusual volumes. And our job was to figure out what was moving the stock that day. And it was really like a throw you into the deep end type of job where, you know, there wasn’t training, but it was really on us to be looking at like sec filings and analyst reports and earnings reports and being like, why is this stock moving again?
You know, sometimes it was a simple answer and sometimes we couldn’t figure it out and we didn’t do the story, but, that was kind of my, and I think it was a great first job because it wasn’t industry specific. It was focused on, on publicly traded companies. And from there, I kind of was like, oh, I’m really drawn to the tech stories.
And I’m really interested in covering some of these big tech companies who I’m a user of. Like, I have an iPhone for a long time and I use Facebook and all these services, I felt as a, as a user of these products, I could write about them in a way that I kind of could understand. So from there at Santa and they had an opening.
Their tech team. And I was just kind of a general reporter on tech. I was covering startups and big tech companies. And from there kind of carved out a niche with social media. So I think like starting general was kind of how I went from general to niche as I kind of found out what I was most interested in.
Nice. And then the, going to The Information, they just publicly posted like a job listing for a new newsletter that they were starting. I can’t remember, seeing, Legion and others, like talk about that. I’m like, oh, The Information is going to cover the creator economy specifically. did you just have a friend send that to you?
Like how did, how did that get on
Yeah, a very close friend of mine who works at the Washington post, sent me this LinkedIn. And she knew that I always was really interested in, in covering the creator economy.
I did stories about it for CNN within my kind of social media beat, but it was always a sidebar or futures I was doing not as my main job. and she was like, oh, this job kind of sounds perfect for you. So I ended up applying for it and it wasn’t, you know, I was really surprised to see the job title, be creator economy reporter, because I think, you know, you ha you’ve had reporters that have covered internet culture, you know, Taylor Lawrence who’s now at the Washington post, you know, has really owned this bee and you’ve seen, you know, more, more people do it, but it isn’t.
In newsrooms to have this be such a focus and it might be someone’s focus in addition to other things, but it’s very rare to see reporters really be focused on this. So who is, it was a big deal when The Information, you know, I said, we’re gonna do, we’re gonna really focus in on this vertical.
Yeah. I have a bunch of questions that I want to know about like the business model for The Information and all of that. But, you got to come in at, you know, as this newsletter is launching. and so I’m curious what that process was like, figuring out, you know, once you joined, like what specifically is the newsletter going to be?
Right. Cause creator economy, despite being a niche topic, maybe for The Information is like an insanely broad topic, to still cover. And then how you went about a year, right. In the first issues and actually getting that out there from, from idea to launch.
Yeah. I mean, it was, it was really fun because it was, it felt very entrepreneurial where, you know, I, I didn’t come in and say, this is what the newsletter is going to look like, and this is what we want you to cover. It was very much like, well, what do you think the newsletter should look like? Which was really refreshing.
So I had two weeks basically when I started to kind of come up with a plan, talk to people and then we launched. So I spent the first two weeks just on the, on the phone. I’m not kidding for 12 hours a day, just in back-to-back calls, talking to investors, startup, founders, creators, and just trying to get the lay of the land and what people were interested in reading about a very business focused audience.
So that was very different from CNN, which is a very general audience. So I was also trying to understand, you know, what was most interesting, and my editor and I just kind of played around with certain sections we could do and what the format would look like. we wrote the first newsletter kind of innovative.
And kind of planned out the week and I think it’s just been, you know, trial and error, like with everything of, oh, wow. It seems like, you know, people are really interested in our startup watch section where we’re highlighting different startups, we think are doing really interesting and unique things.
We’ve done Q and A’s. And so it really was just kind of. Kind of throwing yourself into it and just full speed ahead and figuring out kind of what, what works. And I think actually when I first started, I, I felt this pressure that I put upon myself to like fill out every section. Like we had all these, you know, sections that we thought we could do.
And then I realized I don’t need to do this every day. Like there doesn’t have to be a trend every single day. There doesn’t have to be like, we have an overheard section, which is like kind of a buzzy or interesting quote, either from a podcast or a live audio space. And I was like, I don’t have to do that every day.
And no one’s expecting me to do that every day. So I think it was just trying to curate the best of the things that happened that day and not feeling super defined certain subheads or for whatever.
Yeah. Of one I’m impressed that you just had the first issue two weeks after starting data. Like that is very quick. but also, you know, that’s the advantage of like, I guess being a creator that it’s so iterative, right? It’s not like, oh, you have to get your first issue. Absolutely. Because it’s really like the first issue is almost, I mean, it’s important because it sets the tone and all that.
But years from now, it’s almost the least important because it probably had the fewest readers, you know, whereas the, you know, the 10th and the hundredth and thousandth as they’re coming, are going to have much more readers. And so it’s crazy to move quickly, but also you can iterate so much.
Yeah, definitely. And like there’s so many ways you can launch, you can launch with a big scoop or a big interview, but no one really remembers the first issue of anything or the first episode of anything. So at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just kind of how you built it, evolve that I think.
What are the things that, most changed from, you know, maybe the first 10 issues to the way that you run the newsletter now?
I think that it’s just more thorough when I look back at some of the early issues, like I have a deals in debut section and that’s a lot of startup funding, startup launches, new features, you know, all sorts of stuff like that. And it was pretty sparse and I don’t, maybe that was just a function of the time.
And there wasn’t that much news, or I think it’s more a function of, I’m just more thorough in, you know, the, the news sweep that I do, I’m getting more in-bounds and more companies are reaching out to me or more people are giving me tips about companies that are launching. So I think it’s just gotten more thorough and I think we’ve added certain things that we didn’t do in those first issues.
What’s been really popular is our charts. so going back to what I said about, pushing the story forward and trying to find a unique angle, charts have just been a really big hit for us where there’s so much going on in this space. Everyone has tipping. So to step back and just create this chart and say, these are the take rates.
So there’s, these are the platforms that have it, you know, here’s the percent that goes to creators. You know, those have just been really useful to our audience. Who’s trying to like wrap their head around everything that’s happening and it kind of pushes the conversation forward. We’ve done that with creator funds, subscriptions.
We’ve done tables of, you know, top investors and the companies that they’ve backed, you know, including SoftBank and Andreessen Horowitz. Those have been really popular. And I think lead leaning into data, just seems to have been something that’s resonated with our audience. another thing we added later was personnel moves, which I think is really interesting and people are always interested about who’s going where, and, and you can also pick up trends of like, oh, Hey, all these, you know, YouTube executives are going to blockchain or web three companies.
That’s really interesting. so it helps us and our readers kind of pick out trends and, and connect the dots over.
Yeah. W what you’re saying about, charts in particular is interesting because anyone who’s been creating content for a long time. No. Well, it used to be a whole thing, right. To create infographics. That was, if you wanted something to spread, on, I don’t know, dig or a stumble upon, or like some of these really early, content sites, you know, infographic would do really, really well. and you’re largely doing, you know, effectively that right. You can write out in case anyone’s curious, here’s the take rate for all these things, and it’s a series of bullets. It doesn’t have the same at all.
Do you have, you know, designers that you’re working with or like how have you systematize that?
Take, yeah. Make charts out of, other
Yeah, we have so all, all make the chart and do the reporting and like a Google sheet. and then our designer makes it beautiful and suggest tweaks and all of that. So yeah, we have a amazing graphics group who does that, which is amazing because I don’t think I would be able to make a nice chart.
So, so I just do actual reporting of what’s in it.
Yeah, that, that makes me think that as a creator, there could be a really important step to add, right. You write something and then it’s like, okay, how could I represent this visually? Because we know that it’s going to share that much more and you might have done 70% of the work already and, you know, to write the article and to put it all together.
And if you’re like, wait, if I could add this extra step of how do I represent it visually, then that might increase the reach, you know, by a significant amount. Because then when you’re like, Hey, here’s the chart, newsletters dropping, you know, you post on Twitter, you know, here’s the chart, here’s the topic, you know, FullStory is dropping in an hour, subscribe here, right?
That could be worth, you know, hundreds or more new subscribers, that you wouldn’t otherwise get.
Yeah. And we’ve played around with formats too. I mean, we’ve done timelines, we’ve done, you know, bar charts, we’ve done tables. our biggest project that we did was launching a database on creator economy startups. So that, you know, you said that this was such a vast industry, which is so true, but the traditional, you know, think tanks are academics.
They’re not really studying the space. I mean, every so often you have a, you know, a big academic research report come out. But, you know, I, I tried to get some data on, you know, how many creator economy startups are there or where are they located or what types of startups are there. And I couldn’t find that anywhere.
So we were like, okay, what if we built something? So we took on this kind of huge project that we continue to update. And it was really a huge team effort of our engineering team and our graphics designers, and us kind of compiling all the data, but that’s been something too that we’ve been able to reference and say, you know, membership platforms have raised X amount of money from venture capitalists based on R D.
And we’ve been able to do really interesting things, through the database, through the database as well.
Yeah. Cause then you, I mean, you can draw all the trends that otherwise you wouldn’t have.
From these articles that I’ve remember, membership platforms have raised this amount and you can do some additional research, but, but I like that you’re creating that, that resource. And then for The Information, you know, it’s a paid subscription, at $400 a year.
Is that right? Yeah. So then has that been like the critter economy database? Has that been a driver of, you know, subscriptions,
Yeah, it definitely has been a driver of subscriptions. the newsletter is free, but you don’t have full access to all I write features as well. The database has paywalls, so you definitely don’t get the full experience by just subscribing to the newsletter. So the database has been something that has consistently been converting, paid subscribers because, you know, it’s not just like we launched it and that’s it.
We reference it all the time. We’ll do newsletters around, you know, certain sub-niches within, you know, within the database and pull out those, those insights and you can search by investors and headquarters. And I think people really want access to that. So it has been a really strategic kind of launch,
Yeah, that’s great. I want to dive into the business plan more, but before we do that, I think people would be curious about the graphics and visuals that you’ve made as you were experimenting with the different formats. Was there anything that you learned of like, okay, this works well, let’s do more of this.
This one was a
And is not worth doing again.
Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, it’s funny cause the. I think just making it as simple as possible is the key. Like we were trying to, I remember initially I wanted to do a comparison of creator funds and I think we were trying to calculate how much has been deployed from each one, but it’s really challenging to do that.
I mean, you know, some companies like Snapchat will have a line in their earnings kind of buried somewhere saying how much they pay out to creators, roadblocks as the same thing. But, you know, sometimes it’s just, don’t, over-complicate it. And let’s just put out what we know and compare it. So I think that’s probably been the biggest takeaway.
And honestly, I didn’t do a lot of data journalism in past jobs. I never was really making charts or there might’ve been charts along with my article, but it would be a separate team. So it’s just been different for me to be doing this in the first place and like thinking in a, in a different way, about data and just pulling out insights like that.
But I think just keeping it simple. and sometimes too, like there’s. There’s all these things you want to add or like notes and like, it just gets too busy. So I think like we, we did one, I remember on live shopping and comparing different live shopping services and startups, and it was just too crowded.
Like there was just too many, there was a description and it was just kind of too much. So I think the most successful ones have just been the ones that are easy to understand and have kind of like a clear takeaway.
Yeah, I like that. And that’s good news for creators because it’s easier to create. And so if you find yourself getting too far down the list and you’re like, wait, my deadline is coming up. How
It’s just like, take a step back, simplify it. It’ll probably perform better.
Yeah, don’t overthink it.
That’s good. Okay. So on the business side, right?
Because, ultimately, you know, pretty much all newsletters, are businesses, unless it’s just a side thing to keep your friends updated. Right. You know, you’re, that has business goals. What are the metrics are things that you do pay attention to in the business or things that you’re trying to move, you know, broader for The Information.
Yeah, I think we’re definitely interested in how many people are converting to paid subscribers at The Information through the newsletter. you know, open rates are interesting. it’s funny cause there’s only, I think there’s only so much you can really understand from, from data. Like it’s, it’s helpful to see.
Oh wow. A lot of people were talking to this newsletter. But at the end of the day, I don’t know. Was it the topic? Was it the way we wrote the headline? Like you have to do kind of some, you know, introspective analysis, a little bit of it, but I think it’s always been interesting to me to see, like, what were the most popular newsletters?
A lot of them have had to do with startups that we’ve highlighted. So I think there’s just an interest in startups and funding. you know, there was one that surprised me. I, I did, Duolingo has been this really prolific, big brand on TikTok. And I spoke with there she’s in her early twenties and she’s their social media manager.
And I did an interview with her and that like converted a bunch of people to paid subscribers. So I was like, okay. I mean, it’s funny, cause she’s not, you know, she’s not like a notable tech executive, she, but she’s been really effective in running this TikTok channel. So that kind of surprised me that, that one, you know, converted people to subscribers.
So those I think are kind of the main, the main metrics. just kind of looking at how many people are. Paid subscribers of the newsletter versus pre subscribers. yeah, but I think the analytics are definitely helpful, but I try to not get too. In, in deep with them. I think like in, in previous jobs, like he’ll sometimes write this big feature and you’ll look at the traffic and you’ll be like, oh no, people only read this for 25 seconds.
So I think like sometimes you don’t know why that is, right? Like maybe it was the SEO wasn’t cracked. Maybe it wasn’t promoted very well on Twitter, on the homepage. Like there’s so many factors that go into things that you have to take a lot of things into account for whether things performed or not.
So I’m thankful that’s not my job. I’m very focused on kind of that the editorial side of things. But I definitely pay attention because I want to have an understanding of what my audience is interested in. I also just, when I, when I speak with readers who reach out to me, I asked them like, what do you like about the newsletter?
Like what are interesting sections to you? So I try to also pair the analytics with just talking to, to readers and getting their feedback on kind of what works for them. And what does.
Do you get a lot of replies to the newsletter? Like, is that a common engagement path or is it more just like, you know, the replies get fumbled over here?
Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, certain newsletters we’ll get more direct replies. I honestly, I don’t know if people are reading this kind of passively and don’t know that if they reply, it goes directly to me. I don’t know. I guess I’ve never applied to a newsletter myself, really like maybe a handful. in the beginning, when we first launched, I feel like I was just getting more inbound of like, Hey, congrats on the newsletter.
This is exciting. I obviously get more feedback like through Twitter, DMS, or other DMS of people or sharing it on Twitter. And that’s kind of more of the, the engagement that.
Yeah, that makes sense. and then on the business side, how does the intersection between the free newsletter and then other paid content work? I think I remember reading, because I’ve subscribed to the newsletter for, for as long as it’s, since it was launched.
And I remember thinking that it was going to switch to being fully behind a paywall at some point.
Was that a decision that didn’t end up happening or it’s, it’s more used as lead gen? How, how do you think about that?
Yeah, it’s more.
It has converted people to subscribers. And I think like our general strategy with these newsletters have been to bring in to kind of widen the audience, right? Like, so all these people that read, create our economy might not have been original information subscribers, but because we’ve now gone deep and are covering this more, they’re more interested and then find value in other things that we cover at The Information.
So the strategy has been to kind of bring more people in, and then convert them through like the other offerings we have, right. Like the database or features like we, we did, for our crypto newsletter. we did like a, a list of, you know, the most powerful people in crypto and we ranked them. so that that’s something that’s behind the paywall.
But the free version kind of helped. You know, it still makes it accessible to people. but yeah, we’ve gotten, so we have an AR VR newsletter, crypto and creator economy. And then we have, an evening briefing as well, which is kind of more focused on the big headlines of the day. And then in the morning we have a newsletter as well that goes out with, just kind of also short, like breaking news kind of updates from the last day.
Yeah. So there’s a lot of everything’s going on, but I like that. I think, I think that, creators struggle with what should be paid versus what should be. I just did a Twitter thread on, I, you know, it was a little bit of a clickbait title, but like seven habits of highly effective creators. And one of them that I put in there was charge, right?
Like if you’re going to be a, an effective creator, you have to charge for something, whether it’s you’re charging advertisers to sponsor or you’re selling a course or, physical products or anything else, and people get really hung up on what they should charge for. And, you know, like if I put everything behind the paywall, then I won’t attract new readers.
And if I put nothing behind the paywall, I won’t make money. And so it’s this hard intersection. I think you just have to find a version like you’ve done of, Hey, this is what, attracts new readers is free and open. And then just has these like consistent segues and here’s the paid version. Here’s the paid other thing, you know?
So yeah. Any other thoughts on what creators should charge for and lessons learned there?
Yeah. I think it’s so individual, like some creators, I talked to say that they don’t want to charge their fans for anything. They only do brand partnerships and that works for them and they want to keep everything accessible.
Whereas other creators say. You know, I, I don’t really like doing brand partnerships. I really want to just do gated content and go deeper. And I have this, you know, segment of my audience that’s super engaged and wants to pay for gated videos. So I think it also depends on the content. you know, how you work best as a creator, but I think it’s tough. but I think it’s also just part of experimenting.
Like you could try to pay wall something and see what the, you know, what the results are and then you can always scale it back and experiment with it. So I think that’s probably the best thing creators can do is just experiment and just see what works and also understand from their audience, like what what’s valuable to them.
Maybe the course didn’t sell because it didn’t focus on topics that people were interested in. So I think it’s that two way dialogue to be between the audience and the creator of. What they’re actually expecting. Cause I think a lot of times I’ve heard the feedback from, you know, super fans that are like, well, I paid for this Patriot.
And like, I don’t know that I’m really getting what I wanted from it, but I still want a support person. So sometimes it’s not even about the gated content. It’s just about supporting this person cause you like them. So I think like figuring out the motivations and the wants and desires of your audience, I think is, is kind of important in cracking that
Yeah. Now I kind of have like testing a bunch of different methods and holding things loosely. Like I think we sometimes have this idea that like, oh, my audience is watching everything that I’m doing. And they, you know, I had to watch it just perfectly. It’s like, no, I try something out. Like I’ve seen, people will start with like a workshop, like, Hey, the first day I’m going to charge for is.
Yeah, I’m gonna teach this workshop on this one thing. And it’s one time, you know, it’s, $30 or $50 or something, right. Whatever, whatever price point. And they can just play with it and see how that, how the audience and fans react to that, you know, or whatever the piece of content is. and it doesn’t have to be this like grand master plan because you don’t have enough information to put together a grand master plan.
Yeah. You don’t know how people will respond, on the like critter economy as a whole we’re were talking about, you know, how we, we talked about it on the, the tipping side or the take rate and all of that, of how all of these companies are kind of merging together. I’m curious for you. Thoughts as just, you see all these features coming out, Write of, the classic example is,
Like Instagram and Facebook adding stories from Snapchat.
You know, now that’s such old news. Right. But then you get into the Spotify adding stories, I guess, kind of. and then, you know, and then everyone adding tipping and everything else, what are your thoughts about like the trends that you’re seeing overall in, you know, the bigger creator economy companies, and, and this is such a broad question, but what that means for creators.
So, you know,
Yeah, I think it’s the worst time and the best time to be a creator because you look back to a few years ago. I mean, unless you were doing brand partnerships on Instagram, there was no way for you to earn directly from the platform. So when TikTok first launches creator fund a few years ago, I was like, wow, this is really exciting.
I mean, you can just post on TikTok and if your video goes viral, you get paid. I mean, how revolutionary is tougher for creators. but I think like, as these programs have developed and gone on, you know, creators are like, well, actually I don’t really make that much money from this type of creator signed.
But I think it’s this race to the bottom right now. You know, companies are trying to be really competitive. I think TikTok is really the driver of a lot of this. for a long time, Facebook was able to just copy competitors or acquire them and that playbook just doesn’t work anymore. You have antitrust, you also have just TikTok rose so quickly, that, you know, they have to now react and create their own features in response to that.
I think the thing that was really unique with TikTok is just its ability to mint internet stores overnight. And you don’t get that on other platforms anymore.
So I think that really caused companies to re-examine their own features. So you have YouTube shorts, you have Snapchat spotlight, you have Instagram reels, you have reels on Facebook now.
So I think it’s a really confusing time to be a creator because are you really creating seven different short form videos to post to all these different platforms? I think too, it’s not an intuitive or natural thing for users to pay for social media. These have always been advertising driven platforms.
So yes, you could have your super fans who really want to subscribe to you. But I think like the early data we’ve seen out of Twitter super follows has been pretty bleak. Like people are not really doing it. so I think it’s just, it’s not a habit. That people have had, and that could change over time.
I think last year was really, the last 18 months have been, you know, this intense roll out of all these features. And over the next 18 months, we might be able to see if any of them, you know, have some traction or not. but I think it’s, it’s really interesting to see all these platforms pivot and finally realize after, you know, 10 plus years that creators are really the drivers of engagement and trends and that it’s not enough anymore to just give them a platform to go viral and have an audience like they have to monetize because they have tons of options.
Now, if you were an Instagram and funds are focused on fashion in 2012, there wasn’t anywhere for you to go. Now you have so many different options and kind of this flow explosion of a feature as, as just kind of a, a delayed reaction to that. And just trying to a land grab for a digital.
Yeah. I mean, it’s fascinating to watch all of these different features get launched and, and especially with payments. Right. Cause I, you know, I was building my first audience, 2011, 2012, and the payments world was really complicated then, you know, as far as, what you would use to actually sell products.
And now it’s like every major platform how’s that I like to imagine, like, you know, the Twitters and Shopify guys and everyone else, the world like competing over who has the best payments and Stripe just sitting back there, like, yeah, you know, do whatever you want. We power everybody. Like, I don’t care if you make your tip through Twitter or Spotify or Venmo, like, well, Stripe doesn’t power Venmo,
These, you know, Stripe is just behind the scenes, like powering everyone and it’s, it’s kind of wild.
Yeah. And it’s been interesting to see everyone kind of latch onto this idea of the creator economy. Like Stripe put out this whole blog post last year about like, you know, their impact on the creator economy. And I think like everyone wants to be seen and involved with it. And
I think too, like on the flip side, you’re seeing apple being dragged into this conversation of what their app store fees and how that hurts creators.
And that’s been ammunition. Facebook has used in its ongoing, you know, fight with apple and then Stripe comes in and they’re like, oh, well, we take a very reasonable, small fee compared to 30%. So it’s just all these interesting players like Stripe, an apple, you know, even three years ago, I wouldn’t consider them as you know, important to the creator economy.
And these kind of infrastructure companies are, are becoming, you know, really important players and people are paying more attention to it.
Yeah, yeah, we were convicted was featured in that, Stripe article, you know, way back then because they power our converter commerce functionality. So, we know the team over there quite well. One thing that you do quite a bit with the newsletter is featured both sides of the critter economy. Like I think a lot of people talk, create our economy and they just talk about the, the companies in this space, right?
Like Sturgis did this, you know, Patrion made this other move, you know, here’s, what’s going on. And a lot in that gets one thing that gets lost is that like, we’re actually just talking about creators, like individuals who are building an audience, growing a fan base, earning a living. is there something in your process that you’re doing to make sure that you’re telling stories of creators and not just, the companies competing for the, you know, competing with server, the creators.
Yeah. I mean, that’s one thing when I, when I say, you know, when I was planning this newsletter, I said, I want to do a profile of a creator every single week in the newsletter. And you know, that is like a non-negotiable for me. Like, I think that voice really needs to be a parent and to like, just using creators as experts, like if there’s something happening, I want to quote a creator just as much as I want to quota industry expert, because creators are experts in their field.
So I think like the creator profiles have been, you know, the most obvious example of, and it also ensures that I’m talking to creators at least once a week for these creative, for these profiles. And, you know, while I’m talking to them, new ideas come up or I ask them about, you know, stuff that’s happening.
And it always strikes me at how different everyone runs their business. you know, there’s people I’ve talked to creators who. You know, keep all their receipts in a shoe box and that’s how they organize themselves. Whereas other people are, you know, really intense in their spreadsheets. Other people are literally tracking their earnings in the notes app on their phone, you know, like there’s just, it’s just really interesting to see.
And even just the approaches of like where they’re posting content, how they’re posting it, what their niches are. I mean, it’s such a diverse space. and I think just having that voice is super important. and not just what the companies are saying, cause the companies can say, oh, you know, web three is the future of the creator economy, but what do the creators actually say about this?
Like do they think that, or are they selling NFTs? You know? So I think just getting that creative voice is absolutely crucial to, to covering this.
Yep. Got it. It reminded me of another thing that I wanted to ask about, which is, you know, we’re talking about all these different platforms, right? As a creator could be building on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, you and I are both more
Twitter native, but the probably than, than other platforms. but what do you think about, you know, those, all of those platforms that are, that were the audiences platform owned, versus, you know, you spend your time in email as well, which is a creator owned and, and obviously, you know, with ConvertKit I’m on that side a lot as well.
And I’m just curious how you see the intersection between us to have platform don’t audiences versus create around.
Yeah. I mean, even with email, like there’s still stuff that you don’t control. Like the amount of times you’ve have been like, oh, I thought you wrote a weekly newsletter. Cause it just goes into my spam half the time. And I’m like, oh my God, how do I fix that? You know? So I think even email is not
A perfection, PTO. There’s so many different providers. Like I remember at the beginning of writing the newsletter, I was getting all these emails from people being like, Hey, I use outlook. And whenever you have a photo in the newsletter, it like blows up really bad. I have like. I don’t our engineering team is like, we don’t really know what to do about that, you know?
So I think there, there is a lot with, with email that that can be problematic or create some issues. But, to your original question, I think the platforms are crucial for discovery. I mean, that’s where the eyeballs are. you know, that’s where a lot of your fans are. That’s where people are going to find your content.
So I think like the platforms are not going away. what’s been interesting is that, you know, before Instagram people were blogging and had blogs and now we’re almost, you know, converting back to that idea or people are doing personal websites or mailing lists or newsletters to just have more control over their audience had more of a direct connection with them.
So I think like these two things can exist in tandem, but over the past few years, I think creators just really put their eggs in the platform basket.
And now you’re hearing a lot more creators as being like, you know, I’m signing up for community. So I have like the text message list. I can text people. I think that the big Facebook outage was a big wake up call for folks that like, if you, I don’t think there’s any creators.
Every creator has a platform where they’re the biggest, right. But people are on multiple. They might not be on every single platform, but they’re on at least two. so, okay. Maybe your Instagram was down and that’s your big platform. You can still kind of reach people on, you know, other means, but it was a huge wake up call for people to be like, wow.
I mean, I talked to one creator who had, converted her business to mostly on online courses. And she was like, I’m so glad that I did that. And that kind of reinforces that because I have, you know, this client list and a mailing list and my business, isn’t just focused on a platform that I don’t control.
Like we’ve seen so many examples of like the YouTube ad apocalypse and suddenly your earnings are cut in half because of an algorithm change or. You know, Facebook several years ago said they’re going to prioritize posts from friends and family over creators and brands and that mess things up. So I think like you have to be ready to adapt on these platforms and also safeguard yourself with, you know, a mailing list or a website or, you know, something else where you have a little bit more direct connection.
Yeah. I think that’s really good. I like to have, like my newsletter that I control and then have one platform that I’m really working on for distribution, because the newsletters don’t have built into distribution. Like there’s no algebra. saying like, Hey, this is a really great newsletter. Let’s share it automatically with all these other people who have never heard of you, you know, whereas Twitter or YouTube or Instagram all, and especially TikTok, right.
Have that. And so I use Twitter for growing, like reaching new people and discovery and all of that. And then I use the newsletter for like really refining that relationship.
Okay. One of the things that I want to talk about as I created our economy, you touched on it a little bit, is web three and crypto. I, some people I talked to are. Yeah, web three is the creator economy. And then other people are like, no, no, the creator economy has existed long before like crypto was ever a part of it or NFTs or any of that.
I’m curious for maybe two sides, one like your take as an individual, you know, as you’re deeply immersed in this. And then also, you know, just what, what you’re seeing on the other side of like the trends of writing about the space every single day.
Yeah. I mean, I think as a journalist, you always have to have, I, I feel like I’m an optimist generally, but like you always have to have a heavy dose of skepticism just covering anything at face value. So I think we’re just really in the early days, I think the last year, the, just the pitches I was getting, every single company was trying to brand us, create our economy.
And that was really the buzzword of the last year. And even into last year, it started kind of, some of that excitement started shifting to web three and crypto. Now the pitches I get are like, we’re a metaverse web three NFT creator company. It’s like this hyphenated thing. So I think we’re still really, in the early days, you obviously have like digital artists and certain people that have jumped on this and have had success with, you know, launching NFTs.
I think a lot of the creators that I speak to from kind of the big platforms, like YouTube or tech, Dockers, or Instagram influencers, some of them have experimented with it. But I think like you saw some early examples of like Logan Paul selling, like the Pokemon unboxing videos. And he made like however many millions of dollars in like 30 minutes.
And I think creators are really wary of like making it seem like a, get rich quick scheme. You know, Kim Kardashian got sued for cryptocurrency scheme. So I think. With crypto, there is this, there’s a different language. It’s kind of this niche community right now. And it can be really intimidating for people.
And I think creators are really careful to not sell something to their audience that maybe they don’t totally understand, or they’re not totally comfortable with or embracing yet. So, I mean, I know some creators are like, yeah, I’m interested in it. I’m paying attention to it. Others are like, yeah, I’m never going to have to.
That’s just not, you know, not for me. So I get, you know, kind of varying answers, but it just feels very early. And I don’t, I don’t know that the technology is very at. I don’t know that it makes sense for every single company to suddenly be pivoting or having some sort of web three feature. I don’t know if it makes sense for every single business model at this point,
But I think underlying ideas of it, of like more ownership and all that stuff.
Like it all sounds good in theory. Right. And like, I think creators want more ownership and they haven’t had that, you know, in this iteration of the internet. But I think we’re just, we’re just so early with that
Yeah, for sure. I think it’s also good for, for all the founders out there to know that when they tack the Liz buzzword on their startup pitch, it’s readily apparent like easy right through it. So,
Although for investors, I mean, I think like investors feel like last year investors felt a pressure to have a creator economy startup, like as part of their portfolio and have like a creator economy strategy. And now like they need to have a web three strategy. So I think like some of it too is driven by some of the investor enthusiasm for, for the space.
Yep. I think that’s very true. another thing that I want to talk about is like being a creator through a crisis, right? The last, just the last two years, right. Has been like, individual creators have had to think, okay, how do I respond? What do I say? What do I not say? As we go through, you know, a pandemic through, you know, substantial, like race and social justice issues, and then like today, right?
As we’re recording this, you know, Russia has invaded Ukraine and that’s going on. And so, I’m curious for, you know, what you see Washington space, but then also how you think creators should show up and, and what they should do in like, continuing to be a creator in the midst of, a steady stream of crises that we all face.
Yeah. I mean, I think it’s, it’s a really tough. Situation for creators, because if they don’t say anything, they get criticized. If they say the wrong thing, they get criticized. If they don’t do enough, they’re also criticized. So I think that, you know, depending on how they handle it, they can get backlash either way.
I mean, I think we saw this obviously with COVID with vaccinations and people either saying they did or didn’t get vaccinated. We saw it with BLM and people not posting or posting. And you also, you know, creators are also criticized for like, talking about issues that maybe they’re not an expert in, right?
Like Russia, Ukraine has a very complicated, long running geopolitical crisis and it’s not fair to expect a fashion influencer to be an expert on it, nor should they be. So I think what we saw, you know, in the days after Russia invaded Ukraine, you know, I was watching top Ukrainian influencers and Kiev and some of these.
You know, some of these cities that were being bombed and it was it. And I know everyone has done the story of like the first TikTok war and like how social media has really messed us, like up close, view of this. And I think through influencers, it was this jarring experience of, you know, watching her, her story from a day ago.
And it’s like her celebrating her daughter’s birthday and playing with her daughter and taking selfies and showing her nails and then suddenly. Cuts to this dramatic address from, the Ukrainian president and her, you know, they got for the Instagram translation feature because I, you know, translating what, what, what this woman was posting.
And she was talking about being scared and she eventually left the country and went to Poland and was, you know, documenting her whole journey. And it was just this incredible, experience for me to just be able to watch this firsthand, you know, millions of other people as well. so I think like we’ve seen cases of that.
I spoke with, a Ukrainian American influencer who’s based in New York who has, you know, many family and friends in Ukraine. And she said, you know, I canceled all my brand partnerships. I’m not posting about anything, but this issue, I just, I can’t imagine saying anything other than that. I mean, obviously she is, she was born in Ukraine and, and understands, you know, the intricacies of everything.
And it was like making videos explaining, like, why don’t you sanctions mean, you know, and like, This is from, you know, research from the New York times and this and that. because I think too, like you can accidentally spread misinformation. You could be trying to like rally your audience to donate and you don’t, are you vetting those charities?
Like, I think there’s just so much that creators have to think about, some creators I spoke to too where like delaying launches or brand partnerships and just feeling like you don’t want to be tone deaf in these situations. I have seen some of that shift, like the longer this goes on, you do see kind of people reverting back to their normal content.
But I think just the best thing creators can do is just, you know, make sure they’re not being tone deaf in any way. And I, I think it can be really. It can be challenging. And at the end of the day, like this is their job, right? Like their job is to post brand partnerships. Like there’s a war going on. That doesn’t mean some, you know, someone that works at X company stops going to work.
But I think creators work is still kind of seen sometimes lesser or like influencers are kind of made fun of sometimes or like not taken seriously. So I think creators find themselves in this tough situation of like, well, this is my income, but I’m also trying to be really conscious of what’s going on and when your personality and your work is, is so personal and on social media for everyone to see, that’s a really tough balance.
I remember with the pandemic, you know, w I w I struggled with, you know, what to post, what, what to share right. In the middle of that. Everyone was trying to, you know, two years ago, almost exactly are we two years to the day, I’m being honest, March 10th, as we record this somewhere right in here. You know, as everything’s unfolding, there’s a time where if you posted other content, you know, that wasn’t, about the pandemic or support funds for people who were, you know, being laid off from work or whatever else that was considered very tone deaf, right?
Like how could you post that? there’s a global pandemic going on, which I understand and, and, and can relate to. but then somewhere in there, there was also a, like, I’ve read everything there is to read about the pandemic. And so I, I kind of want just like, I can’t do anything about it, you know, I’m already, well, not at that time.
Right. But I’m already wearing my mask and vaccinated or, or whatever. Right. I’ve done all the steps that I can actually kind of want content and information. That’s a break from that. And it’s such a hard thing. Right. You know, if we go through a pandemic, you know, racial justice issues, is that the only thing that you should talk about or like right now being in the middle of a war for, you know, once you’ve donated and once you’ve shown support, like, you know, there’s not a lot, necessarily other things that you can do.
And so I have no answers. It’s just a really tough balance of like, at what point are you providing people, a break in a relief from crisis,
Versus at what point are you, being, being tone deaf or not amplifying something enough?
I know, I think it’s really tough. And like, there is something to be said for counter-programming in, in some cases. I think it’s really tough. I’m so my peer and my friend, Kate Lindsey writes a really fabulous, newsletter called embedded and she had a, a newsletter. It was something titled like you don’t have to post through a crisis right.
Of like tone, deaf things celebrities have said. And, and basically just, she had this line that really stuck out to me about.
Social media just like highlights what’s happening in the world. Like there’s crisis going on in different parts of the world. And other people are living totally normal and social media just really amplifies that.
And at this contrast that can feel really kind of gross and jarring. but like that is the reality of it. So I think it’s, I think it’s tough. I’ve seen some creators, you know, post about donating and then also post, you know, stuff from their daily life. You know, if you’re scrolling on TikTok, like you see some people not making light by any means, but just trying to have, you know, do comedy videos in a way that kind of provides some relief without, you know, lessening the situation.
So, yeah, I think, and I think sometimes it’s okay to just not post and that’s okay too. It’s just so not just don’t say anything.
Yeah, I think each one, knowing that every, every crisis. going to have a bit of a peak as far as, awareness and, and everyone paying attention to the bat, that will probably be less than three or four days, five days, something like that, of like that time period where everyone is paying attention to that, that thing.
And then it will start to fade out and it’ll go into this level of everyone’s checking up on the news on it. But there, there is a little bit of a return to normal. if we are in a position to have that luxury, like, you know, acknowledging very clearly, like right being in the United States, we have a huge luxury that, that people in Ukraine or like, you know, in neighboring countries don’t have right now.
So I think my approach has probably to stop posting or post in, in solidarity or something helpful. Right then, and then after, you know, a few days or a week, start to ease back into some more normal. content and then, and then really keep an eye for. Okay. Is there anything that I would post normally then in light of these circumstances is going to come up, come off as really tone deaf?
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I think it’s just being very self-aware and just, do you, do you really need to post like your brunch right now? Is that really like a deep burning desire that you feel that you need to do?
Yeah, for sure. And then, I mean, there, there will always be, you know, I series of crises that, that come up. yeah, it’s interesting. I don’t know. I feel like I don’t have any answers, but as, as creators, we’ll gradually figure it out of, you know, what the right approach is. So, on a different note, maybe a more, more, advice-giving or a cheerful note, I’d be curious for.
Anyone who’s writing a newsletter. Right. If someone’s setting out and saying, okay, I’m going to write, an industry newsletter.
Is there anything that, any advice that you’d give them or things that you’re like, oh, I, you know, a year ago before I started this, I really wish that I knew these things and it would have made my life, would have made it easier as I launched into this whole venture. Yeah.
I mean, it’s really hard. It’s really hard to do a newsletter. And I think having like a point of view and a niche I think is really important because it’s so crowded and there’s so many newsletters now. So figuring out kind of what differentiates you, I think is important. And I think like, you really have to commit to it.
Like if you’re doing a subsect newsletter on the side and you’re sending it out really periodically, randomly, like you’re not, it’s harder to build a habit then an audience. I mean, if you’re doing it just for fun for friends, you know, fine. But if you’re trying to build this into a business or, you know, really gain an audience with it, I mean, consistency is really important.
You know, there, there was one week, the last week of last year, between kind of Christmas time and new Year’s where, you know, we took the week off from the newsletter, but for the most part, like we have published every single, you know, Monday through Thursday, there was, like I lost power others ago, hurricane that I still did my newsletter.
You know, obviously my editor was like, please don’t. Please don’t and I was like, no, I really want to do it. I already wrote half of it yesterday. Like I want to make it work. So I think like, I feel responsibility to my audience. So, and just kind of understanding the market, like, if you’re writing about a specific topic, like what’s already out there, you know, who are some newsletters you admire and you know, how do you want to format it?
And just kind of, I think keeping consistent, I think it would be probably jarring for my audience. If I, you know, I changed around the sections, but like there are sections I’m always there. And I think like if you’re changing the format all the time, it can just be kind of confusing. But I think like having a niche and I think people really want a point of view and that doesn’t have to be like a hot take or like some crazy opinion, but, you know, people can, if they want to read about, you know, whatever X headline, they can just go to any kind of new sources.
Get the news, but I think people increasingly, like, they want to know what you have to say, right? Like you’re an expert in this. It doesn’t have to nest, like I’m not necessarily an opinion writer by any means, but I have a point of view on things. I’m, I’m kind of inserting like my expertise in it. And I think people want to hear that.
I think just having a niche is really important because that’ll attract more loyalty and people interested in that, versus this very general kind of thing.
Yeah. I think that’s great advice. I especially like the advice of having a point of view. I think that is really important. There’s a lot of times where you’re just saying, “Hey, this is what happened. Here’s the thing.” It’s like, “No, I’m following you specifically because I want to know what you think about it.”
For people who want to follow you and know what you think about things, and subscribe to the newsletter, where should they go? Both for the newsletter and for any social media.
I think on every social media platform I’m @kyurieff. Twitter is kind of my main platform that I use professionally. My Instagram is private. I go back and forth with being private or not, but it’s mostly something I use for friends and family.
For the newsletter, you can go to theinformation.com/newsletters/creator-economy, and then you can sign up for it from there.
Yeah, you can buy a domain that goes straight to it, which would be good.
Well, thanks so much for coming on the show.
Thank you for having me.