The Death of The Follower & The Future of Creativity by Jack Conte

This is a long presentation from Patreon CEO Jack Conte, but absolutely essential watch for anyone who creates anything on the Internet.

One of the most revolutionary technologies of the early 2000s Internet was the Follow or Subscribe button. It wasn’t just convenient for anyone looking for updates from a specific person or group, it was a revolutionary way to build an audience.

It transformed what artists and creators could do. With the Internet, you could reach billions of people and find those 1000 True Fans that you needed to support your art.

Until TikTok. Most people think about TikTok and their innovation around short form videos. But short form video wasn’t TikTok’s true genius. Their genius was developing an algorithm based exclusively on your engagement. For really the first time, people could discover content they loved, every time, completely disconnected from the creator or the creator’s audience.

For consumers of music, video, humor, art, memes, etc – it was a sea change. Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, TwitterX – everyone (except, awesomely, Pinterest), quickly adopted the model. Even Google modified their Search algorithm to factor in engagement, independent of all other signals. And Facebook built Threads – an app scarily good at surfacing perfectly engaging content without needing any input other than people’s scrolls.

For creators, though, everyone suddenly became…something? It’s still shaking out. But it’s not great. But really, creators are back to the pre-2000s era of randomly touring around bars, farmers markets, and magazine editors and looking for a break while quickly going broke.

I have no idea what’s next, except probably more of the same until something breaks. But, as with everything, we all vote with our attention and dollars. The alternatives are all still out there – and they are better than ever!

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