Platforms like YouTube, Instagram or TikTok deserve praise for making it easy to share what you’ve created with the world, but they do not create the valuable thing itself. We don’t take our phones out because we love the YouTube user interface so much – we get on YouTube because of the things people have taken the time to create & share with the world.
Content creators produce most of the value in the online content ecosystem, and yet most of them are hardly rewarded for this. Sure, life is great for the big influencers: countless brands come to you with sponsorship offers, your manager takes care of the business details, and you focus on creating more content. While they worked hard to get there and certainly earned it, the vast majority of creators don’t even make enough money from content creation to pay their bills.
Brand sponsorships are the main source of income for most creators. We recently surveyed the creators we work with, and most of them want to significantly increase the number of brand sponsorships they do — but of course, brands often end up working with a handful of large influencers instead of hundreds of midsize ones, because this is often much more convenient for them from a logistics point of view. Or at least used to be.
For the past couple of years, we at Matchmade have been obsessively focused on helping more creators get paid for their work. We’re just getting started, but I’m still happy with our progress so far — in 2020 the number of creators we provided sponsorships for grew by 5x, and 4x in 2021. Today, we work with over 12 000 content creators, and more and more often we’re able to provide creators with their first ever brand sponsorship — their first paycheck.
My journey as a creator
My own journey as an online content creator started when I was 11 years old, in September 1995. I was already a huge nerd back then – writing “games” in QuickBasic and hosting a BBS on our family computer (an activity which was frequently interrupted by mundane things like phone calls, until I convinced my mom to get us a fancy digital ISDN connection that had two lines).
That faithful September, I got a copy of the Finnish Mikrobitti computing magazine from the library, and in that magazine were instructions for how to build your own homepage on the World Wide Web using the HTML language. A homepage that I made that anyone anywhere in the world could visit whenever they wanted to.
I built my first website the same day, though it would take a year of pre-teen bribery and threats to convince my mother to get an Internet connection that I could use to finally actually upload my homepage somewhere. But from that moment onwards, I was hooked.
By the time I was 16 I dropped out of high school to work at a startup that was running a live-streaming talk show on the Internet. We had the “love metal band” HIM hungover and smoking cigarettes in our backroom “studio”, and I believe we reached a whopping 80 concurrent viewers with that show. The world wasn’t ready for streaming video yet.
Since then, I’ve built my share of games and online services, I’ve posted my embarrassing digital art creations online, and I remain amazed by the creativity that computers, smartphones and the internet have made possible. I fully subscribe to the Steve Jobs school of thought of the computer as bicycle for the mind. I believe in creators.
Matchmade is for the creators
What we do at Matchmade is simple. We make it possible for brands to sponsor thousands of creators as easily or easier than it would be to sponsor one big one. This business model has led many people to mistakenly thinking of us as an advertising, or “adtech”, company. We are a creator company.
For most people, it’s only possible for them to do what they love if they can get paid for it. This is why we started with and continue investing in brand sponsorships – step one of the plan is “help more creators get paid”, and making it easy and profitable for brands to sponsor more small and midsized creators is critically important. As I wrote above, we’ve recently made huge progress on that front. Every quarter, we’re helping more creators get paid than before, and more and more often it’s the first money they ever earned from their efforts.
Getting that first paycheck or wire transfer is a huge milestone, but in many very concrete ways that’s only where the real work starts. Getting paid means it’s no longer a hobby – getting paid means contracts, payments, accounting, taxes and all kinds of other commitments. Getting paid is a sign that your channel is growing, but sustaining that growth takes a whole lot of planning, coordination and effort. A lot of things that are very different from the act of creating engaging content, yet absolutely crucial to succeeding in the long term and being able to support yourself as a creator.
So if Matchmade isn’t an adtech company but a creator company, does our responsibility really end when the sponsor has gotten their views and clicks? Or is that first sponsorship just the starting point for something much bigger?
In the coming years, we will see an unprecedented number of new growing businesses spring up as the creator economy continues picking up steam. All these new business owners will need help operating and growing their businesses. They need an operating system for creators.
While it’s not the time for announcements yet, I’m excited about what 2022 has in store for Matchmade. We’re helping more creators start earning money from their passion every day, and soon we will be there to help them grow and succeed.