I’ve hesitated about writing on this topic—partly because I recognize my bias. I operate in the microculture. It pays the bills around here.
But I also spent many long years in the macroculture, and have scars to show for it. So I might actually be the right person to offer analysis and forecasts on this matter.
I’ve seen both sides of the equation.
And I made the switch voluntarily. (In fact, I’ve turned down every offer from large media institutions for the last three years now.) So my views are based on considered judgment, not necessity.
In any event, I can’t really delay any longer. The clash has reached some kind of brutal tipping point. I believe it’s about to turn into war.
The fact that 2024 is an election year will escalate the conflict. Just wait and see. But even right now you can feel the ground shaking.
In just the last few days, we’ve seen the following:
- The number of layoffs at legacy media has grown so large, that The Daily Beast called it a “bloodbath” earlier this week, and is accusing the Grinch of “stealing Christmas.”
- Spotify announced the layoff of 17% of its workers two days ago. This is the company’s third round of layoffs this year.
- At the Washington Post—where owner Jeff Bezos is trying to get rid of almost a thousand journalists—workers have announced a 24-hour strike. But I doubt this will influence an owner who is already losing money every day he keeps the newspaper afloat. He probably hopes the writers stay home permanently.
- Hollywood is in freefall, and even the end of the recent writer and actor strikes can’t hide the problems. Disney head Bob Iger allegedly claimed that the new contract “will be the last deal ever and that AI will be advanced enough at the end of the contract to never bother with either group again. He thinks they will be desperate to take a deal next time.”
- Meanwhile the marketplace is rapidly shifting towards alternative video platforms (as made clear by the chart below, shared by my filmmaker nephew Mike Gioia on his new Substack). Mike, who has worked both in Hollywood and on YouTube projects, remarks: “It’s difficult to understand how these two systems exist at the same time. And maybe they won’t much longer.”
I believe that microculture creators are growing much faster than even these numbers indicate.
“This seems impossible. A single individual living in Greenville, North Carolina defeats enormous global corporations with tens of thousands of employees—and does it every month.”
In 2021, we aggregated data from 50 popular creator platforms on Stripe and found they had onboarded 668,000 creators who’d received $10 billion in payouts. We refreshed that data in 2023 and found something surprising: the creator economy is still growing about as fast as it was in 2021. Today, those same 50 creator platforms have onboarded over 1 million creators and have paid out over $25 billion in earnings.
In other words, legacy media is collapsing at the very moment that alternative platforms are booming.
I’m doubling my audience in 2023 (up more than 120% year-on-year), but the Stripe numbers indicate that this is happening everywhere in the alt culture.