Journalist, Creator or Both?
Some journalists are now part of the creator economy.
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Whether journalists, particularly those who publish independently on platforms like Substack, fit under the category of “creator” or even “influencer” has become of increasing interest to me. Some of that is entirely self-involved, of course. But it is also increasingly relevant in the modern media ecosystem.
Reflecting on 20 years of writing his blog, Adam Tinworth wrote:
I’ve now served 20 years in the creator economy trenches, and an entire two decades as a media artisan. We didn’t call it the “creator economy” back then, of course. It was “personal publishing” or the “blogosphere”. But there’s a straight-line between the two ideas. The initial spirit that drew me into blogging is still very much in evidence in today’s personal newsletters on Substack, Beehiiv and Ghost. I can see it in the waves of people using creator tools to build an alternative to the traditional media, and reshaping that media as a result.
He was producing media criticism and industry updates - journalism - just independently. I myself actually got into journalism by running various blogs. Today, plenty of newsletters on Substack and other platforms are breaking news and providing the kind of analysis we are accustomed to finding on the comment pages of newspapers. Sometimes, it is even better than what you find in traditional outlets. Not all of the people who produce such work likely think of themselves as journalists. I’m sure very few think of themselves as creators, but in many cases, they should.
Indeed, part of the issue when discussing this is who we think of as creators. It tends to be people in their teens or twenties posting on Instagram, YouTube and now TikTok. I think that’s too simplistic. I publish newsletters and podcasts - they involve the kind of content I wrote about earlier i.e journalism. But in principle what I’m doing is not different from the people who produce YouTube videos. I want to build an audience. I need to come up with ideas and constantly answer questions like how can I get the most out of this newsletter/blog post/podcast episode (also known as *deep breath* content)? What are the ways to monetise it and what brands can I collaborate with on adverts or in other ways?
Taylor Lorenz writes about tech and online culture for the Washington Post and also actively participates on the platforms she covers, building her own brand. Is she a creator? Yes. And she’s also a journalist on the payroll of one of the world’s biggest publications. Her presence on social media helps them and it helps her.
Journalists tend to think only Twitter matters, that’s where we are all. But the focus surely now needs to go beyond that (she writes, terrified to post a TikTok video!). This is particularly true given the tumult currently going on at Twitter. We simply do not know how long it or any other platform will stay of value. A wider presence is important.
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