Internet and the Rise of a New Creative Class
Over the past two decades, the Internet has transformed both our individual lives and businesses. Internet companies have become dominant across verticals. Today, some of the highest valued companies in the world are internet companies.
This new reality is now changing many other areas of our lives and business. In the past years, the internet has largely been used for access and consumption.
We are, however, entering a new phase of the internet where the internet is being used for creation. In the coming years, access to the internet will not mean much anymore but the impact of the internet will far exceed what we can imagine today.
The past decades were about access to the internet. Companies like Facebook and Google are basically about the access to internet and internet services.
We have seen the rise of ecommerce, at least to a limited extent in Bangladesh. More and more people are today accessing internet and internet enabled services. Smartphone revolution over the past decade has made access easier for people across regions. Today, some 99 million people have access to the internet in Bangladesh (BTRC, 2020).
The access has now come to a point where we are increasingly getting into the deployment phase of the internet.
People making live shows from their living room on Facebook Lives and household women making TikTok videos are glimpses of the future of internet enabled creation and the power of individual creators. Today, we have influencers on social media platforms and stars on TikTok.
Internet and individuality
On Facebook, you can create a page using which you can share knowledge, build an audience, and sell products. A growing number of people, who have something worth sharing and disseminate or sell, are doing it and thus creating opportunities for them.
There are online education platforms today such as Skillshare and Bohubrihi that allow independent professionals and teachers to create courses, sell them, and make money out of it. Bohubrihi does all the work – providing the creators with equipment to prepare courses, market the courses, and sell them. Creators only create the courses and in turn earn revenues.
There are other platforms such as Substack that allows people to create email newsletter and monetize them through paid subscriptions. There are now newsletters run by individuals that generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.
Individual writers today can monetize their writing across mediums. Mediums, the platform for online writing, are now allowing writers to make money by putting their work under paywall. In fact, independent writers and bloggers are making money through both subscriptions and donations.
Take, for example, Stratechery, the paid newsletter written by inimitable Ben Thompson. The newsletter and blog draw millions of readers and the newsletter has thousands of paid subscribers turning Ben Thompson into one of the most influential technology analysts in the world.
Maria Popova, one of my favorite authors on the internet, runs Brain Pickings, a blog, all alone. Brain Pickings draws millions of views every month and is considered one of the most intellectually rich online destinations for intellectually curious people. Popova takes donations and now organizes ticketed events.
Then there are YouTube stars. Popular video content creators on Google’s video platform now generate hundreds of thousands in revenue.
The Internet empowers individual creators like never before. You have some unique skills, the internet enables you to effectively monetize it. You can build an audience and monetize in more than one way.
There are paid subscriptions where users pay a fee for accessing creations of a creator. Over the past years, subscription has become one of the hot trends across verticals. It is not a hot trend yet in Bangladesh but it will be soon.
Then there are donations. You can ask your audience to pay some amount of donation and there are examples of that as well.
There are examples of generating revenue through advertising. There are examples of selling skills and services such as online courses.
Everyone is a broadcaster
The reflection of this reality that everyone with some skill can create, directly reach an audience and eventually take a shot at monetization in some way has never been clearer in Bangladesh than during this pandemic in the form of live shows on Facebook and YouTube and Zoom Webinars.
The number of people running some sort of online show amid the lockdown is likely to surpass the number of people watching these shows. This is testament to the power the internet offers to individuals with something to share.
It is a reality that not all of these shows are worth watching and will eventually survive but some of them will. More importantly, it tells about an opportunity the internet offers to individual creators that you can create and reach an audience. Now some of these shows that we are seeing amid the pandemic will survive and are likely to pick up speed and turn into something bigger eventually.
It reflects a clear shift in how we access information in a world where the internet dominates access, empowers individuals and a diminishing power of old institutions such as newspapers who acted as gatekeepers in the past.
Today, the sources of information are fragmented and no one has a monopoly over access to the audience. Creators today no longer require to rely on old gatekeepers to reach an audience or monetize. They can simply do it themselves.
Internet and niche
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Ruhul Kader is a technology business and technology policy analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Future Startup and author of Rethinking Failure: A short guide to living an entrepreneurial life. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, technology policy, and society. He can be reached at [email protected]