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The Harsh Reality Of The Creator Economy


The Harsh Reality Of The Creator Economy

The “creator economy” is an ecosystem that includes more than 50 million individuals, such as content creators, influencers, and digital entrepreneurs who influence their audiences and run online businesses.

With the advent of social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Twitch, content consumption has experienced rapid growth and become a significant force in the digital realm.

Yet the reality does not match the outward appearance.

The Bloomberg report, “Success on YouTube Still Means a Life of Poverty,” highlights the harsh realities of the influencer industry and informs the struggle and challenges creators face to make a sustainable income, especially YouTubers.

The report looks at the intricacies of the creative industries beyond the superficial fame and fortune that can be observed on the surface.

You will need a subscription to Bloomberg to read the full report.

Overview of Bloomberg’s Report

The 2018 Bloomberg report, “Success on YouTube Still Means a Life of Poverty,” highlights the harsh realities of the creative economy that creatives face despite the immense potential for success.

The report looks at a diverse group of creatives across content categories.

For the study, Bloomberg interviewed several content creators and industry experts to gather insightful information and data about the challenges creators face.

To get the full picture, the report thoroughly examines publicly available data on YouTube’s revenue-sharing model and the revenue of top creators.

The main findings of the report strongly highlight income inequality within the creative economy. 

The majority of the creators on YouTube earn only a fraction of the income earned by the top 1% of creators. 

In addition, the impact of evolving demonetization strategies and algorithms has led to income volatility and instability for creators. (More on this in the next section.)

The research provides a comprehensive study of the challenges and limitations encountered by creators in today’s media landscape. 

The findings in the report are critical to understanding and comparing the realities of YouTube creators and underscore the need for better support and opportunities for content creators.

The Struggle to Make a Living as a Creator

According to the Bloomberg report, a significant number of arts professionals earn meager incomes that are not even enough to support themselves, let alone their families.

Additionally, monetization poses a formidable challenge for creators. 

Social media platforms like Instagram and youtube enable creators to earn through advertising revenue, brand deals, sponsorships, and merchandise. 

However, these avenues are often subjected to algorithm changes and demonetization, resulting in sudden drops in their incomes. 

Read our in-depth analysis on how the Double-Edged Sword Of Ad-Blocking Technology is impacting the Creator Economy.

Creator’s earnings on YouTube are solely based on the number of advertising views, rather than the number of views or likes on their videos. 

In addition, the revenues generated are divided between the platform and the authors, which is not always advantageous for the authors and is comparatively lower.

In addition, content creators need to be very vigilant when creating and producing content and follow YouTube’s community guidelines, as advertisers may pull their ads due to controversial content.

These factors make it difficult for creators to sustain a living from YouTube. 

To grow effectively, creatives must grasp evolving changes and adapt accordingly to maintain relevance and earn a living.

Overall, the report provides valuable insights into the struggles creators face and the efforts they put in to create high-quality content for their viewers. 

The Illusion of Success on YouTube

Recently, YouTube has emerged as a prominent platform for creators to showcase their creativity and skills, potentially earning a living wage in the process.

However, the Bloomberg study sheds light on the misleading metrics and challenges faced by creatives looking to build a successful career on the platform.

The report clarifies the relentless pressure creators face in creating content and making a living through their work on YouTube.

The report also draws attention to the huge discrepancy between reality and the success stories of the two well-known creators PewDiePie and Zoella.

It also highlights how difficult it is for many YouTube artists to achieve financial stability and build a sustainable career, despite the seemingly impressive metrics of their channels.

The whole illusion of YouTube’s success can be summarised in its tagline – “You can have a million views a month and still not be able to make rent.”

Misleading Metrics and the Impact on Creators

One of the biggest challenges for creators is the misleading statistics used by platforms to gauge success. 

The number of video views, likes and subscribers a YouTuber has is not necessarily synonymous with earnings.

Content creators on YouTube typically generate their earnings through advertising, where they earn a percentage of the ad revenue based on parameters such as the type of ad, the number of clicks on the ad, and the location of viewers. 

Thus, a creator with fewer views but a higher click-through rate can earn comparatively more than one with millions of views.

Furthermore, YouTube’s monetization policy necessitates that creators must have a minimum of thousand subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the past 12 months, in order to be eligible for advertising revenue. 

However, even with the assistance of monetization policy, creators struggle to sustain a living.

In addition, the presence of “controversial content” may cause advertisers to withdraw their ads, as creators do not have complete control over the ads that appear in their videos.

Moreover, the platform’s algorithm prioritizes videos that garner more watch time, indirectly motivating creators to create longer videos in order to boost and enhance their rankings. 

These inflating metrics compel creators to stay engaged with the platform. 

On the other hand, longer videos may not be the preferred choice of audiences, resulting in lower engagement and advertising revenue.

Consequently, creators find themselves in a vicious cycle of having to produce long videos to stay relevant to the algorithm, which may not be the most effective strategy for their business.

The challenges of building a sustainable career as a creator

Over time the competitiveness of the creator economy has increased incredibly, posing difficulties for individuals to build a sustainable career as a creator. 

The Bloomberg report reveals that 96.5% of YouTubers earn less than $12,000 per annum from the platform, despite its massive user base of over  2 billion active users per month and being the second largest search engine after Google. 

This highlights the notable challenge creators face as they are not only accountable for creating content but also for developing a dedicated following and proficiently monetizing their work. 

In addition to misleading metrics, constantly changing algorithms present another challenge for creators as the YouTube algorithm determines which videos are recommended to viewers. 

These algorithms have the potential to significantly impact creators’ revenue, making it critical for them to adapt to these changes in order to remain relevant and retain their audience.

Income stability is another challenge for creators particularly those who are heavily reliant on platforms like YouTube for their earnings.

You can earn $3000 a month and suddenly see a sharp drop the next month.

Also, the increased competition for views and advertising revenue makes it difficult for content creators to stand out and build a loyal audience.  

Thus ultimately leading to constant stress to create top-notch content and stay up-to-date with trends. (More on this in the next section.)

All this can be time-consuming and frustrating for creators whose main source of revenue is YouTube ads.

According to the Bloomberg report, many creators have to resort to alternatives such as sponsorship, merchandise, and other forms of revenue generation. 

The pressure to constantly produce content

The pressure of constantly creating content often poses another significant hurdle for creators. 

As per YouTube’s algorithm, creators must produce content with consistency to sustain their viewership and generate revenue from advertising revenue. 

This may result in a decline in the quality of their content as quantity takes precedence. 

Meanwhile, it is challenging for many creators who do not have desired resources or time owing to other work commitments, such as a full-time job or education. 

The pursuit of creating content in a rush and staying relevant on the platform may adversely impact the mental health and overall wellness of creators. 

This, in turn, can lead to a decline in the quality of their content, as their priority shifts from creating something extraordinary to simply producing content for its own sake – and lots of it.

Moreover, the platform demands creators remain responsive to comments and messages to ensure consistent and active engagement on their channels. 

As a result, this can lead to a dearth of work-life balance and a sense of isolation, compelling them to sideline their personal lives in order to keep up with the demands of the platform and audiences. 

All of this can sometimes lead creators to take a break from the platform itself.

The Mental Health Toll of the Creator Economy

The creator economy has brought a detrimental impact on creators’ mental health. The lack of Income stability and career uncertainty has been a significant cause of stress for creators. 

The constant pressure to adhere to the algorithm and create content that appeals to the audience can be overwhelming and lead to burnout and anxiety, as many YouTubers have no guarantee of income due to the unpredictable nature of the platform.

Another critical issue that leads to deteriorated mental health is the pressure to maintain a positive public image and avoid controversies. 

Creators constantly have to be aware and work with the unsaid responsibility to present themselves in flawless light and maintain their credibility with their audience. 

The pressure to maintain a curated and ideal version of themselves to stay relevant and honest can lead to exhaustion, anxiety, and depression. 

Moreover, the inadequacy of support for creators is a matter of concern. 

Many creators often struggle to gain access to therapy and mental health resources to manage their well-being. 

It is crucial for the creator economy to provide better mental health support to content creators. 

This can be achieved by offering access to therapy, consultations, and DIY resources to manage their stress and anxiety. 

By prioritizing mental health care in its domain, YouTube can ensure the well-being of its creators and a healthy lifestyle alongside success.  

Thus, the creator economy can flourish more positively and with its full potential.  

The Future of the Creator Economy

With exponential growth, the creative industries have shown a promising future for aspiring content creators.

Nevertheless, there are a few potential changes that could impact the creator economy. 

One potential change could be the emergence of similar platforms like YouTube and Instagram, which can aid creators to easily earn an income beyond advertising revenue with greater ease. 

These platforms can offer creators new opportunities for growth and monetization. 

In addition, this could reduce the likelihood of existing platforms monopolizing the market.

To bolster creators, the creator economy could consider several parameters to improve the current circumstances. 

A primary approach is to incorporate transparency and timely communication with creators regarding the changes in the platform’s algorithm and demonetization policies. 

Besides, brands must ensure clear communication in order to avoid ambiguity and offer more meaningful collaboration with creators. 

In addition, YouTube can provide better resources for creators to hone their skills and expand their audiences.

In conclusion, more opportunities should be created through which creators can generate additional sources of income to reduce the stress associated with income instability.


In summary, the illusion of success on YouTube represents a daunting reality for most creators. 

Beyond the glamorous side of YouTube, where a plethora of creators earn a living, lies an assortment of challenges and limitations that comes while being a content creator on YouTube. 

Misleading metrics, constant pressure of curating content, and income stability are a few of the major challenges creators encounter.

However, it is critical to comprehend that the creator economy is evolving and still thriving to grow. 

While the industry can be intimidating and unpredictable, it enables individuals to learn, grow and foster success in creative fields. 

With the help of networking and diversifying connections with industry professionals, creators can overcome the challenges of the creator economy and can establish a solid career. 

Lastly, it is crucial for brands and the platform to maintain transparency and operate ethically with creators, thereby enabling creators to create more high-quality content and serve their audiences as well as the  platform in a significant manner.

Subscribe to our newsletter for more exciting reports and analyses on the Creator Economy, such as the analysis of the Hootsuite report “How Much Do Influencers Make In 2023?

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David Adler is an entrepreneur and freelance blog post writer who enjoys writing about business, entrepreneurship, travel and the influencer marketing space.

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