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The future state of influencer
What happens next?
Ridge was early on youtube.
Its because I watched a ton of youtube.
I dont have an instagram, so I missed the 2012-2015 “influencer” rise.
Perfectly curated photo shoots, $50,000 for a feed post.
Kardashians, hot people on vacations, trying to sell you tummy tea.
Ridge never played there.
But as someone who was 20 in 2014, I spent 2-6 hours a day watching youtube.
Content comes in eras. A brief history.
It is directionally correct.
We could debate timelines or if these youtubers were really the most important of their era, but remove all the commentary on “content” and replace it with commerce.
Adsense was introduced early in youtubes life, but it wasnt broadly available until 2010.
Adsense fueled creator growth from 2010-2015.
Payouts were small and often times an MCM would take half, but it was doing what no other platform was doing at scale- paying you for content.
But by the end of 2016, more and more creators were being demonetized.
The 5 years prior, people built up operations. Teams. Studio space.
H3H3 is a good example. They had employees they had to pay.
But ad sense as a revenue source became unreliable.
The platform went through the first of many “ADpocalypses”
Ridge and Early Youtube Influencer:
Really by chance, I was watching youtube in 2015.
I thought “hey we should sponsor this channels”
We obviously werent the first people to do it.
But I think we were one of the early DTC brands to lean in here.
And it was a huge growth driver from 2015-2020.
Our strategy was:
“If the CPMs match facebook, book the deal”
Facebook CPMs were $8 bucks.
You get better targeting, tracking, etc.
But if we could get a personal endorsement for the same price, why not try?
We spent millions of dollars in those 5 years.
Built out an in house team. Built some great relationships.
We were a steady revenue source when adsense wasnt.
The Rise of Crypto and the new era of content:
Influencer is still a huge part of what we do.
We will sponsor 2,000+ creators this year.
Deploy millions once again.
But something changed around 2021 and into 2022.
Really two things happened:
Crypto ate the world.
Creators we worked with for years got their bag.
Where we would pay $10 CPMS, crypto would LITERALLY PAY $200.
Now, we know it was all stolen money, FTX was a big spender in the space.
But still, crypto and other scammy advertisers really hurt the channel for a long time.
There were always jokes about us and raid shadow legends.
But they were harmless lol- we are a wallet they are some weird game.
But when you get NFTs, Crypto, shitcoins and rugpulls using the same ad space as you- not only does it drive up prices, it can hurt the trust of the channel.
We saw this correct a bit in 2022.
FTX blew up, they stopped paying influencers, prices crashed.
But the damage was done.
Long form ads on youtube had hurt a lot of people.
The rise of “for you” content:
You can blame tik tok and shortform, but really this was always going to happen.
Youtube, and really all platforms, want a long tail of creators.
More smaller creators means they dont have to cater to 10 mega stars.
Smaller creators have less spotlight, less cancelability, less bargaining power.
Plus- tik tok showed the addictive nature of hyper specific content.
“Oh you like metal music and waffles? here is someone playing metal riffs while cooking a full breakfast!”
So many people creating content leads to unlimited choice.
Unlimited choice leads to better and better recommendations.
And these recommendations, in theory, get you to spend more time watching the content.
SO what does “for you” content have to do with ads?
Subscribers mean nothing now.
Legacy accounts mean nothing.
Creating content pre 2020 and post 2020 are different games.
We used to sponsor hundreds of channels that would pull in 1m views a video.
But because viewership has shifted from tentpole culturally important channels, to long tail “for you” content, there was been a 50% reduction in 1m+ video channels.
And the channels that do push those views are taking more time between uploads, focusing on quality and worklife balance.
Its not about audience anymore.
It is about algorithm.
2023+ the future of influencer
The unlock now is being the media company.
The shelf life of any one channel is questionable.
The algo can change and then your audience disappears.
The opportunity is to get good at making content, so that you can reach people as your own influencer.
And if the algo changes? you are a company. Reinvent and do it again.
Influencer will always be something we do.
But I think our budget stays flat for the next few years.
Ill spend 1-3m building my own content.
Keep my long term partners bought into the brand.
Find cool new people doing cool stuff.
Find new ways to engage with the people we work with.
But the old era is over.
You wont just sponsor a video and print money.
One off deals wont even make sense anymore.
Views are too random. Are you reaching loyal audience or top of funnel algo?