Instagram, YouTube & TikTok Are Burning Out Their Creators. Here’s How to Fix That.

Creator Wellness Will Be A Key Goal of New Products

Being a modern creator is, for many, exhausting. The falling economic costs of production and distribution have been replaced by a new set of taxes — physical, emotional, psychological — as your community expects new content, accessibility to their heroes and open book authenticity. Paired with the social media platform algorithms, which in themselves reward frequency and engagement, this combination saps joy and agency from the creative process and burns out the creators. Having to perform 24/7 comes with costs, and that’s only dealing with fans let alone the trolls.

What’s a creator to do? I’d suggest a better question is ‘what can these companies do help creators?’ and that we’re about to enter Phase 3.0 of Creator Wellness, one where the products build in their own affordances to assist their supply-side participants.

Phase 1.0 was the earliest days of “user generated content.” Our understanding of impact upon creators was immature or unconsciously naive because the teams building the platforms often didn’t resemble (in all definitions of the word) the creators on the platform. At the same time the huge growth of these audiences meant that “being a creator” and “going viral” were phenomenons that quickly outstripped previous models in scale and volume. Creators were left to figure out their well-being on their own.

Phase 2.0 was the beginning of Creator Health initiatives. Most of these programs were/are one-off but well-intended — platform companies creating teams to work with high profile creators, build relationships that optimized for longterm commercial sustainability. It’s bad business for creators to burnout. The more scaled efforts, like YouTube’s Creator Academy, should be recognized as thoughtful and caring, but it’s unclear if the advice offered here is hard-coded into the platform’s incentives. If it’s not, then it’s like a school counselor preaching balance to student-athletes while also allowing the football coach to continue two-a-day practices through finals week.

So what do I hope Phase 3.0 looks like? It has Creator Wellness built fundamentally into the product itself, in a way which signals to both the creator and their community that this stuff matters. My guess is it’ll be different for each product, based on unique aspects of the medium, but here are three potential experiments:

  • “Seasons” — one aspect of seasons (tv, professional sports) is that they have [drum roll] off-seasons! That’s right! Rest and recovery time built into the meta-schedule, which establish their own expectations for fans as to when content will be available. If you’re a football fan you might wish the NFL played 24/7 but you’re not yelling at Patrick Mahomes for not suiting up on a Sunday in May. Products will experiment with this type of built-in publishing format as a template, vs something that creators are doing ad hoc.
  • Limiting Publishing Velocity — Imagine if the platforms themselves created scarcity and toned-down the “most post” overdrive by experimenting with their own versions of healthy rate-limiting (limited publishing windows, capped amount of content per day/week, etc). Could take lots of forms but potentially feels artificial if not built into the product from the start — ie I think this has to be fundamental product DNA and not slapped on later.
  • PTO — Ok, hear me out. What if each year, creators who cross X-threshold of success (views, dollars, whatever) were given PTO from the platform. You get to take a week off from engaging and (a) are not penalized in the algo and (b) you get paid the average amount of your earnings from the preceding 52 weeks. And when you take it, there’s a special “On PTO” account status visible to your community, which activates some feature like “best of content” or other system-provided interaction mode while the creator is on their break.

What else do you think can be done at a product-level to help support Creator Wellness? Hit me up on the Twitters.

Notes and More

📦 Things I’m Enjoying

Finished the first three seasons of Ozark, and I just wish there was one episode where everything went right for this family (even if they don’t deserve it). And here’s my annual recommendation for the easiest way to make hard-boiled/poached eggs.

🏗 Highlighted Homebrew Portfolio Jobs

Tia is healthcare designed for women from the start, combining IRL clinics with URL telehealth. They’re a well-funded post-Series A startup that’s growing quickly to meet the needs of their clients. If you’d like to join the Tia team and build the future of care, they’re hiring.