Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this week talked about his company's plans to help people start their own digital publishing businesses. His brief description of those efforts included a call for people
who aspire to make money from their creative work to cast off the chains of their dreary day jobs and set up shop on Facebook.
“A positive vision for the future of the economy is
one where more people get to do creative work they enjoy, rather than jobs they don't," he said in prepared remarks during the company's earnings call. "Our goal is to support the full range of human expression, and
to be the best platform for millions of creators to make a living.”
He described a scenario that would let those creators collect tips, charge for subscriptions or earn affiliate
revenue from product recommendations. Of course, Facebook also wants a wider range of content
that gives people another
reason to spend time on the social network, where it can target them with ads or collect a commission on transactions.
As healthy as the company's ad revenue growth has been -- including a 46%
jump from a year earlier to $25.44 billion in the first quarter -- the growth rate of the global digital ad market will slow to the single digits in the next four to five years. That will pressure
Facebook to diversify its income from a near-total dependence on mobile ads, and broaden its e-commerce business to include paid subscriptions for content.
The Zuckerberg Manifesto sounds noble in its aspirations to pair artists, writers, musicians and other kinds of creators with patrons, but it's just Facebook's effort to be an intermediary in a
growing part of the media business.
Whether it's a videogame streamer on Twitch, an artist on Patreon, a newsletter writer on Substack or an adult performer on OnlyFans, creators have more ways to
make money from subscriptions, donations and tips.
Platforms that let creators get paid directly are drawing more attention from investors, as seen with Substack's
recent round of fundraising, which valued the company at a reported $650 million. And just this week, Mighty Networks raised $50 million to support the growth of its platform, which lets creators and
brands grow online communities.
Described as a "Facebook alternative" by theNew York Post
, Mighty Networks doesn't carry advertising. Instead, creators
make money by selling memberships, subscriptions and online courses to consumers. Mighty Networks promises those content providers complete creative control, something they may not find on
ad-supported platforms dogged by concerns about brand safety.
Whether Substack and Mighty Networks can survive a competitive onslaught from Facebook remains to be seen. However,
their growth is another sign of the importance of reader revenue in a segment of digital publishing that consists of individual content producers -- including those longing to quit their lousy day