The One Platform Strategy: Why Focus Is Key To Content Success With Joe Pulizzi

TLEP 65 | Content Creation

Special guest Joe Pulizzi is the founder of multiple startups, including content creator education site, The Tilt, the content entrepreneur event Creator Economy Expo (CEX). He is the bestselling author of seven books including Content Inc. and Epic Content Marketing. Joe has two weekly podcasts, the motivational Content Inc. podcast and the content news and analysis show This Old Marketing with Robert Rose.

Hear about the audience first business approach to creating a product your true fans are already interested in (plus what to do if you have a product but no audience). Discover perspective on creating valuable, focused, ad niche content. Get tips on building a solid plan to turn your platform into a business and diversifying revenue in order to succeed. Gain an understanding of why it’s risky to build on rented land and encouragement to develop assets off the popular platforms (like TikTok). Find out what Joe has learned from web3 experiments, including loyalty programs, NFTs, and social tokens; and uncover his top lessons from the 2008 recession.

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The One Platform Strategy: Why Focus Is Key To Content Success With Joe Pulizzi

In this episode, our special guest is someone that we’ve known and had the pleasure of meeting in person, attending an amazing event that he runs called the Creator Economy Expo, otherwise known as CEX. That is Joe Pulizzi. He is the Founder of multiple startups, including the content creator education site that Nicolas and I love. We’ve referenced it in multiple episodes. It’s called The Tilt. He is the bestselling author of seven books, including Content Inc. and Epic Content Marketing.

Joe has two weekly podcasts, which is impressive, given what we know about podcasting. One of them is called the Content Inc. podcast and the other is a content news and analysis show, This Old Marketing with Robert Rose. We’re so excited for you to join us here, Joe. We know you’ve got a lot going on in your life, prepping for CEX. How has that been? I would love a little update. What’s it like to run this Creator Economy event? The second year, right?

Yeah. Whitney, Nicolas, thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited to be on. I appreciate all the support. You’ve both been supportive as we tried to do this new old thing called the Creator Economy. It’s funny. I didn’t even expect myself to be in this. I grew up in and around content marketing. I was doing that for many years. In 2000, during COVID, I started to see a lot of content creators out there producing a lot of content but wondering about their business model, not sure if they could make it a go from a financial independence standpoint.

We said, “Let’s help them launch.” We wrote the book Content Inc., Second Edition which came out in ‘21 and then founded The Tilt and then a few months after that, Creator Economy Expo. I love the community. I talked to a group about if I was going to start a business, I would start by building an audience first and then launching products secondarily. That’s where I come from. I believe it’s the best business model. You can then do all sorts of things with that one. This is my passion.

It’s so funny you say that. I met with John Roman that also came on the show. He was exactly telling me the same thing. He said, “For many years, we’ve been building business. We then say, ‘Let’s build an audience on top of that,’ and it doesn’t work.” We are taking the approach of building an audience first and then putting the business on top of it. I love this analogy and he was saying that for him, the best use case that you can think of that everyone will say, “That’s true,” is what’s going on with MrBeast that created this huge audience dumping business after business. They’re all eaten from the get-go.

I love the Jimmy Donaldson, MrBeast model. Think about how that works. In 2012 and 2013, Jimmy Donaldson starts creating videos on YouTube, focusing on that channel, which is big for early content entrepreneurs and content creators. He became the best at learning how to do YouTube. He started to pick a consistent theme in 2015 and 2016. By 2016, he had 30,000 subscribers. By 2017, he hit one million. In 2023, the enterprise is worth probably $1 billion thrown around, probably more. I predict in a few years, if you look at the most valuable media brands out there, MrBeast will be top five.

I have no doubt that that’s going to happen. Look at all the assets that Jimmy could build on top of that audience. We tried to do the same thing on a much smaller scale for Content Marketing Institute. We started that with no products. We were launching a blog and a newsletter. We then built that up. From that, we launched our event, Content Marketing World and the podcast. The training and everything else was on top of that but we built the audience first.

I was like, “Doesn’t it make more sense to create the customer database first instead of the product and then go out and try to market however you need to?” I get people that launch products. I don’t have any issues with it. There’s no one right way but it seems a less risky way would be to build the audience first. You’re right. MrBeast is probably the best-case study ever. You’re going to see more of these because of the fact that everyone has a smartphone, creates live videos, builds an audience and does the things they need to do.

What do you do if you haven’t built the audience first? I suppose that’s where influencer marketing can come into play because you can work with somebody else’s audience. Is there any other piece of advice for someone who’s reading and going, “I already have my company and products but I don’t have the audience? Do I need to start from the beginning?” What do they do?

That’s most people. That’s where for years, I would go into a company, do a content audit and figure out if they’re trying to sell some widget. They’re like, “I want to create all this content and how do I do it and sell more stuff?” The best recommendation I can give is to simplify. You don’t have to do all the things. If I go into a company of any size and I do an audit, they’re creating content 13 to 16 different ways. They’re on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. They’ve got podcasts. They’ve got virtual events. They’re doing all the things. We look at them and say, “How are we performing?” Most of the time, they’re not performing well. They’re mediocre at best.

Simplify. You don't have to do everything. Click To Tweet

“What are the things we’re doing well or better than normal? Let’s take some of the ones we’re not doing. We’ll kill those and bring those resources over and be great at 1 or 2 things.” That is Media 101. That’s the Publishing 101 model. If you look at the greatest media companies of all time, from the New York Times to Red Bull Media House to Huffington Post, whatever the case is, they started on one platform distributing content.

One way they built that audience was not that they didn’t market using other things but they had one home base. Once they built that minimum viable audience, then they were able to diversify into other areas. It would be to simplify, pick your channel and focus on your differentiation area. We call it a content tilt. Why are you interested? What is your point of view? What do you have to say that will cut through all that clutter?

I talk to a lot of creators. I’m sure you both do as well. They’re creating lots of content all over the place. You’re like, “Why is this any different than anything else out there?” You need to focus on, “What’s the niche audience that we can be the leading informational provider for something?” Niche it down as much as you can and do that. For the person that has the products and services, pick a platform. Is that YouTube? Is it a podcast? Is it a blog? Is it a newsletter? Is it TikTok? Whatever it is, you pick that.

Deliver consistently on a differentiated niche and set your expectations to 18 to 24 months. If you do that, you will probably be successful. It’s both things. we did some good research on it. We’re in our third year for The Tilt doing this but we found out that you need to deliver consistently on at least one platform for around 18 to 24 months until you get to a monetization level that you can support yourself or show that you’re marketing the business in some way. That would be my recommendation.

TLEP 65 | Content Creation
Content Creation: Deliver consistently on a differentiated niche, and set your expectations for 18 to 24 months. If you do that, you will be successful.

One of the most common pieces of advice we hear on this show is to be consistent. Nicolas, I don’t think anyone’s ever given the timeframe before. That’s helpful and a great value add to this show because we keep reinforcing the consistency. You did mention TikTok and before we started recording, we had a little chat about TikTok. We’re curious to hear your thoughts on TikTok and why you’re not using it. It sounds like you might not be advising other people to use it or did I misunderstand that?

We’re doing our agenda for Creator Economy Expo, which is from May 1st to 3rd, 2023. We have 3 or 4 TikTok sessions. It’s still important to the creator economy to creators. We’re still going to do it. There are a couple of reasons why I’m not using it. One is I only focus on two social networks. I have Facebook and Instagram but I don’t post on those except for personal. I focus on Twitter and LinkedIn where my audience is at. I don’t have the time to be great in 5 or 6 places. I have the time to be pretty good on 1 or 2. That’s why I’m saying I can’t do TikTok.

My concern is what I voiced to both of you before the show. We’ve been seeing this build-up, this United States-China battle for the last few years. It’s coming to a head. What we’ve seen with TikTok is you’ve had a lot of states that will say that state employees and government employees and multiple states say that you are not allowed to have TikTok on your apps at any point.

This is starting to heat up. You’re seeing one of these a week where some state or government agency is saying you can’t have TikTok because of the fact that it is Chinese-owned and you’ve got a little cold war going on, like it or not, between the United States and China because of that. There’s a privacy security issue that’s believed to be the case.

If that’s it, government agencies are the first thing. What’s the second thing to drop? If we know history, the second thing to drop is the government’s going to say, “Nor people that work with the government.” Anybody that is a supplier of anything to a government agency will no longer be able to use TikTok as well. We’ve seen this play out before. That’s going to happen.

Once that happens, that’s millions of companies. You’re going to see it all be done. Could that change? Sure. TikTok could get a clean slate by selling to an American-owned company and creating some firewalls. I don’t know if that’s going to happen but that’s where I’ve seen it. When I started to see some of the things in the news, I started to talk more about it on the podcast and things.

Unfortunately, for a lot of creators who built their homes on TikTok, that’s my concern. I’ve always said, “Whether you build it on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or BeReal, which is a hot one with the kids, whatever the case is and you’re going to be a creator, you have to build assets. That means you have to build off the platform.”

TLEP 65 | Content Creation
Content Creation: If you’re going to be a creator, you have to build assets. That means you have to build off the platform.

If you build something on YouTube, you have to make sure, “What do I have? I need to have some email newsletter that I own or something that’s going to my website, a private community of some kind, a Web3 activity or something where I get some ownership as a creator.” As we know, YouTube, Meta, Apple and Microsoft, can all change the rules at any time. They can kick us off these platforms.

You’ve got somebody like Elon Musk making changes willy-nilly all the time. I don’t know. Who knows? I don’t want to put my business as a content entrepreneur in their hands. A couple of little sidebars about not building on rented land. It’s a big concern. That’s why I want to talk to as many people about this to say, “Go ahead. If you believe TikTok is the place for you and you can build an audience there, their algorithm is the best in the business. There’s nothing wrong with that but make sure you diversify and have a secondary plan.”

That’s interesting. When I think about this, I’m also thinking about what you say where TikTok could be a separate entity. We know that Walmart was primed to buy this. What’s interesting to me is, at the time, I did not understand why Walmart wanted to buy TikTok. I’m like, “Why would that be?” As we see Amazon and many companies moving to content and realizing that the consumer is shifting, with Amazon launching Inspire, there are so many platforms or marketplaces looking at content strategically and saying, “We need to grab the attention of the consumer. People don’t want to read text and pictures. They want to be entertained.”

Walmart, trying to grab TikTok, is a player that wants to feed its audience. I do believe in the asset that TikTok has built. I don’t think the US government will let it go too easily either. They will try to grasp and get it done in the US. What’s interesting is to compliment the, “Don’t build on rented land.” Since I’ve known about you, I’ve seen a lot of work that you’ve been doing around that space.

One of that was to create your token and have this through the Web3 economy, figuring out how to not build on renting land and even on the economy standpoint and using a token through a platform. From what I’m hearing, this whole story didn’t go through the way you want it to, all the way to the end. I would love to start with how that came up and why you did it. Looking backward about this and a happy ending, do you think it was a failure? What are the main takeaways that you have from that?

What we’re talking about is the provider of our social token. The Tilt had its social token called the $TILT coin. We were on the Rally network. $TILT coin was a side chain of Rally and Ethereum network. It’s a little scary. You don’t want to get too technical but when we launched TheTilt.com as a newsletter, I thought there was an opportunity to immediately launch a token as a loyalty part of our business. I started to look at the different opportunities and got it down to two different companies. One was Rally and the other one was Roll, a great company.

At the time, they were similar except for the fact that Roll would create your token on the Ethereum network and you’d have complete control over it. The problem was it was very difficult to onboard people that didn’t know anything about Web3 or didn’t have a digital wallet. 99.9% of the people that were in our audience didn’t have a clue on how to do any of this stuff. I’m like, “I want to go on this one side and have our token on Ethereum but this is not going to go well. The onboarding, time, energy and people would say it’s too hard.”

I was like, “I liked Rally because you needed an email address.” Put in your email, get the whole set and get your address. I could give $TILT coin out. I could integrate it and we did. We integrated it well with our email newsletter. We could track emails. We delivered a $TILT coin to anybody that referred to our newsletter. It was so successful that it was the number one coin on the whole Rally network. We had 2,500 coin holders before it ended.

I’ll talk about that in a second but things are going well. The onboarding was key. Talking about rented land, Rally went through its difficulty. We had the bear market in crypto and Rally made the decision that they were going to go away. We had our whole thing. We were tied to the ship of Rally like we were talking about somebody who might be tied to TikTok or Instagram. There’s no difference. When this whole thing went down, I had to apologize to our audience and say, “I’m sorry because I’m the one that preaches about don’t build your content on rented land. What did I do? I built it on rented land.”

Don't build your content on rented land. Click To Tweet

You asked the question, do I regret it or was it a success? In hindsight, I would’ve gone a different direction and we’d have had to work hard to get people up on the different token. Let’s say, it’s on the Ethereum network by itself but we would’ve never been able to scale the way we did if we did not have Rally. A lot of the creators, Whitney included, all had our token and we were working together in consort. We were helping to educate all these people, learning about this whole Web3 thing, blockchain and social tokens.

There was a big opportunity for onboarding, educating people, getting them their first digital wallet and off of Rally and getting to things and trying out NFTs. It’s gone. We closed up in the middle of January 2023. We ended up closing everything. I apologize to the community. I said, “If we do something else, that’s fine.” We ended it but I don’t regret doing it. It’s unfortunate but we have an amazing community that’s left.

These people are amazing. They’re learning a lot. They’ve learned from each other. They built relationships that never would’ve happened. We also were able to build our NFT community. As part of the Creator Economy Expo, we have a 100-person NFT private community that we’re able to build. That one’s not going anywhere. That’s built on the Ethereum blockchain. We’re in control of that whole thing. We were able to do an NFT project in the social token project that we’re working on well and consorted together for a while but now we have the NFT.

I don’t know what to tell you. I wish it wouldn’t have happened but I can’t control that. The learning is we’re getting more educated and people are getting their digital wallets. If I was to do it, I would go and do it directly onto a blockchain, probably Ethereum. That’s the one I recommend the most. I’m a little bit iffy about Solana and some of the other ones. I like what the developers are doing on Ethereum. I would probably go there and recommend that.

There are a lot of good developers out there that can help you do that if you’re not technologically savvy and you need somebody to help you do your NFT project but that’s what I would do. I wouldn’t do it on an OpenSea or something else like that. I would do it with your developer directly on the blockchain. There’s no middle entity. This is the way Web3 is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be decentralized.

I’m supposed to be able to communicate between the creator that’s building some asset and working with that super fan that wants a little piece of that ownership. It’s great. Those people that own our CEX, what we call never-ending tickets, if for some reason they’re done with that and they’re not our content creator anymore and they want to do something else, they can sell that to somebody who wants into that community. They have a little piece of that ownership and control. That’s why I was always drawn to Web3.

This notion is fascinating. The social token is still a new thing. In 2021, you take on a leap of faith and went on a full lane. In my view, it was a success, honestly, when I look at it from the user’s perspective. While things didn’t go well, you couldn’t plan for everything. That’s part of the learning journey. There are some disappointments, unfortunately, but it’s part of being an only adopter.

There will be always room for errors and unfortunate mistakes. That’s one of them. I wonder, why did you draw the token and not an NFT? Do you think they complement each other or do you see them as different? I wonder because you have your NFT and you’re saying going NFT but when you went through the process, were both offered at the time? Could you look at both or you were just curious about that?

I thought that our job as a learning community was to try both. We first launched with the social token and my belief was we use this as a loyalty tool but also as our currency. We worked it well for a while. What would happen is that people would do certain behaviors. For example, they would share our newsletter. They would get compensated in our $TILT coin. What could they use that $TILT coin for? If you had enough $TILT coin, you could buy a course, buy multiple courses, gift somebody else in the community or buy merchandise. We had it all linked up with a Shopify account. Everything’s going on. They could go ahead and do that.

It worked well as its currency until it didn’t because it was not around anymore. From that standpoint, it worked well. A social token is a fungible token, which is like the dollar. You and I trade dollars. We don’t care. If somebody trades a $TILT coin, it’s the same. NFTs are different. Even with our NFTs and our private community for CEX, if you have a certain ticket or NET, you go to our Creator Economy Expo event, you’ll get swag at that event or you get to introduce the keynote at our event or you get to meet the keynote behind the stage. There are only a few that have those. Those are very different. Those are non-fungible tokens. It means that they’re not all the same.

TLEP 65 | Content Creation
Content Creation: A social token is a fungible token, which is like the dollar. NFTs are different. They are non-fungible tokens, which means that they’re not all the same.

Could we do that with a currency? We could but it would be a stretch. It’s a different type of thing. I always think about non-fungible tokens as being very unique. Being able to write into that code, everything is a little bit different. You see that with CryptoPunks and Kevin Rose’s PROOF Collective. He’s got a whole bunch out there. You see it with anyone on the top at OpenSea. Everything is a little bit different because they have different characteristics. VeeFriends, Gary Vee does the same thing. You might have a Gift Goat whom you get a gift from him regularly that also gets you into the event or you have a Vee friend that gets you into his event.

There are lots of different things. If you are a decision-maker or part of your creative organization, you can figure out what makes the most sense for you. With all that said, to be honest, NFTs are easier. You have got more developers around non-fungible tokens. You’ve got a lot more learning that’s been done in NFTs. We’ve seen what happened on the social token side. There are not many of them out there.

There are lots of tokens but from a social token, a creator standpoint, there is not a lot of them. There were 400 or 500 on Rally that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s interesting to see how that works. If you’re going to go the social token route, it could be a big benefit or a differentiator but this is a forever thing. You have to integrate it into your entire business. You’ve got to want to make sure that they can use that for all the things.

In hindsight, from a negative standpoint, merch is a good example. We had people that had a lot of $TILT coins and they use that $TILT coin. They go ahead and buy that merch and they get that. Do you know who pays for that merch? Me. I paid for it, which is fine. They exchanged it. They deserve it. When the price changed so quickly, they were able to buy a lot.

You had somebody that could go to our merch store that at one point in time didn’t have a lot of $TILT coin that now had a ton of it because the price went down so much. They could buy out the whole store and it ended up being $1,000. If I wanted to do it over again, I would probably do a social token that did not have a monetary value. The JUMP Community uses that and they do a good job with it. It’s more of a combination of an NFT and a social token. I’d probably go in that direction.

That’s helpful, especially for me, because I feel a bit burned by the whole social token experience. Like you, the biggest benefit I found with my community was the loyalty side of it. It’s rewarding people for their participation and sharing. Your newsletter works so well and it felt good to give it to them. They enjoyed it. Now it’s like, “What can I develop within that model?” To your point, also keeping the cost involved.

The benefit of Rally is they were generous with us as creators at the time. We had a lot to give to people. It’s helpful to hear how you’re thinking through all of this. I’m reevaluating NFTs because I was looping the NFTs in with social tokens. Nicolas, I’m so glad that you brought out this differentiation in your question because NFTs are quite different as Joe pointed out. Maybe we’ll see a resurgence and more trust built in there. There is a lot to be seen within Web3 in general.

Something to watch out for, the music NFT scene is super interesting. If you look at the economics of being a musician, if I hit it well and do an amazing job and I’m on Spotify and get 30,000 or 40,000 streams per month, I’m getting $2. I’m not getting that much money because everybody’s taking money and all the way that it all works.

However, if I have some super fans, I could create some NFTs of my music, give that music away to 5 or 10 people and make thousands or tens of thousands of dollars based on that. If you think about the usage of NFTs, they’re not for everyone. If you think about it as a creator of some kind, how do you take a little bit of your asset value, shave that off and then give that to somebody else who wants to pay a premium for it?

That could be as simple as backstage passes. It could be you’re going to send royalty rights to them. This has to be worked out legally and is and will be on the courts but there’s a big opportunity there. Music creators are the first to be fed up by the traditional, “Here’s how we get paid for things,” and they’re going to start to be smart. They’re a musician called RAC that had 4 million, 5 million or 6 million streams per month, a popular artist and then sold 3 or 5 NFTs and made more money in selling those than he did all in 1 year previous, by selling those to super fans.

If you think about the business model, say a small group of people that want to support what I’m doing as a creator, what can I give to them that’s so amazingly special? That’s 50. That’s 100. These NFTs that are 5,000, 10,000, these Art NFTs, that’s a different business model. Content creators should be thinking of much smaller experience that is differentiated for people that want to get close to the creator in some way.

Content creators should be thinking about some kind of experience that is differentiated for people who want to get close to the creator in some way. Click To Tweet

That’s phenomenal advice. I appreciate the way you think through these things, Joe. It’s part of another big theme, which is early adoption. That plays into what we’re doing at eStreamly. Live shopping still feels early in the United States. It’s coming after the wave of success we’ve seen in other countries, Asian countries specifically.

We’re still at a time where livestreaming still feels slow, even though it’s been around for a while. I remember when Facebook Live came out in 2015 or something and then it died down. We’re seeing another rise and most platforms offer it. I’m curious about your perspectives on being an early adopter, Joe, especially because I was looking at The Tilt newsletter and it was centered around email newsletters.

I thought to myself, “We’re seeing the resurgence of email newsletter advice in this world where there’s all this technology developing.” One of the big points you’re making is being an early adopter comes with a lot of risks. Maybe that’s why people are nervous about live shopping. Maybe they’re afraid to get on the next social platform. Maybe it’s better to stick with the older types of marketing. Is that some of the advice, Joe? Are you mixing that in with encouraging people to be early adopters too? Where do you fall on that?

I’ll unpack it a little bit. There’s a mix. The email newsletter part that was in The Tilt newsletter is different because that’s your protection. When you build on these social networks, you need to have some direct communication and build an asset. That’s why I’m a big believer in that. That’s a separate part of the business model.

When you think about where this is going, this innovation and technology, I would put live shopping in with what happened with AI content. Artificial intelligence content, ChatGPT and DALL·E 2 and all that stuff have been around for years. This has been culminating and growing. My good friend, Paul Roetzer, runs the Marketing AI Institute, which has been slow to grow. Not a lot of marketers are into it. We’re into it. He started this years ago, started talking about it and wrote the book on it.

He’s like, “Why isn’t this happening?” ChatGPT came out and the doors have blown off the thing that quickly but Paul is there and he was receiving all this. He was the early adopter. I’m so happy and proud of him. The business model is working because of this one little event. I would put live shopping in with the same thing because it’s not all quite there yet. It’s been around for a long time. This is not necessarily new but you get to this tipping point. Every year, it goes up a little bit.

I’m sure you both want to know what happens but there’s some event that will happen where it turns the lights on and people say, “We got to get that.” I’m in that Minority Report bucket. I remember that scene where he is in front of the mirror at the gap or something and it’s a picture of him with that outfit on. We’re going to be like that in front of our devices and be able to click on anything and immediately purchase. We know this is coming. How close is it? Is it six months? Is it six years? Probably somewhere in between but we don’t know yet. My thing is if you are a content creator and you care about the industry and what happens, part of your time needs to be experimenting with these things.

TLEP 65 | Content Creation
Content Creation: If you are a content creator and you care about the industry and what happens, part of your time needs to be spent experimenting with things.

I’m not big on AI content. I’m a writer. I don’t know how to feel necessarily about artificial intelligence so I have to go in and try it. I can’t say, “I’m not going to try it. I’m going to stick with my typewriter. I’m going to use a typewriter forever. I don’t want this word processor.” I can go in, try it and say, “Let me have an intelligent opinion myself.” I go in, start using ChatGPT and realize, “It’s a good title recommendation tool.”

I can put in my title and say, “Can you recommend five other titles for me based on these keywords?” It does a good job. I’ll put something on LinkedIn and say, “Here’s my LinkedIn post, ChatGPT. Can you make it a little bit more interesting based on targeting a marketing professional?” It does. I go through another edit like a good writer should but I use that input. It’s like having a little robot on your shoulder, helping out.

Those people say you’re reading somebody else’s storytelling. I’m having an artificial intelligence tool that is helping me write better and spend more time on creative storytelling and less time on the process. Where is it going to go? I don’t know but I can see the benefits of that. If you take it back to live shopping and what you’re talking about, that’s where it’s going to be. There’s going to be some event that’s going to take it to the next level.

We can all pretty easily visualize Ready Player One which is, “This is the way that Oculus should be,” or something like that. That’s the future. When does that happen? I don’t know but we all know. It’s like, “I want to be on my device and whatever I’m seeing somebody talk about, I want to click on anything and what they’re talking about in their background. I want to have it be seamless, one-click in my cart, out, done.” We know that’s possible. We know it can happen. It’s a matter of time in my opinion.

I love all you say. It reminded me of an early guest. We were asking, “What do you think it took for the lipstick king to be able to solve that 1.7 billion product in a 12-hour livestream in China?” She answered, “Six years of experimentation.” I remember that moment vividly. It’s about that. With MrBeast, he didn’t start it from zero. Being that famous guy, it’s about making sure you understand where you are, what you’re doing and how you provide value and keep at it until you define that that’s the path for you.

I want to ask you the question of the year. You are an expert in this space of the creator economy and all that. In 2021, everything was wonderful. We were all living wonderful dreams. In 2022, we were starting to see the crypto winter and some stuff going high and some stuff going like, “Something is going on.” In 2023, a lot of people put their negative lens on and say, “This word is going to end this year in some way.” A lot of people are talking, “The recession is coming.” Some are saying it’s already there.

I’m a big believer that maybe there won’t be a recession but who knows? I wonder from your perspective and if you look at the creator economy altogether, what is the advice for a creator you will have in light of what’s going on? How do you tell them to get ready or prepare? From a burn perspective, what do you think they should be on the watch out for? How is this whole thing going to play out from your point of view?

If I had the answer to your last question, I wouldn’t be on the show. I’d be on the beach. The important thing to realize first is that there are two parts to the creator economy. The one part is all the tools, the software, the venture money and all those trying to create this toolset for content creators. There is a bear market going on in that because there was a lot.

They’re in Web3. There was a lot of easy money flowing around and put into projects that maybe shouldn’t have been funded. What happens with those? They go away. We’re seeing a little bit of that. We’re seeing some companies that were a little bit more mature that had an origin and other products saying, “I’m going to put money into the creator economy.” They had the ‘22 budget and in ‘23, they’re pulling it back.

You’re going to see another year of that happening. As a creator, if you’re going to invest in companies, invest in some companies that have strong economic standing and a good community. They’ve been around for a while. They’re doing what they need to do. They won’t go away and leave you hanging. From a content creator’s standpoint, I’ve got maybe a different point of view because I started my first business in the great recession of ’08 and ’09 as a content creator, blogger and newsletter writer. At the time, it was horrible because there was no money to be made in anything but that is the time the work gets done.

Invest in some companies that have strong economic standing, a good community, have been around for a while, and are doing what they need to do. Click To Tweet

My recommendation is content creators, this is the time you build your audience and community. You build your subscribers, followers, emails, email list or whatever the case is. As soon as we come out of this and those other companies start to spend again or new companies come in, there’s going to be a lot of money to be spent. Why shouldn’t it be spent in your community?

I would see this as a huge opportunity. When we came out, we were creating content in ‘07, ‘08 and ’09. We started to see it come out in ‘10 and ‘11 was a gangbuster year for us. In ‘12, we were one of the fastest-growing media companies on the planet. Why did that happen? It’s because of ’08 and ’09 not giving up and continuing to build that audience. That would be my recommendation.

From a business model standpoint, a content creator here needs to simplify. We talked about it before. Focus on what you can be great at. What can you be indispensable at? Is that your YouTube channel? Is it your TikTok? Hopefully, it doesn’t get worse. Is it Twitter? Is it LinkedIn? Is it your newsletter? Is it your podcast? Is it a virtual event series? Whatever it is, focus on that and being great at that but diversify your revenue. You want simplicity when it comes to audience building and content creation and diversity when it comes to revenue generation.

I’d look at all of them. I’m like, “How about sponsorship and advertising of some kind? How can I offer that? Can I do a benefactor package and get people on my homepage? Can I sponsor my newsletter or podcast? What are assets that I have that can be sponsored? Can I do a virtual event? Should it be an in-person event? Can I do digital products, sell eBooks, audiobooks, whatever the case is? Can I do donations? Maybe donations work. How about an affiliate program? Maybe that makes the most sense. What about a paid subscription?”

Those things should all be thought of. Maybe I launch a product here or there. These are all the things that can be done. If you don’t know which one, that’s okay because the answer’s probably as many as you can. You’re so focused on this side and at the end of the day, you’re like, “I don’t want to eat bologna and ramen noodles anymore. I want to pay the bills. What do I need to do?” You start testing out these other channels. That will get to a point where one of those will probably hit.

In 2010, it was our in-person event and we launched a little event in 2011 called Content Marketing World. 5 years later, it was a $6 million event. We had 4,000 people coming to Cleveland, Ohio. It took off but it started as this little thing right after the recession. This is where the opportunity is. When I talked to a content creator that’s down and not feeling good, I said, “This is okay. We’d been through this before. You’re going to be fine. This is when everyone else gives up. You’re not going to give up. You’re going to keep going. You’ll be successful and you’ll make it.”

That advice is so helpful for brands too because they’re thinking a lot about this. Do they invest in creators? Do they do influencer marketing? Having the wisdom that you’ve shared with us, Joe is so valuable. Thank you so much for being here. I’m sad to hear it come to a close because I could sit, talk to you and hear your perspectives on and on but what an amazing advertisement for the Creator Economy Expo. Not only can people go to hear you there, I assume you’re speaking in some capacity.

Unfortunately, I’m first up so you got me first on Keto day. I’m speaking.

You always do a phenomenal job with that. Everything that you’re listing out are options. Too many of those things are covered at CEX by other experts in these fields. If somebody’s feeling overwhelmed, they already have an option for them to learn more, which is to go to an event where they can network and connect with people in person, which is so valuable. I loved that about CEX in 2022. In 2023, it’s in Ohio. Is it in Cleveland?

It’s in Cleveland. I brought it back to my hometown. We had a great time in Phoenix in 2022, as you know. You helped us out with that. Both of you were there helping us out with that event. That was super nice. We’re like, “What can we do to bring down the cost as much as possible to make it reasonable? “Not all content creators are millionaires yet. You will be someday but not now.

What do we have to do? We’ve got a good rate at hotels if you’re coming to Cleveland, Ohio, from May 1st to 3rd, 2023. We have it set up so that not only are you going to see 50 of the most amazing speakers on the planet in every one of the categories that we mentioned but you’ll be able to network with people that are going through the same struggles as you.

That’s the most important thing because people don’t realize this. When you go to an in-person event, most people think, “I go for the education.” Top-notch education, you won’t find any better. The best part is you’ll get to meet people whom you can form relationships with and partnerships that can help you take the next step. That’s what I love from 2022.

There are a number of creators that are working with each other still. They’re going back for CEX ’23, being able to continue that, talking about more partnerships and doing more things together. We’re all trying. It’s a wonderful community. People are dying to help each other. That’s probably why I like sticking around in it because these people know that they have something to give and people want to give that time. It works out well for all involved.

I couldn’t agree more. Thank you so much for your time on the show, Joe. It’s been wonderful chatting with you. For the reader, we have new episodes dropping every single week with phenomenal guests like Joe. Thanks, Nicolas for your wonderful questions and insights. To the reader, we’ll see you again in the next episode.

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