This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here is a collection of past columns.
This week, On Tech will examine the economics of what is sometimes called the internet creator economy. There are people who are so good at making online entertainment or information that they try to make it a job. Your favorite comedian on Instagram, plant forager on TikTok, or YouTube stunt performer are creators.
Some of you might be thinking: That is a job? It is. These online pros are testing the internet’s promise of enabling anyone to earn a living from creative pursuits. We are entertained by creators’ work, and they influence what we buy, the music we listen to and how products are promoted.
Internet professionals are also the tip of the spear of what’s working and what is not with digital life as we know it. More creators are now saying they want a shot at sharing in online companies’ riches — and we should listen.
Let me back up.
We mostly work for free on the internet.
There is no Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok or Reddit without the posts, memes and gardening groups that we make voluntarily. Some people have figured out ways to make money from online popularity, including by selling merchandise, getting paid by their fans and signing promotional deals outside the big internet sites.