Content Creator Monetization Platforms

12 Days of Data 2022 Day 10: Content Creator Monetization Platforms


Welcome to the 12 Days of Data 2022 Edition, our look back at the data that made marketing in 2022. We’re looking at the year that was (and oh, what a year it was, something we’ve been saying for three years straight now…) from an analytics perspective to see what insights we can take into the next year. Sit up, get your coffee ready, and let’s celebrate some data and look forward to the year ahead.


Content Creator Monetization Platforms

On day 1 of the 12 Days of Data, we looked at private social media communities like Slack and Discord. Today, let’s flip over the coin and look at the various types of services available to creators and influencers to monetize their communities.

As ad dollar revenues fell for publishers over the last decade, independent creators were left with revenue generating choices that either involved building out their own product lines or relying on affiliate programs to upsell to their audiences. Some audiences were simply too difficult to monetize that way, and thus the subscription economy burst onto the scene.

At the forefront of this movement were services like Patreon, founded in 2013, which allowed creators to sell memberships – patronage, essentially – to their most ardent fans in exchange for exclusive content and other perks that were better aligned to the creator’s audience.

After 2015, public social networks also throttled down on creators and influencers, making it harder for them to retain their audience’s attention as well as transact with them. In 2016, with increasing restrictions on the kinds of content creators could publish on Patreon, services like OnlyFans sprung up and eventually became billion-dollar companies.

With further disruptions to public social media in 2022 with the change of management at Twitter, other services also benefitted, such as Substack, which pivoted from being just a newsletter platform to becoming a full-fledged community management and monetization platform.

Let’s take a look at where the major platforms stand today in terms of popularity, using unique inbound links as our key metric:

Creator platforms 2022 summary

Patreon still reigns supreme with over 60,000 new inbound links to creators’ accounts in 2022 alone, followed by OnlyFans, Substack, and Ko-Fi.

When we look over the period of the year, we see quite the rollercoaster:

Content creator platforms 2022 timeline

This past summer in particular was a book time for Patreon, OnlyFans, and Ko-Fi; we see a spike in Substack in November as many creators started Substack communities in their flight from Twitter and its management change.

So What?

What do we take away from this analysis of subscription services? Here’s the thing: every creator out there with a sizable audience is trying to monetize that audience in some way, and every major content platform has gotten into the game. Amazon outright bought Twitch for the audience platform, and creators there can monetize in subscriptions, though many also offer Patreon or OnlyFans subscriptions. YouTube has paid options, Instagram has paid options… public social networks in their attempt to diversify revenue streams are also looking at audience monetization with creators. Even Discord recently announced they’re opening up subscription options to server operators.

What this means for marketers is three-fold. First, creators who are interested in monetization by default would also be interested in sponsorship. As you dig deeper into where your audience spends their time – and with whom – you may find certain creators you can partner with easily. You may be able to partner with those creators and accelerate your ability to reach your audiences with a trusted voice.

Second, this is yet another aspect of our audience’s moves from public social media to private communities of some kind. In many Discord servers, for example, patrons who are paying members receive extra perks such as access to exclusive content or channels that non-paying members don’t. Where will an audience member spend more time, in a public place, or in a private place they’re paying money out of their pocket to support? We have to compete on that sense of exclusivity, that tight-knit emotional satisfaction of belonging to a strong community if we want to have any hope of retaining our audience’s attention and loyalty.

Third, the explosion of these services shows a clear intent for audiences to pay for content they really, really like. Thus, if we’re struggling to persuade audiences to do things for free, like download content or register for webinars, the problem isn’t the audience – it’s our marketing. We have to be more compelling than the content our audience is paying for.

Methodology Statement

Trust Insights extracted 182,403 unique pages from the AHREFS SEO platform for the various monetization services by domain name, excluding landing pages and non-creator pages, then processed with our own custom code. The timeframe of the dataset is 1 January 2022 – 13 December 2022. The date of the study is 14 December 2022. Trust Insights is the sole sponsor of the study and neither gave nor received compensation for data used, beyond applicable service fees to software vendors, and declares no competing interests.


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