12 Days of Data 2023 Day 10 Creator Platforms For Monetization

12 Days of Data 2023 Day 10: Creator Platforms For Monetization


Welcome to the 12 Days of Data 2023 Edition, our look back at the data that made marketing in 2023. We’re looking at the year that was (and oh, what a year it was, something we’ve been saying for four years straight now…) from an analytics perspective to see what insights we can take into the next year. Sit up, get your beverage of choice ready, and let’s celebrate some data and look forward to the year ahead.

Creator Platforms For Monetization

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 demise of Twitter and the Twitter diaspora, 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 site traffic from Semrush’s traffic analytics tool:

Semrush Site Traffic

For clarity, the traffic y-axis has been rendered logarithmically. What we see is straightforward. The platforms that get the most traffic for creators are:

  1. OnlyFans
  2. Patreon
  3. Substack
  4. Fansly
  5. Ko-Fi

However, it isn’t as close as it looks in the logarithmic chart. For contrast, let’s look at the same chart with linear scaling:

Semrush site traffic linear

When we examine the data here, it becomes very, very clear that the 800 pound gorilla in the creator monetization market is OnlyFans, at least by site traffic.

So What?

What do we take away from this analysis of monetization services?

If you’re a creator, obviously pick the platform that best suits your audience and your content. Writing email newsletters is a better fit for Substack than Patreon. Creating rich video content is a better fit for OnlyFans, Patreon, and Fansly than Ko-Fi or Substack. But an important consideration is which platform to choose. The general rule of thumb in marketing is to go where the people are. The other general rule of thumb is to go where the competition isn’t. Depending on your content and your audience, that might mean duking it out for attention amongst the noise on a service like Substack, or going niche with a service like Ghost.

For marketers in search of places to reach creator audiences, invest some time surveying your current audience where they spend their time AND money on content, then find creators on those platforms to partner with. Collaboration is the name of the game in creator communities; sponsoring content within a creator’s monetized community is a great play because the audience within that community REALLY wants to be there (they’re paying money to be there) and they are probably more likely to buy something from you (because of endorsement from the creator AND because they’re already displaying buying intent).

Some folks will point out that there might be brand safety concerns, especially with platforms like OnlyFans. No one except you knows what level of risk you are comfortable with, but that should absolutely be part of your criteria for establishing where your brand markets itself and who you collaborate with. However, in an increasing non-tangible services economy, creators and their content hubs are places of reliable reach for well-run, well-funded campaigns.


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