No successful career is built in one day. In this month’s series, we share the journey of content creators in different stages of their career, the unique challenges they face and how they overcome them, as well as their hopes for the future.
In between veteran personalities and up-and-coming talents in the world of content creation are those that came after the first players in the industry but are undoubtedly more seasoned than neophytes. These established creators bear similarities to how millennials have experienced the transition from the time of analogue to the digital world, living in the legacy and the influence of both eras. But how does their position ‘in the middle’ allow them to find and build their identity in this growing digital community?
Here’s what writer and podcaster Arman Dela Cruz of Unreelph.com and Pervision and YouTuber Nadine Felice Co say about finding their own voice and creating a community as creators.
Digital creator, defined
For Arman, the term ‘digital creator’ used to refer to people whose content “started conversations”. He cited Hank and John Green, as well as Phil DeFranco, as a few of the most popular examples. However, as the community and the nature of content creation started growing and changing, along with the rise of newer platforms and technologies, he now defines the title as “simply someone making content to affect change in their audience’s lives.”
He recalled that when he was just starting out, blogging was at its peak. Social media was more supplementary than the main source of the content itself; it was used as an amplification method to find like-minded audiences.
He elaborated: “Discussions happened in social media then, so I just focused on being ever-present and covering as much as I can about Filipino movies as I can. At the time, very few creators cover our own movies. I networked in Facebook Groups, made new friends, and there found lifelong readers of my blog.”
Meanwhile, for Nadine, the definition of ‘digital creator’ is something that has evolved over the years. She cited that five to seven years ago, it wasn’t an encompassing term and people were either referred to as a “blogger” or a “YouTuber” depending on their platform.
“Nowadays, people don’t stick to just one platform. Most people at least have Instagram. Or Instagram and a YouTube channel, etc. Some people have everything. I guess those people really have the heart to create,” she said.
Nadine chose YouTube because she was — and still is — “obsessed with watching videos.” She loved how candid you can be in speaking in front of a camera (she noted that writing was never her “forte”). There’s also the magic of editing that she’s highly fascinated with. Plus, she said that she never got as much engagement when she tried blogging, but YouTube was when she actually gained an audience.
But does she count herself a ‘creator’ or an ‘influencer’? “Influencer just sounds so cringy, to be honest. I feel like there is a certain type of resentment and expectation people have from that term (especially when it comes to looks).”
She also shared a concern about how the term ‘influencer marketing’ sounds “super sales-y” and implies that a person is always trying to “sell you something.” At this point in her career, she said that she tries to “deviate from that” and “be very intentional about the brands” she works with to avoid this mindset.
“I do prefer the term ‘creator’ more, as it's more general and free! It also doesn't sound like a job,” she concluded.
Arman said he preferred the term ‘creator’ versus ‘influencer’ as well because he believes that audiences “have full agency over their thoughts and emotions” to be influenced.
“The point of my content isn’t to influence anyway, but merely to start a conversation,” he explained.
Just because it’s mainstream, doesn’t mean it’s ‘it’
Being sandwiched between industry giants and eager up-and-comers may seem intimidating from the perspective of an outsider since they’re in the ‘grey space’ of the industry. But Arman said it’s not exactly the case.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve made it made it. Few accolades hardly validate my status as a content creator,” said Arman. “It’s also worth noting that I’ve set out not to have as big a following as, say, David Guison and Mimiyuuuuh. And frankly, the notion of that kind of following scares me.”
Still, he expressed that having the liberty to experiment between what works for both veterans and newbies — a.k.a. the mix of more laid-back type or content while being aware of more fast-paced trend-related strategies — is what makes his stance as an established creator a lot more freeing and exciting. He explained that he is proud of what he’s built with Unreel and that they have a big project brewing that he is most thrilled about.
“The idea of us launching something that we’re about to start is unimaginable without the network and community we’ve cultivated throughout the years.”
This proves that while he’s more known in niched communities than among general audiences, the passion and dedication for his content drives followers to stick around and consume one’s content.
Nadine shared the same sentiment, saying that she doesn’t exactly think she already “broke into the industry”. This is because, in her opinion, there are multiple ways to define your place in the community.
First, if you define ‘making it’ as being able to work with brands, then that’s easy since “there’s plenty of work for everyone”. This is because while brands work with veterans, they’re always on the lookout for creators who are within different popularity tiers (definitive of one’s following count) and from different niches. Then, there’s simply pushing out content you want as a creator and letting nature take its course in delivering it to people who will enjoy it.
“People's interests are always changing so someone might love your content for a few weeks, binge all your videos, and then kind of fall off of your content, then after a few months, they might stumble across your videos again and love them. People are constantly changing. For me, I don't take things like view count/subscriber count/likes/follower count [seriously]!”
On ‘joining the hype’ and switching platforms
Snackable content hosted on Instagram and TikTok arguably prevail as the content of choice for seasoned creators and those just starting out now. Arman cited that the way creators deliver their content to their audience is probably the biggest change in the past years, maybe more so than the nature of the community, the niches, and one’s voice as a creator.
This delivers countless — and still present — discussions as to whether or not long-form content like blogging or vlogging will die soon.
Arman and Nadine made a case for creators who decided to stick to the platforms they started their career with.
“Blogging is not dead,” Arman said firmly. “People still read and like to read. It’s just that, currently, more and more apps/online activities vie for users’ attention.”
He pressed that despite the changes and transitions happening among creators and audience preference, the key is finding a niche. While it may seem restrictive to do so because of the content world’s dynamism, Arman strongly believes in the power of finding your footing in content that you are passionate about.
On the other hand, Nadine confessed: “For Instagram, I'm kind of over it. I'm just being honest. I just feel like every ‘influencer’ post is an ad and you get the built-in sponsored ads. I just don't appreciate that. I don't know if I'm just old, but TikTok and Instagram are too hyperactive for me, I just want more slow things.”
With this, she wishes that YouTube will still “be a thing” even five years down the road (“I think YouTube is my favourite so I’m biased”) because she believes that there are still people who are fans of long-form content like herself.
“I know there are a lot of podcasts as well nowadays and I'm sure they're sticking around, too.”
The future of building content-related communities
When it comes to content creation trends, Arman strongly believes that “live-streaming is going to get even bigger.” This roots from the belief that real-time interactions are becoming more attractive to audiences once again, instead of aspirational content.
“Who knows, we might start a Twitch channel too!” he teased.
Nadine agreed, saying that streams have a warmer and more interactive appeal and that it’s something that she hopes would grow as the years go by.
“There's the sense of just hanging out with someone during streams. I don't personally stream or watch many streams but that part of it (the feeling of just hanging out with someone) kind of feels like old-school YouTube,” she said.
Arman predicts that there will be a “return to more intimate content” like “a members-only blog or newsletter”. This is due to the internet being so loaded with tons of content and information that “having a direct line to their favourite creators is something users will appreciate.” Interestingly, newsletters might actually be the next big thing, according to The New Yorker. This is because while newsletters can be purely informational on one hand, but they can also “convey intimacy in the language of psychotherapy and self-help,” in a very crisp and concise manner.
With all these said, it’s safe to say that we wake up to new content — and new creators — almost every day. But if fashion and beauty trends inspired by yesteryears can make a comeback, then it’s not impossible to picture more content centred on building authentic relationships between creators and audiences again in the future. We can only bank on today’s creators — new, old, and those in between — to make it happen.