We hear a lot today about the ‘creator economy’, but sitting parallel with it is what’s known as the ‘reputation economy’. What’s the difference?
IN THE VIDEO BELOW: I explain the differences between the two economies when it comes to creating content, but first, let’s unpack each from a macro perspective so we get a better understanding of the nuances of each.
The creator economy and the reputation economy are two related but distinct concepts.
While they both involve individuals leveraging their skills and online presence for economic opportunities, they focus on different aspects of this phenomenon.
The creator economy
The creator economy refers to the ecosystem and marketplaces that have emerged to support and monetise the work of content creators, social media influencers, and independent artists.
It’s driven by the rise of online publishing platforms and social media, which have empowered individuals to create and distribute their own content, build an audience, and generate income through various means such as brand partnerships, sponsored content, merchandise sales, digital products and services, and crowdfunding.
The creator economy emphasises the value of creativity, personal brand, and the ability to attract and engage an audience. It revolves around the idea that anyone can become a content creator and derive economic benefits from their work, with platforms providing the infrastructure and tools to facilitate this process.
Here are three excellent examples of the creator economy at work:
- Ali Abdaal – YouTuber, podcaster, ex-doctor, and soon-to-be author
- John Lee Dumas (JLD) – host of Entrepreneurs on Fire, an award-winning podcast where he interviews the world’s most successful entrepreneurs
- Polina Marinova Pompliano – publisher of The Profile, a weekly newsletter that profiles of some of the world’s most interesting and successful people
The reputation economy
The reputation economy, on the other hand, focuses on the value of an individual’s reputation and online presence in the broader context of their personal and professional life.
It encompasses the idea that a person’s online reputation, as established through their digital interactions, contributions, and feedback from others, can have significant real-world consequences. Cases in point, author/speaker/consultant, Mark Schaefer, and SparkToro CEO and cofounder, Rand Fishkin.
In the reputation economy, reputation acts as a form of currency, impacting opportunities for employment, partnerships, collaborations, and social connections. It highlights the importance of trust, credibility, and the perception of one’s expertise, integrity, and character in online spaces.
So, while the creator economy is primarily concerned with monetising creativity and content creation, the reputation economy extends beyond economic considerations and encompasses the overall perception and assessment of an individual’s digital identity and how it affects their interactions, relationships, and opportunities in various domains.
In summary, the creator economy is focused on monetising creativity and content creation, leveraging digital platforms to reach and engage an audience, while the reputation economy emphasises the value of an individual’s online reputation and its impact on personal and professional opportunities.
While closely related, these concepts approach the online landscape from different angles and highlight distinct aspects of the evolving digital economy.
Drilling into the two ‘economies’ from a content perspective
Now let’s dig a bit deeper into the two ‘economies’ from a content perspective. While my focus, professionally-speaking, is mainly on the reputation economy, I also have a foot in the creator economy camp.
Why does it matter, you might ask. Content’s content, right?
Well, yes … sort of. But understanding the nuances between the two will provide you with a clearer path ahead. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of messiness and confusion when it comes to whole content marketing space (I see this first-hand with my clients). Thus, getting clarity in terms of where you ‘fit’ in the world can be helpful when it comes to creating content.
At the end of the day, if you’re a business owner, a professional expert or an emerging thought leader – you’re going to need to create and publish content to raise your profile and enhance your reputation in the marketplace.
And of course, in the creator economy, the sole focus is on building a media platform, so content obviously is key here.
This is where the two worlds collide. So, let’s drill a bit deeper 🙂
Creating content with a reputation economy ‘hat’ on …
What types of people operating in the reputation economy need to create content as part of their personal branding activities?
Let’s for argument’s sake lump into this category thought leaders – subject matter leaders – knowledge leaders, along with entrepreneurs and owners of service-based/expertise-based businesses: anyone whose reputation is critical to their business or professional success.
When it comes to content, these people tend to publish articles, podcasts, videos, newsletters etc for the benefit of their business and/or their career.
They are already established, or in the throes of building their business. By default, they tend to be client or customer focused, which means that when it comes to content creation, they look at – and seek to understand – their audience from that perspective, because that’s who they deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Audience growth is important, obviously, but it’s not necessarily the key metric for ‘reputation’ peeps. Yes, everyone wants to grow their audience, but really, in the reputation economy it’s more important to have the right audience.
Thus, content is used primarily to build marketplace visibility, influence and trust in a way that’s strategic and sustainable. These are, of course, key levers of enhancing one’s business and personal brand reputation, which in turn is becomes critical to achieving commercial impact.
Creating content with a creator economy ‘hat’ on …
Now, in terms of the creator economy, this is the domain of the independent content creator.
What these content creators are essentially doing is developing an independent media platform, whether it’s a podcast, a YouTube channel, an email newsletter, a live-streamed show. You get the idea.
Importantly, they’re after growth in readership, viewership, listenership – that’s mission critical. The focus is on building an engaged audience first, then they can start working out ways and means to monetise that audience.
We’re currently seeing the rise and rise of independent content creators; people are seeing it as a genuine way to build a thriving personal brand-based enterprise.
But in years gone by, it was usually people who were just doing it for fun, because it was their passion. It was something something they were really interested in doing, and money wasn’t so much of a consideration.
Of course, once they built a large audience, they discovered many and varied options in terms of generating an income from their media platform, whether that was straight out of the advertising model playbook (sponsorships) right through to creating digital products that solved a particular need or pain-point their audience might be having.
If we swing back to the reputation economy: content creators already run established businesses (or professional careers) and thus they don’t necessarily need to bother with the aforementioned monetisation models.
Mind you, the ‘doors of revenue’ swing both ways — nothing like cross-pollination of both economies to spice things up and give proponents additional options for audience engagement and revenue growth.
Okay, to there you have the key differences between the two, as I see it anyway 😉
Personally, I like the ‘sweet spot’ in the middle.
I spend more time dealing with business owners and thought leaders, helping them to create content that advances their cause. They’ve firmly got their virtual feet in the reputation economy.
BUT … I research, take my lead from – and become inspired by – those who operate in the creator economy – the independent content creators – because they are at the forefront of what’s going on in the world of content creation, distribution and promotion.
So, if you are a content creator in the reputation economy, I would be looking at what’s going on in the creator economy and learning from, and being inspired by, that.
Who knows? By putting some progressive creator economy strategies and tactics in train might help you get the jump on your reputation economy competitors when it comes to content marketing and PR.
👋 I’m Trevor, experienced content and digital communications strategist, coach and mentor
✅ I help credible business leaders and industry experts elevate their profile, build their reputation and grow their sphere of influence in a way that’s strategic, sustainable … and respectful.