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  • Writer's pictureT. (Ned) Choungprayoon

Creator-Economy Conversations at the Crossroads: Where Academia and Industry Meet

Updated: Feb 13

Written By T. (Ned) Choungprayoon, Ph.D. Candidate at Stockholm School of Economics


Alex Bleier, Beth Fossen, and Michal Shapira were invited to write an IJRM paper regarding the creator economy, in particular, to shed light on the role of social media platforms. This paper is intended to be a special issue that examines relevant ideas and problems related to the creator economy.




The author team tapped into their industry connections to inform their insights. Michal brought a connection with famous content creators as well as with business leaders working at Meta. Alex, who had worked on questions around influencer marketing effectiveness, joined the team along with Beth, who brought her expertise in digital and social media marketing, to sharpen the academic depth and bridge the gap between industry practices and scholarly insights. Each of the three authors, based on three different continents, brings a different perspective, and the team benefits from these diverse and unique collective insights and experiences in conceptualizing and writing the article.


“We approached Meta's management team in Israel and invited them to take part in the article. We told them about IJRM and how meaningful it is in the marketing community. We offered them to take part in the research and explained that both the academic marketing research community around the world and practitioners in the field will be able to gain insights from this unique collaboration. We were very lucky to have Maayan Sarig, Head of Communications at Meta and the creators that took part in the interviews cooperating with us.”

- Michal Shapira -


From the lens of platforms: “I am the digital matchmaker”




Digital platforms are more than just hosts; they are essential matchmakers in the creator economy who connect creators who seek visibility, attention, and engagement with audiences who are interested in the provided content. Before the emergence of digital platforms, exposure was limited to local audiences. These platforms have vastly increased exposure, yet finding the right audience is challenging. This evolution has led to a more complex digital landscape where platforms curate content and match them to individuals with common interests, creating growing online communities.


“Platforms realized that the creators can have a substantial contribution. Meta is people first platform where people meet people. Meta conducted research about why people are using the platform and found out that they come for exploration, they come for a sense of belonging. And that's what creators can deliver well.”

- Michal Shapira -


The dynamic relationship among platforms, creators, users, and advertisers creates an ecosystem where platforms bundle creators and consumers together on one side and bring advertisers and brands on another side to facilitate compensation. Besides their role as matchmakers, these platforms also act as guardians who provide safe spaces for everyone.


“There is less research on the platform’s perspective in the creator economy, with more research having focused on the creator or influencer side. So, when we talked to the influencers, we had to be very strategic in the questions we came up with. We wanted them to be able to explain why they create content, but we also wanted to get them to start to talk about the relationship with the platform so that we could really understand that unique angle.”

- Beth Fossen -


From the lens of creators: “It’s not all about the money”



The team continued to explore the creator’s side of the relationships. "We wanted to uncover what drives them, their measures of success, and how platforms support or hinder these," they shared. What they found is that creators' motivations were diverse, often beginning with a desire to express themselves rather than to make financial gains. Their journeys to stardom were sometimes accidental, a byproduct of authentic self-expression resonating with a larger audience.


“Creators' initial motivation was not related to financial considerations. There was no money there at the beginning. All they wanted was to express themselves, to express their emotions. And suddenly when the algorithm finds out that they produce quality content, then they become celebrities and they have followers. And that is something we saw across the board.”

- Michal Shapira -


Zack Simon, a former student of Michal, who is now a successful content creator, took a parental leave for his first-born daughter and shared his unfiltered experiences of parenthood - from the myth of a relaxing vacation to the challenges of a crying baby and marital disagreements. His story resonated widely, making him so popular that people of all ages approached him and talked about his content. Similarly, several content creators began their journey to fame simply as a hobby, sharing personal stories and passions. They were fascinated by how they were free to craft content that genuinely represented their voices, which unexpectedly steered them toward popularity and influence.


From the lens of researchers: “From numbers to narratives uniting academic inquiry and industry practice”




Gathering qualitative insights was a new methodology for the team since all three are quantitative researchers. However, they describe that it is the qualitative research that offered them a chance to build a broad in-depth narrative around the creator economy ecosystem.


“I am an empirical researcher, typically using observational data to do analyses. This is a very different type of research where we were taking qualitative insights from a collection of interviews with very different people. You get to hear what are things that are working and not working as well as what are things that they're trying to leverage. We hope that our insights will inspire other researchers to go and collect that data and empirically test the ideas we bring up here.” 

- Beth Fossen -


One of the special aspects of the conversations between academics and practitioners is the alignment of academic findings with industry insights. Moreover, the team found that the insights gained from the interviews complement the previous findings in academic research derived from observational data by providing narrative explanations from the content creators and platform providers. For example, they gained deeper insights into how creators strategically manage their income streams and presence on various platforms, a phenomenon not readily observable from the data alone. “Our small-scale study has relevance because it aligns with the vast research of these platforms,” the team notes, highlighting the importance of their work in the broader context of the digital marketplace.


“It's a needle in the haystack thing. Platforms have petabytes of data and, to improve their business, they need to start somewhere. Academic research can help them sense problems on the demand side and on the supply side. This can then motivate platforms to assemble teams and task forces to look further into specific questions, often in collaboration with academics.” 

- Alexander Bleier -

“If we don't bring any value then nobody will want to cooperate with us. At least I see that with high-level practitioners understand that marketing is not something glamorous but it is something very serious. If you can get an in-depth conceptual and theoretical framework for what you do, you can make a good informed decision about it. They feel that the academic world is interesting and can offer them added value.” 

- Michal Shapira -


This alignment between academic findings and industry insights not only enhances the significance of the academic study but also provides a new perspective that challenges and complements existing models in the field of the creator economy. This unique collaboration between academia and practice highlights the benefits of bridging diverse perspectives to better understand complex phenomena. The convergence of these viewpoints not only enriches research but also drives innovation in the creator economy, shaping future trends and practices.


Curious to know more about the role of platforms in the creator economy and research questions that may spark future investigations? Read the full paper here.


 

Meet Authors

 

Alexander Bleier

Associate Professor of Marketing at Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, Frankfurt, Germany


If you were not an academic, what would you be?

My primary outside option was always consulting because I enjoy working on timely problems with interesting people.





Beth Fossen

Assistant Professor of Marketing at Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, USA



If you were not an academic, what would you be?

I'll start by saying that I feel like the academic career is just a really good fit for me because I quite love analytics. I've always been attracted to math and numbers and looking for patterns. So if I were going to pursue another career, I'd have to have that component and it would also have to have some sort of mentoring component because I really love that part of academia. So I think if I were going to be in another career I would be a tennis coach because it would provide me the ability to do analytics as well as the sort of mentoring and teaching.





Michal Shapira

Assistant Professor of Marketing, director of the Marketing and Digital School, faculty of business administration, Ono Academic College, and a lecturer in the business school at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel


If you were not an academic, what would you be?

I came to academia after seven intensive years in the advertising industry. Then I did my PhD in cognitive psychology and my postdoc in marketing. For me, I'm motivated by the strong desire to understand consumer behavior and the media's effects on consumers. My other goals are to create applied research and bring insights that have a theoretical, conceptual, and empirical basis to offer practical value for practitioners to make informed decisions. If I had not chosen an academic career, I probably would have continued in the marketing, advertising, or digital industry, focusing on strategy or policy. I also would have enjoyed being an actress or TV or radio anchor. Actually, I think that my dream was to be an actress, but since I understood that I'm not guaranteed to get the Oscar, so the stage at the lecture hall is also nice.



 

This article was written by

T. (Ned) Choungprayoon

Ph.D. Candidate at the Stockholm School of Economics (Sweden)







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