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  • Writer's pictureMarie Brand

Unveiling the Creator Economy: Insights from the Marketing and the Creator Economy Conference

Updated: May 3

Written by Marie Brand, PhD Candidate at WU Vienna

When thinking about once-in-a-lifetime trips, New York at Christmas time is on the bucket list for many. Ice skating in front of the Rockefeller Center with a view of the famous Christmas tree, sipping hot cider at the holiday market at Bryant Park, or marveling at the spectacles of the decked-out window display at Cartier's on 5th Avenue. Over 60 million visitors flock to these attractions every year.  Last December there was another attraction in town: marketing scholars from all over the world attended the “Marketing and the Creator Economy Conference” at Columbia Business School in the heart of New York City. Hosted by Bernd Schmitt and Reto Hofstetter and moderated by Matthew Quint, the conference was worth a visit not only because of the location (though that is a nice perk) but also because of its insightful discussions around all things creator economy. Let’s dive into my top four insights from the conference.

Here are three things I learned about the creator economy:

1. Marketers! Gather for Creator Economy!

Platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitch have become integral to many people’s everyday lives. While some of these platforms started by providing entertainment with endless reels of cute cats, product placement, or latte art, they have grown into an ecosystem where individuals leverage digital platforms to create, distribute, and monetize their talents. The creator economy opens many questions for researchers: What happens when creators collaborate? Why do consumers form parasocial relationships with content creators and how does it affect the content created? How should parent-run social media accounts protect the privacy of the children the content is about? What happens when live-streaming audiences start to hurl insults at the streams? How do AI technologies impact content creation and monetization of content?

IJRM Co-Editor Alina Sorescu reflects on the rise of the creator economy and how we can contribute to this intriguing field as marketing scholars and educators:

“As the creator economy is estimated to reach over $500 billion in a few short years, the research opportunities in this space are numerous and extremely important. Topics can range from the long-term sustainability and evolution of this economy, to the mental health and well-being of creators, to the impact of technologies on this economy and to how it impacts, in turn, more traditional industries.
As educators, we should also start thinking about the need for specialized education and training programs to help individuals develop the skills and knowledge required for success as a creator. Every school is now providing a master or certificate in marketing analytics; pioneering schools may consider preparing their students for jobs in the creator economy or in firms that partner with participants in this economy.”

IJRM Co-Editor Alina Sorescu

If you missed out on the conference but are interested in the answer to some of these questions, you are in luck. IJRM has your back with a special issue on the creator economy. IJRM Editor-in-Chief Martin Schreier provides some more in-depth information on the special issue:

“The creator economy—a space where individuals, known as creators, generate income through producing and sharing original content, products, or services on digital platforms—is revolutionizing the way we work, consume, and interact with each other.  
While marketing researchers have been producing valuable knowledge on how brands can best work with creators to market their products, which has become known as “influencer marketing,” we know little about the creators themselves.  
Creators are the engine of the creator economy. How can they effectively grow and monetize their audiences, how can they create and develop their own brands over time, how can they turn a hobby into a sustainable business? What are the implications for creator well-being and health? These are some fascinating questions we would love to see addressed by future research.”  

IJRM Editor-in-Chief Martin Schreier 


2. It’s not all sprinkles and rainbows


The panel with Thomas Kim (Director of Project Management, YouTube Partnership Program), Dylan Lemay (5M YouTube followers), and Gigi Robinson (142K TikTok followers) drew in the largest crowd of the conference. Raking in over 200,000 views on his YouTube Shorts clips is an everyday occurrence for Dylan Lamay, whose videos often reach over 1 million views. Why, you ask? Well, Dylan films himself scooping ice cream, most likely making him the most successful ice-cream-focused creator across several social media platforms. Dylan talked about the positive sides of making a living with creative content while acknowledging that it can be stressful to worry about how well his next video will do and the hard work necessary to keep up content production. The pressure is on to produce content that draws in views, as this is the currency of many creators. Gigi Robinson might be on the more somber side of content compared to Dylan, using her platform to talk about mental health and chronic illness, yet she echoes Dylan's sentiment of pressure on creators and overnight success. When you put so much of your lives on social media for audiences to consume, it is often difficult for creators to separate themselves from how well a video performs. When a video underperforms, it is easy to take it personally, leading to self-doubt and worries about future performance. Companies like YouTube reward creators who continue to draw large audiences with advertisement revenue, explains Thomas Kim from the YouTube partnership program. He serves as the connection between creators and their access to YouTube resources and monetization features, like revenue sharing from ads being served on the creators‘ content. Peaking behind the curtain of content creation, even something as simple as putting sprinkles on ice cream becomes a complex endeavor.

3. Big risk, big reward?

Continuing on the theme of double-edged swords, the conversations around the conference highlighted the dichotomy between opportunities and pitfalls of the creator economy as a whole. While there was much buzz about the opportunities for new research on the new business models that have emerged in this economy, as well as on new ways to create value for companies and creators, some participants also cautioned against getting carried away by too much excitement, particularly when it comes to relying on AI to create or curate content for the creator economy. In a particularly memorable conversation next to the coffee machine, IJRM senior editor Alina Sorescu shared her concerns about the creator economy and the new technologies that are changing the business landscape. Generative AI has exploded in popularity with tools such as ChatGPT and DALL-E but they are essentially black boxes, Alina argues. They might make it easier to put together text or images, but we are using these technologies without having a clear understanding of the data they use to provide output. We cannot easily detect biases in the training data and commercial models can provide misleading or downright false answers on a variety of topics. It remains unclear how these tools will develop in the future and how this will impact both academic discourse and our everyday lives in the future. Other conversations centered around the ecological impact of AI tools, an often-overlooked aspect. While writing a prompt and waiting for a response from Chat-GPT only takes a few seconds of time, it also takes large amounts of electricity, an aspect that consumers may not consider when adopting these technologies.


Want to read more about the creator economy from the IJRM Editorial Board?

Check out this editorial:

Peres, Renana and Schreier, Martin and Schweidel, David A. and Sorescu, Alina, The Creator Economy: An Introduction and a Call for Scholarly Research (June 1, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Want to submit to the Marketing and the Creator Economy special issue of IJRM? The deadline is coming up fast on June 30th, 2024.

Check out the call for papers here:


This article was written by

Marie Brand

Ph.D. candidate at the WU, Vienna


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