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Top Trends for Creators in 2023
How right or wrong was I in my last predictions?
Two years ago I wrote a post featuring 10 Trends for Creators in 2021. I thought it would be fun to revisit the post and see just how right or wrong I was in each prediction, plus update the list for 2023.
Let’s jump in:
Predictions from 2021
Here are the trends I predicted for 2021 (in the original order). I’ll assign each a number of stars from zero to three based on the strength of each trend over the past two years:
LIT Videobooks partners with bestselling authors and Emmy award-winning production talent to bring business books to life in under 2 hours. Since I first wrote about them, they appear to have produced around 30 total video books. They raised $5M last year from Founders Fund and others.
This one hasn’t become a trend yet. I haven’t heard of any serious competitors. Either it’s too early to tell, or the concept just isn’t going to take off.
2. Paid Newsletters ⭐️⭐️
Substack has had a huge couple of years. Paid newsletters in general? It’s not so clear. Twitter just announced that it will be shutting down its paid newsletter service Revue on January 18th 2023. Facebook likewise also shut down its newsletter service Bulletin earlier this year. Substack themselves scrapped plans to raise additional funding this year.
Paid newsletters are here to stay, no doubt, but they’ll likely become a quieter but profitable (and important) corner of the Internet overshadowed by YouTubers, streamers, podcasters and tik-tokers.
3. Utility-first CSS ⭐️⭐️⭐️
TailwindCSS has nearly become an Internet standard at this point. Just look at this graph comparing downloads of Tailwind (in red) to several other popular CSS frameworks. It’s on a meteoric rise and the trend will likely continue.
4. JAMstack ⭐️⭐️
JAMstack as a term and specific architecture may have peaked, but the movement has changed how modern websites are built. Elements popularized by JAMStack (and Netlify, the hosting company founded by the originator of JAMStack, Matt Biilmann) have become pervasive: static generation, composable architectures, opinionated tooling, headless CMS, serverless runtimes and automated CI/CD, and it continues to evolve with new technologies. Even Wordpress has been influenced by Jamstack.
For creators who don’t code, the tools might seem daunting at first, but they’re getting easier to use every day. The divide between builders like Wix and SquareSpace vs. custom setups like Nextjs or Gatsby is still wide, but I expect it to narrow over the next couple of years.
5. Subscription Email Services ⭐️
HEY made a big splash when it came out in 2020. Since then, there hasn’t really been much in terms of competition or industry changes. For the most part, people seem happy to continue with Gmail. I don’t doubt that HEY is a profitable business for 37Signals, but this doesn’t seem to be a huge trend, at least not yet.
6. Digital Reboots
After rebooting my entire digital life and selling my main internet business over the past couple of years, I felt so invigorated and free that I hoped more people might consider doing the same. Alas, I didn’t hear of any grand reboots or starting over from anyone online. I don’t think digital reboots will become a trend, but I still highly recommend it :)
7. VC Alternatives for Bootstrappers
The hard truth about venture capital is that most companies fail or have very modest exits, so a few have to sell for billions to make the entire portfolio profitable. This means VCs tend to invest only in companies they believe can return 10-100x, depending on the stage of investment.
Bootstrappers would love more alternative investment options, like those I mentioned in my previous trends post, but the economics just don’t work for investors, at least not yet. I’m still hopeful there will be some more inventive investment models in the years to come, but for now bootstrappers and creators will have to continue to self-fund. At least you’ll retain 100% ownership that way.
8. Tiny Investment Portfolios
…small company founders who are looking for a way to sell their businesses are starting to have more options.
Tiny Capital started by Andrew Wilkinson has been buying, starting and investing in internet businesses and has built an impressive portfolio including some companies you may have heard of like Dribbble, Meteor, Buffer, Waking Up with Sam Harris and many more.
Here’s another potential trend that’s either too early to tell, or just hasn’t panned out. Or maybe there are plenty of these tiny internet investment portfolios around, but we don’t hear about them because they’re quietly buying up small profitable businesses.
Have you heard of others? Let me know in the comments.
9. Apple Silicon ⭐️⭐️
I’ve been loving my M1 MacBook Pro. The battery life is close to all-day, and the performance makes pretty much every task lickety-split. For creators who edit and export large media files, it’s an easy choice to spend the money on a machine that can save you hours per month.
After introducing the new M-series Apple Silicon Macs, Apple saw a huge jump in quarterly revenue from the Mac division:
It’s hard to say whether Apple will continue to make huge advancements in the years to come. We’re still waiting to see how Apple Silicon performs in the Mac Pro and rumored iMac Pro. I’d love to see Intel fight back and push the envelope. Competition in semiconductors benefits the whole market.
10. The Creator Economy ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Creator Economy experienced explosive growth during the pandemic. YouTube revenue is a good proxy for the overall growth of the creator economy, because over 80% of internet users use YouTube and because YouTube shares ~50% of revenue with creators:
From Q1 2015 to the peak in the chart above in Q4 2021, YouTube quarterly revenue grew from $1 billion to over $8.6 billion. Things seem to be cooling off a bit in 2022, but that’s seen across the publishing industry as people got back to semi-regular life after the pandemic years.
This trend is here to stay as more and more people create and monetize content and attention online. 54% of young Americans say they would become an influencer if given the chance. I’ll bet many of them are going to take a shot over the coming years.
Trends for Creators to Watch in 2023
OK, on to the new stuff. Here are a handful of trends I think will be worth watching in 2023 and beyond.
1. AI-Created Content
Before the robots take over and subjugate us all, we’re in for a wild period where AI-generated content proliferates and becomes indistinguishable from human created content.
If you’re a content creator, you’ll have some interesting choices to make in the coming months. Do you stay “natural” and create all your own stuff? If so, how do you compete with creators who are augmenting their content to produce more, better, faster? Welcome to the McGuire/Sosa era of content creation.
2. The Recession Trickles Down
As an individual creator or entrepreneur, you may not have felt the effects of the coming recession, yet, but it will likely trickle down and impact everybody next year as advertisers scale back and the VC-fueled party of the past few years fades.
But as I said before:
I don’t want you to settle for survival in this recession. At 46, this will be the third recession I’ve weathered as an adult. I’ve come to look at recessions as opportunities. Recessions are a time to plant seeds that you’ll harvest when people get back to spending like drunken sailors.
Implosion Erosion of Twitter and the Start of Something New
Ugh, finally, I guess I should say something about Twitter.
Instead of summing up what has happened or complaining about how Elon turned a cesspool into a raging dumpster fire, let’s talk about what happens next.
I don’t believe Twitter will fully implode, but there’s no doubt it’s coveted status as the main place where journalists interact, share and break news is being eroded.
That erosion is opening the door to alternatives. Twitter still has a massive lead, but Mastodon is experiencing explosive growth:
This may be one of the reasons why Mastodon has recently exploded in popularity, jumping from approx. 300K monthly active users to 2.5M between the months of October and November, with more and more journalists, political figures, writers, actors and organizations moving over. Understanding that freedom of the press is absolutely essential for a functional democracy, we are excited to see Mastodon grow and become a household name in newsrooms across the world, and we are committed to continuing to improve our software to face up to new challenges that come with rapid growth and increasing demand.
Mastodon may or may not be the ultimate replacement for Twitter. It’s more likely it will continue to gain interest then fade gradually into an obscure status outside of the mainstream. There are other open social protocols in development, as Jack pointed out in one of his recent apologies:
As far as the free and open social media protocol goes, there are many competing projects: @bluesky is one with the AT Protocol, Mastodon another, Matrix yet another…and there will be many more. One will have a chance at becoming a standard like HTTP or SMTP. This isn’t about a “decentralized Twitter.” This is a focused and urgent push for a foundational core technology standard to make social media a native part of the internet.
The reason I’m unsure and somewhat disappointed about Mastodon is that it’s mostly just a Twitter clone. The functionality between the two is very similar so far, except that Mastodon is federated, which makes it worse in some ways (usernames are long, signup is more confusing, search and discovery is slower). As I write this, my Mastodon client is stalled, no doubt due to some technical issue with my particular server, or the federation model. Things are going to be messy for a while. (By the way, if you’re on Mastodon, connect with me here: https://mstdn.party/@corbettbarr. It may not be forever, but we can have some fun in the mean time.)
I’d love to see something more imaginative. Why not combine the best parts of Instagram and TikTok and Twitter and [your other favorite social network] together into one amazing new decentralized platform that allows each user to customize their experience to their liking?
Regardless of the outcome, we’re in a new chapter of the Internet. During this interim period of turmoil and discontent, the seeds of what comes next will be planted. Or, maybe those seeds have already been planted, and now need to be cultivated, who knows? I’m excited to see how this develops.
This will be my last post until the new year. Thanks for reading and participating this year as I got the publication started and posted somewhat sporadically. I look forward to connecting again in the new year.
What else would you add as a trend for creators to watch in 2023 and beyond? Leave a comment and share :)