Li Jin+ Your Authors @ljin18 Consumer investing @a16z. Beijing born + Midwest bred. MBA dropout. Alum: Product @shopkick, stats & English lit @Harvard. Lifelong artist. Loves tech & corgis. Feb. 06, 2020 4 min read + Your Authors

New post! To make a living as a creator, you only need 100 true fans, not 1,000.

As social evolves from a "bigger is better" ad-driven model to niche communities with direct user payment, the playbook for how creators succeed also changes.

Thread 👇 

A decade ago, @kevin2kelly wrote a blog post positing that the internet would enable many more creators to make a living. By cutting out middlemen and directly monetizing fans, creators could earn meaningful income without massive fame.
The recipe: get 1,000 fans paying $100/yr.

The idea of making money from a modest fan base is more salient than ever, but I propose taking it a step further:

Creators need only 100 True Fans—not 1,000—paying them $1,000/year, to make a living.

Today, creators can effectively make more money off fewer fans.

This isn't just conjecture. 100 True Fans is actually happening:

• On Patreon, since 2017, the share of new patrons paying $100+ per month has grown 21%

• On Podia, the number of creators earning $1K+/mo is growing 20% m/m, while customers per creator is growing just 10%

• On Teachable, many course creators are making over $100K w/ avg prices of $1K+ per course. E.g. a creator offering legal training for business owners made $118K last year from 99 students

Tons of other examples in the blog.

Creators are making more money from far fewer fans!

100 True Fans represents a move away from the traditional donation model—in which users pay to benefit the creator—to a value model, in which users are willing to pay more for something that benefits *themselves*.

In the offline world, people are used to paying high prices for expertise (think interior designers, public speaking coaches, tutors, etc) & exclusive access (think meet-and-greets after concerts).

With 100 True Fans, that mindset is filtering into our digital lives as well.

The monetization strategy for 100 True Fans differs substantially from the 1,000 True Fans convention.

Whereas a fan might pay $100/year out of altruism, $1,000/year calls for 10x greater value. Super-fans expect to derive meaningful value and purpose from the product.

The recipe for monetizing with 100 True Fans requires going niche and offering fans the following 4 things:

1) Differentiated content and community
2) Tangible value and results
3) Accountability
4) Access, recognition, and status

What does each entail?

1) Differentiated content and community

People are willing to pay high prices for premium content and access to a network of like-minded individuals that can't be found anywhere else.

2) Tangible value and results

Users’ propensity to pay is higher when there's promise of improvement and results. E.g. while podcasts are under-monetized, a growing # of paid audio apps (Headspace, Calm) get users to pay for content that meaningfully improves well-being.

3) Accountability

The more someone pays, the more invested they are in achieving a desired outcome. Higher-priced creators don’t only offer more or better content, they also motivate and incentivize users to get what they paid for.

4) Access, recognition, and status

High-priced creator services often come with exclusive access, public recognition, and higher social status. Examples include big donors on Twitch getting shoutouts and Chinese apps where creators charge for 1:1 access as video game companions.

Rather than treating fans as a uniform group, 100 True Fans calls on creators to view their fans as diverse sub-segments.

The relationship super-fans have with creators is different: they are disciples, protégés, and co-creators, and require a whole new set of tools & platforms.

Why now? What’s driving this change in creator monetization?

It's a combo of: scaled social networks that make it easier than ever for users to discover creators; tech that enables richer, high-value content; and user familiarity with subscription services.

Just like 1,000 True Fans, 100 True Fans isn’t for every creator.

Creators that have larger diffuse audiences may be better served monetizing through sponsorships, which can be more lucrative and require less effort than designing a high-value program for 100 True Fans.

But for creators who earn the trust of a niche audience and who deliver what those users crave—whether self-improvement, connection, recognition, or belonging—100 True Fans can be an effective monetization model.

For founders and operators, there’s an exciting opportunity to build products that better align monetization with end user value, tap into the intense affinity super-fans have with creators, and build businesses based on the idea of 100 True Fans.

What examples have you seen in the creator space of 100 (or 1,000) True Fans, and what new platforms are seeking to enable this?

Special thanks to everyone who provided inspiration and feedback and sharpened my thinking: @kevin2kelly, @conradw, @ginab, @nigeleccles, @samyamiam, @ankurnagpal, @spencerfry, @davidperell, @SJeneris, @andrewchen, @Tocelot, @laurenmurrow.

And if you haven't, definitely read @kevin2kelly's original blog post "1,000 True Fans." It's more relevant today than ever. 

You can follow @ljin18.


Tip: mention @threader_app on a Twitter thread with the keyword “compile” to get a link to it.

Enjoy Threader? Sign up.

Since you’re here...

... we’re asking visitors like you to make a contribution to support this independent project. In these uncertain times, access to information is vital. Threader gets 1,000,000+ visits a month and our iOS Twitter client was featured as an App of the Day by Apple. Your financial support will help two developers to keep working on this app. Everyone’s contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support Threader by becoming premium or by donating on PayPal. Thank you.