How big is the creator economy? Three times larger than we thought!

Mark Schaefer
6 min readNov 13, 2023

I was perusing The Wall Street Journal and saw a headline that grabbed my attention: “Forget Retirement. Become a Social Media Star Instead.” The article recounts how “granfluencer” Linda Davis earned a six-figure income through cooking videos that attracted sponsors like Chobani and Disney Cruises. It seems like everybody and anybody is jumping on the creator economy bandwagon!

But how many people are actually making money as an online creator? New research sponsored by word-of-mouth marketing legend Ed Keller shows it’s bigger than anybody thought.

Much bigger.

This is important research, and Ed allowed me to be the first to publish these eye-popping results for my readers. Today, you’ll learn that the creator economy is a largely unaccounted-for economic engine. Fasten your seatbelt. You’re about to view influencers and the creator economy in a whole new way …

The creator economy mystery

Until now, nobody could accurately estimate how many people have monetized their online content efforts. There are two main problems:

  • The creator economy is a recent development which exploded since the pandemic, and
  • Nobody knew how to capture the data across a broad spectrum of participants

For example, The U.S. Census Bureau tracks 22,607 career choices, recognizing those who work in such narrow fields as pickled onion manufacturing, adult bookstores, and canoe repair. But the index makes no mention of “social media,” an oversight that misses one of the most monumental changes to have swept the labor force in years.

Millions have ditched traditional career paths to work as online creators, using their computers and phones to reshape culture and build businesses whose influence now rivals the biggest names in entertainment, news, and politics.

“Influencer” is now ranked one of the most popular career aspirations for American youth, above professional athlete and astronaut. One research report stated that 86 percent of teens aspire to be an online influencer as a top career choice.

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Mark Schaefer

Keynote speaker, marketing strategy consultant, Rutgers U faculty and author of 10 books including KNOWN, Marketing Rebellion, and Belonging to the Brand!