What it Means to Be an Online Entertainer
For the purposes of this course, an online entertainer is an individual who offers recreational content to online audiences. Though much of the content online entertainers has informational and educational value, that which qualifies as online entertainment need only be amusing.
This course specifically addresses four types of online entertainers:
- Video producers of web series or shorts
- Comic creators
Online entertainers may be entrepreneurs, self-employed professionals, freelancers, and consultants, or employees or contractors working with large and established publishers, producers, and studios. While many work alone, others work in teams. A significant proportion of professionals within the field work with expensive equipment and advanced software, however more still work with very simple tools, platforms, software, and materials.
Though some online entertainers regard their work as entertainers as a full-time job, most earn the majority of their income from day jobs (sometimes related to the entertainment they produce, sometimes not). The lessons of this course will address various manifestations of the online entertainment pursuit, however we assume those reviewing our lessons will have some interest in making a significant side income from their work.
On Gamers, Artists, Bloggers, and Authors
We will soon release a separate course for those building careers associated with the video game industry (the platforms and approaches that are ideal for video game-based entertainers are sufficiently different from those suited for other entertainers to warrant separate treatment). We already have separate courses for artists, bloggers, and authors.
The Perks of Becoming an Online Entertainer
Of all the common internet-based professions available, online entertainment is arguably the most glamorous. Perks associated with the pursuit include:
- Creative and challenging work
- The opportunity to learn valuable new skills
- The opportunity to work with brilliant, creative people
- A shot at self-employment
- The opportunity to forward a specific agenda or ideology
- A chance to influence and improve the lives of a large number of people
- Work that can win one significant recognition and admiration
- An excuse to experiment with cutting-edge new technology
- A shot at pioneering a whole new form of entertainment
- The opportunity to connect with fans from around the world- people you would never have an excuse to speak with otherwise
Major Myths Associated with Online Entertainment
Don’t let the following myths lead you down the wrong path:
- Online entertainment careers can lead to millions: Sure, some online entertainers ultimately make a decent income, but profitable online entertainers are no different from their offline counterparts; most actors, musicians, and artists, be they online or offline, struggle in the financial department
- Online entertainers make money through ad revenue: Though ad revenue might support the odd low-budget vlogger, most online entertainers rely on other sources of income that are less risky and more stable than advertisements (which are offering lower and lower payouts and are entirely contingent on views and traffic- something that could be decimated in a matter of hours with the release of a new search or site algorithm update)
- Even pointless content can gain traction: To build a sustainable career, you must actually provide something of value; novelty alone won’t take you very far
- It is easy to build online success: The world of online entertainment has become more competitive than ever, and even in the early days of sites like YouTube, it took a while to build up an audience; do not expect success to come in a matter of months- or even years
- Low quality content can make it big: Do not let shoddy viral videos (mostly one-hit wonders) lead you to believe that poorly-created content will fly in the online entertainment world; if you want to create a real career as an online entertainer, you must offer well-produced, high-quality, carefully-edited content
- Online entertainment is an easy, self-indulgent pursuit: While many entertainers do self-indulgent things, those who make it big must be incredibly savvy regarding audience interests and needs, presentation, styling, framing, trends, new media, customer relationship management, and digital identity maintenance (in other words, serious online entertainers work incredibly hard and live and breathe their work)
- Online celebrities are just like mainstream celebrities these days: Not so- though online celebrities may be idolized within online communities, they often still have trouble gaining recognition and transitioning into traditional entertainment realms (this is changing, but the change is asking place very slowly)
Major Trends in Online Entertainment
Payment is Evolving
It has long been established that online entertainment should be free. Most people are not willing to pay for shows, songs, and comics online unless they are associated with major producers or brands- and even then piracy is rampant.
For many years, it was therefore assumed that online entertainers would monetize their work through ad revenue. While advertising does yield a significant portion of the typical online entertainer’s income, it is seen by many as being on its way out- at least as one’s primary source of income.
Reasons behind loss of faith in advertising include:
- Higher rates of online browsers using ad blockers
- Generally low income per view (you have to garner a HUGE number of views to earn a living wage from ad revenue alone)
- Hgh competition for viewership on popular sites like YouTube
- The potential for changes in search algorithms to decimate an individual’s income
- The risk of eventually being banned form a site or an ad network (such as AdSense), which would destroy income potential
Online entertainers seeking alternative means of earning income have put added focus in the following approaches:
- Establishing sponsorships directly with companies (rather than through ad networks)
- Developing and selling bonus content, products, and services to fans who are willing to pay for perks
- Seeking funds from fans and organizations to create new content
What online entertainers aren’t doing is:
- Insisting that people pay for their content or get nothing at all
The general consensus is therefore that you have to be able to provide something of significant value for free, then make a living off of peripheral things, such as donations, fan loyalty (monetized through sponsorships), and the sale of bonus material or products. The days in which original content itself could serve as a cash cow are gone.
Personal Connections are Crucial
- Online audiences have more online entertainment options than ever (both from traditional and home-grown entertainers)
- Active support (in the form of donations and purchases) from audiences is coming to play a crucial role in more and more entertainers’ success
- Sponsorships, which are contingent on an entertainer’s influence over his or her audience, are playing an increasingly important role in online entertainers’ careers
Because of these trends, online entertainers make very concerted efforts to establish genuine, personal relationships with their audiences. Fans will be far more likely to choose to listen to your podcast, buy your special merchandise, donate toward your projects, and buy things you recommend if they feel like they know you- and that you know them.
Thankfully, there are many ways to personally engage with audiences online. We will address some of the most effective methods in the best practices lesson of this course.
Mobile traffic is on the rise (for a nice overview of growth in mobile browsing, check out Cisco’s Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update for 2012 to 2017). What does this mean for online entertainers?
- Websites and online properties had better be optimized for mobile
- Information should be presented in a manner that is easy to consume via mobile devices
Responsive website designs are becoming de rigueur. Be sure to choose formats that work well with mainstream mobile operating systems. Test your work on mobile devices (and your friends’ mobile devices).
Make your work available in bite-sized chunks or in the online equivalent of to-go boxes. If you offer videos, make them available as bite-sized chunks that could be consumed two minutes at a time or all at once over a three hour period. Consider making your content available as podcast downloads- even if you had not planned on being a dedicated podcaster. As you create new content, consider how easy it will be for someone on a bus, in a car, or in between meetings to consume. Those who can cater to audiences seeking a quick entertainment hit on their mobile devices stand to gain a major strategic advantages in the months and years to come.
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Only take this lesson’s quiz if you are enrolled in the course and want to prove your skills and earn official credentials. Credentials related to a course are useful if you would like to find work related to this course’s career, as we direct businesses and entrepreneurs to our membership page when they approach us looking for specialists.
Finally, make sure you have reviewed this lesson’s required reading (displayed at the top right of the page) before taking the quiz- you will be tested on information covered in those guides!