A few months ago, we started a survey to talk to content creators, and find out what their experiences have been like over the past year, from the impact of Covid-19 to the ongoing headaches of securing brand sponsors.
We received 54 responses from publishers across our network, from creators working on a variety of different formats. Here’s the full breakdown of how each format was represented:
Pricing concerns for creators
We wanted to learn more about pricing, and what these creators felt were the most important factors in setting their rates. These creators clearly take pride in the quality of their content, which came out as the most important consideration (26%), followed closely by audience size and audience engagement. These creators might be underestimating the importance of their track record with brands - only 12% of respondents cited this as crucial price consideration, despite the fact that this is one of the factors that brands rely on heavily to predict the success of any content partnership.
Good news for brands looking to negotiate prices: 45% of creators said they’d be happy to discuss reductions for a bulk deal for a package of multiple sponsorships. Most creators (44%) said the biggest reduction they’d be willing to offer was 25% off their standard pricing, although 19% would be willing to stretch that to a 50% discount, under the right circumstances.
21% of respondents also said they’d be willing to lower their pricing to work with one of these dream sponsors. We asked about these dream brands to find out which companies these creators see as their ideal sponsorship partners. First on the list was Adobe, which is using sponsored content to promote a number of different products, from Adobe Dreamweaver to Adobe XD. The next most in demand brand was CuriosityStream, a brand that has worked with 207 different content creators over the past year. Creators might have an even better shot with number 3 on their list, Squarespace. This brand has sponsored 775 thought leaders over the past 12 months, focusing on technology and craft content in particular.
Then there are the brands that these creators wouldn’t feel comfortable working with. When asked about their criteria for rejecting sponsorships (which, after all, is tantamount to turning down money!), content was the primary concern. Creators want to ensure that the brands match their audience’s expectations, and align well with their content themes. Creators also want to make sure that a brand is a good match for their working methods: one creator wrote that they will not work with a brand if it is “not willing to stick to our rules & regulations or wants things that we cannot or will not offer."
Difficulties and Frustrations
When we asked about the biggest headaches involved in sponsored content, the overriding concern for 43% of creators was “finding brands to sponsor my channel”. The other frustrations were split fairly evenly between negotiating with brands (17%), scheduling difficulties and coordinating the approval process (21%) and, of course, getting paid (14%). One creator explained that their biggest struggle was "getting assets that align with the tone/style of my newsletter. A lot of them sound too salesy or cliché."
(Of course, ThoughtLeaders has a platform designed to help with all of these headaches. Get in touch to learn more!)
Reflecting on the challenges of COVID-19, the most widespread concern was a decrease in sponsorship requests from brands, with the marketing budget cuts that accompanied the crisis at the beginning of the year. Not all creators suffered the same impact: some admitted that the stay at home orders had actually brought them new followers and higher engagement, which meant they actually received more sponsorship enquiries during the pandemic. Other creators reported seeing certain benefits from this peculiar year, with 21% seeing higher audience engagement, and 11% finding more time to dedicate to content creation.
In terms of goals for the next year, 50% of creators are focused on increasing their sponsorship revenue and attracting new brand sponsors. Although 27% were most interested in reaching a wider audience, only 5% said they were aiming to start producing content on other channels.
Finally, we asked our content creators what content they themselves consumed. The list of recommendations we received was eccentric and extensive. Here are some of the top picks:
Top 5 Podcasts
How I Built This
Top 5 YouTube
Silicon Valley Girl
Top 5 Newsletters
The Water Coolest
The Web Design
Here's a full overview of the survey results:
For more information about how we can help connect brands and content creators, please get in touch!