The creator economy, emerging online trends, and new crypto economies are pioneering more opportunities for creators to capitalize. Various platforms, protocols, and digital marketplaces are all competing for the attention of users and the creativity they provide. This is spearheading a high level of independence and entrepreneurial mindset, especially within the younger digital-native Gen Z generation. Crypto economies are shaping the future of work for the next generations of creator economy participants.
There is now a variety of “to-earn” models impacting the way users create, consume, play, learn, socialize and identify themselves. While all of the models have the underlying factor of ownership as a well-known driver behind the emerging economies, the main purpose of all models is to help users monetize by converting human input into capital.
Play-to-earn business models for games have exploded and are the first well-known “to-earn” concept that has shaken up the crypto economy. The
most played games that have blown up in the crypto scene include: Axie
Infinity, Alien Worlds, RONIN, Splinterlands Hive, Bomb Crypto, Sunflower
Farmers, Upland, DeFi Kingdoms and more.
Gamers can “earn” the in-game currency or receive in-game assets by engaging and participating in the in-game economy, while also having ownership of their in-game assets. Players are able to “own” and “earn” anything that has value within the game, such as the land, the characters, the skins and in-game currencies. It is more of an economy than a traditional game.
The more players play, the more value is derived in the use of the assets or tokens within the game. The monetization opportunity motivates the players, whether it's a native token, an existing cryptocurrency, or NFT that is being earned. For the first time, game developers are uncovering a new form of relationship with the players of their game. Developers are forming a partnership with their players, as developers need to design play-to-earn economies that truly make players interested to spend time within the game and make them want to hold valuable assets and distribute them in trading.
Developers can benefit from transactions within the game, value growth of their tokens, or even by displaying ads to players. The key factor is attention. As long as players spend a lot of time, the developers will be able to make their profits while also empowering their players.
The next trending “to-earn” model that has made noise within new crypto economies is the “move-to-earn” model that is incentivising people to monetize their health and sports activities, by moving around to earn tokens. Instead of users participating in games to earn money, they can participate through physical activities, such as jogging, to earn. This is made possible through collecting data and body activity, whether
through a smartwatch or smartphone and using this to determine the conversion for in-app assets.
Arguably the first popular game playing with the concept of incentivizing movement was Pokèmon Go, which required users to have to move outside to various places to capture Pokémons through GPS tracking
and augmented reality within their phones. Studies had even shown that Pokémon Go made people walk 2,000 more steps on average.
Through crypto economies, users are able to actually monetize their movement. It would be somewhat analogous to Pokèmon Go giving users full ownership of the Pokémons in the form of NFTs, which they could then trade to earn.
SweatCoin, a project founded in 2018, was one of the first applications that paid its users digital currency to exercise. There are other popular crypto fitness projects that have showcased the growing interest in walking, jogging, or running to earn. One example is Genopets, where players can collect digital pets and earn XP as they move, which is required to further nurture, battle and evolve their pets for increased value. Another well-known project is StepN, where many users have shared their success cases, such as earning up to $357 from walking in a day.
Step App is a next upcoming fitness project that is creating a gamified metaverse for the fitness economy. FitFi and “move2earn” combine both the fitness and gaming industry, having physical experiences connected to digital experiences within the metaverse through NFTs and geo-location, including AR for immersion. The Step App has multiple token emissions with FITFI, a governance token, and KCAL, the in-game token being earned. Unlike STEPN and Sweat Coin, Step App has also announced a plan to build a software development kit that provides others with tools to build within its metaverse. The Step App has also announced a “dance-to-earn”
partnership with festival.
Overall, the “move-to-earn” model often requires an upfront investment by purchasing an NFT sneaker that is required and used to track the movement and earning potential. There are also other ways for users to leverage the to-earn model cheaper by renting the NFT sneakers and profit-sharing the outcome between other players. More concepts around health and gamification are still developing, such as meditate-to-earn or
sleep-to-earn. A larger interest here is to gather health data and enable participants to monetize their own data.
The Creator Economy boom is continuously growing with an estimated $104.2B market size (as of May 2021). The creator economy encompasses content creators, curators, bloggers, videographers, vloggers, influencers and any other type of creation around content that is monetized directly or indirectly on platforms that distribute it to communities.
Audiences and users on platforms, especially social media have grown rapidly, with more than half of the world now using social media (58.4%) 4.62 billion people and alone 424 million new users coming online within the last 12 months. This gives creators an even bigger opportunity to reach more people and monetize their content or creativity. However, until now there has been a sub-optimal setup on platforms for creators, as Mario Gabriele explained:
Game developers contribute on platforms like Roblox by creating virtual experiences for their player communities, creators providing content daily for entertaining communities on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Twitch and TikTok - so many platforms are leveraging creators who bring attention to them and are able to monetize this attention through advertisers. Yet the cut of ad revenue share or profit share the creators receive is small and creators are often forced to turn to sponsorships or ambassadorships off-platform to really make a living.
Crypto economies are now developing incentives and new opportunities for creators to earn income through creative labor. There is especially one type of content that is interesting when looking into the “create-to-earn” model. It is word-of-mouth content. This is because it is a type of user-generated content (UGC) that is about brands, mainly product/project recommendations and provides interest for advertisers to pay creators directly for using the content instead of non-converting ads. WOM Protocol
has developed a tokenized monetization model to reward creators for authentic recommendations and enable advertisers to pay into the system to utilize and boost the content of their brands. This is made possible through the decentralized WOM campaign manager that lets advertisers discover their brand fans, run campaigns with their content, or showcase the recommendations in their websites for social proof. The protocol can be integrated into any website, platform, or app and is currently live in the BULLZ app, known as TikTok for web3-related videos.
Other projects incentivizing content creation include: Audius,
where users can upload music tracks, curate playlists and earn AUDIO tokens for traction and even Reddit, who announced that it's working on
expanding its Community Points crypto token rewards initiative to reward
participants in subreddits with tokens that can be used to pay for membership, tipping, and badges in the Reddit app.
Judge-to-earn, rate-to-earn or vote-to-earn are monetization models emerging through the need of qualitative information when coordinating larger decentralized networks. The judgment tasks can include curation, risk assessment, dispute resolution, appraisal, reputation and any other tasks that are subjective, where people serve as judges but in a mass can
provide a comparatively objective output.
As Stephen McKeon mentioned, “we will see the rise of subjective oracles”, especially as smart contracts will need soft information that can only be delivered through the judgment of people.
Emerging projects encompassing the application of judge/rate/vote-to-earn:
- Curation: WOM Protocol’s WOM Authenticator App, where audiences can watch and rate content for a quick quality check to help filter out valuable product or project recommendations, and SuperRare and JPG working on decentralized curation for NFTs.
- Contribution/Participation rewards: Coordinape
- Subjective appraisal: Upshot for peer-prediction models on NFT valuation.
Another well-known monetization opportunity is the “watch-to-earn” model, that rewards users for their attention, whether it is watching Youtube, such as Xcad Network which goes as far as unlocking further content when users have earned enough of the dedicated tokens, or earning by watching ads, such as Brave rewards. In addition, Coub
has announced its focus on “watch-to-earn” rewards for its 105 million users.
The concept of incentivizing people to learn is a new paradigm shift away from the traditional education business model that was predominantly “pay-to-learn”, where students had to cover the education costs. However, a recent LinkedIn Workplace Learning report showed that “46% of L&D leaders said upskilling or reskilling was a top focus area this year”. This is arguably coming up as new innovations and skills are fueling the need to up-skill labor and in some cases even unlearn previous methods that are just outdated over time.
More larger corporations are offering their courses or onboarding to their tools for free. For example Google, having their whole suite of courses available to anyone willing to learn. “Learn digital for free of cost.” - Is their
tagline for promoting their courses. Many students were motivated to learn with the incentive of being attractive in the job market and potentially getting a paid job. The crypto industry is expanding the concept by incentivizing learning in a new “learn-to-earn” model that gives the student more “skin in the game” when they actually get to own part of the value they provide by learning something new.
This is analogous to Google giving you a few shares of stock for learning how to use Google Analytics.
As Seth Godin has once shared: “the internet is the greatest self-teaching resource ever developed, but few take advantage of it because it doesn't come with a motor.” The “learn to earn” model provides this motor through monetary incentives that are clearly connected to required participation or actions.
Crypto protocols are willing to directly sponsor the learning and onboarding process to their technologies as they are in need of talent and overall proving a product market fit of users who really use their protocol. RabbitHole is one example of a project that helps users get rewarded when finishing specific tasks of various protocols/projects. By rewarding users to learn new skills and onboard protocols of which they receive a part of ownership, the protocol also increases in value by growing their network, a win-win for both parties. Now even exchanges and price-tracking services are looking into facilitating “learn-to-earn” by partnering with crypto projects, such as Coinmarketcap, Coinbase, KuCoin, and many more.
In addition, Animoca Brands announced its plan to add education to its multibillion-dollar NFT and gaming business: “As the crypto ecosystem continues to implement new ways to earn rewards, Siu said he hopes to drive the teacher economy with a “learn-to-earn” or “teach-to-earn” model, so both teachers’ and students’ time can be rewarded in the form of a token or cash.” - source This also shows an interest in finding a way to reward educators, not just the students.
With the rise of metaverses and world shifts of physical to digital, the 3-trillion dollars global fashion sector will not be spared. Many fashion brands such as Gucci, Ray-Ban, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Adidas are already moving into the NFT space introducing virtual wearables. Soon, users will be able to leverage digital fashion in virtual worlds, or in real-life through augmented reality.
Wearing or using NFTs within those environments is becoming an upcoming monetization model to provide further utility to NFTs. AKINGS rewards NFT holders every time they “wear” their AKINGS fit in virtual worlds or in online games. This could unlock a future where brands will send users an airdrop of their virtual currencies, or offer power-ups, or new limited editions, for wearing their skins or digital collectibles.
Digital technologies combined with crypto economies are reshaping the future of work. It looks like we will see a multi-currency future within the gig economy that empowers people to do various tasks and earn. Whether there will still be people working for only one organization is probably up to individual preferences but the opportunities are there to leverage multiple income streams.
All of the “to-earn” models should be looked at in depth and valid questions to ask are:
Why should those actions be rewarded financially?
There needs to be a clear value system to have a feasible model.
Who is actually paying into the system? Or “
There needs to be a clear “employer” to have a sustainable model.
Interestingly the “to-earn” models have started from a gaming environment and as Chris Dixon famously wrote, “the next big thing starts out looking like a toy.”
Are you ready to play with the new ideas of making money?