Online platforms exist to make money for THEMSELVES, not for you.

Online platforms exist to make money for THEMSELVES, not for you.

Three Pigs' Cookout, Mike Gagnon, 2020, Digital Mixed Media

Three Pigs' Cookout, Mike Gagnon, 2020, Digital Mixed Media


Online platforms like Substack, Medium, YouTube, and social media might seem like digital playgrounds for content creators, but let's not be fooled—they're not charities. Beneath the surface of creative expression lies a lucrative business model that prioritizes the platform's profits over the well-being of its content creators.

Take Substack, for instance. It's the promised land for writers looking to monetize their newsletters. Yet, in the grand scheme, Substack isn't your digital fairy godparent; it's a business with a revenue model. While writers can earn through subscriptions, Substack takes a cut. The platform's success is intertwined with the success of its creators, but let's not kid ourselves into thinking it's a purely altruistic venture.

Medium, with its sleek interface and promises of a writing utopia, follows a similar script. Writers can get paid based on engagement from Medium members, but the platform takes its share. The bottom line is clear—Medium aims to turn a profit, and the more writers produce, the more Medium profits. It's a symbiotic relationship, but not one where the creators have the upper hand.

YouTube, the titan of video content, dances to the same tune. Content creators can make money through ads and partnerships, but YouTube's algorithmic dance dictates who gets the spotlight. Creators play the game, striving for views and subscribers, but the ultimate beneficiary is YouTube itself. Ad revenue flows into its coffers, not directly into the pockets of creators. It's a virtual stage where success is measured not just in applause but in dollars funneled to the platform.

Now, let's talk about social media—the playground where everyone wants to be seen and heard. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—they thrive on user-generated content, but they aren't charitable organizations. Algorithms decide what pops on your feed, aiming to keep you hooked and, more importantly, keep advertisers paying. Your witty tweet might garner likes, but it's the platform that turns those likes into ad revenue.

Instagram, with its influencers and aesthetically pleasing grids, is a prime example. Creators craft content that lures in users, but it's Instagram that benefits from the user engagement. Sponsored posts and partnerships might fill the pockets of influencers, but the real treasure trove lies in the platform's ability to monetize attention.
In the realm of social media, attention is the currency, and platforms are the bankers. They provide the space, the tools, and the audience, but they're not in the business of charity. Every scroll, click, and like contributes to the platform's revenue stream, while creators, at best, get a piece of the pie.

All of this is easy to forget for the average end user, scrolling through teems of entertainment content that gives the impression that it's all free when really the price is that the platform scraps your activity for every shred of data it can find and sells it for a profit to the highest third-party bidder.

In this digital ecosystem, the business motive is the invisible puppeteer pulling the strings. While creators dance on the stage of Substack, Medium, YouTube, and social media, it's the platforms that compose the music. They dictate the rules, control the algorithms, and shape the narrative. Creators, in their pursuit of expression and income, are entangled in a symbiotic relationship that often favors the platform's financial interests.

So, the next time you marvel at the creativity unfolding on these platforms, remember, behind the scenes, there's a balance sheet, profit margins, and a business model that puts the platforms' financial gain at the forefront. Online platforms might be the canvas, but it's the platform owners who are painting a picture of prosperity—just don't mistake it for a masterpiece of altruism.


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