Throughout the weekend I found myself asking the same question as I walked the bustling expo hall at TwitchCon “Are you a streamer?” With various types of badges, there were plenty of streamers that didn’t earn the coveted “partner” badge, but still had the fanbase and dedicated community to qualify them as a “broadcaster”. What struck me as profound, however, was that they often didn’t introduce themselves as broadcasters or streamers – they were content creators.
Much like “social media manager”, content creator can be a dubious title that would have made no sense a decade ago. What does it mean to be a content creator? Furthermore, why is it important?
The technology that we have now makes it easier than ever for you to put your passion in front of a staggering amount of people. Many people associate Twitch with gaming, and sure, you could be a fantastic Overwatch or League of Legends player with thousands of concurrent viewers at any given moment. However, you could just as well be a painter in the middle of Kansas. You could be a pianist in New York, a poet from Oregon, an IT professional from France…with the power of the internet and Twitch, you now have the ability to share your passion and your skills with the rest of the world. You might be streaming live video, or maybe you use your own equipment to produce video content that you edit and post to YouTube. Maybe you write blog posts or record podcasts…most do a little bit of everything. In the end, this is what it means to be a “content creator” – to generate a library of content across a variety of platforms for viewers and subscribers to enjoy that goes far beyond sitting in front of a screen for hours at a time.
Of course, streaming is not “just” sitting in front of a computer; even the act of streaming requires an extensive amount of planning and thoughtfulness. TwitchCon had an entire segment of their expo hall dedicated to streaming software and hardware aimed at making your stream look more professional. What kind of message and sound will you play when someone donates to you? What about a follower? How do you incentivize and get your audience excited about not only tuning in, but being actively engaged in the channel to the point where they feel invested enough to contribute money to help you fund your content? This is what it means to operate a Twitch channel professionally – reflecting on donation trends, seeking out sponsorships and other partners on Twitch to help increase your exposure…it’s a demanding occupation in many ways, but especially when it comes to engaging and growing your fanbase.
As a content creator myself, I’ve found that at previous conventions people don’t really know what to say when you tell them you run a website. At conventions like Fanime, Anime Expo…even places where indie game developers are prominent like PAX West, there’s typically little interest beyond the initial introduction. At TwitchCon however, many of the individuals I spoke with were able to empathize with the challenges of content creation. This recognition and shared struggle among them made for an encouraging and positive atmosphere that left a lasting impact on me, as well as numerous other content creators that I had the privilege to talk with over the weekend. This atmosphere was the result of a larger culture surrounding content creation.
The culture of content creation is one that values every follower. It’s a culture that is diligent and steadfast in its commitment to not just entertain, as television and film have done for decades. No, content creators thrive on inspiring people to engage. Not content with simply having viewers, many content creators want to see a bustling chat room, they love being tagged in tweets or being part of someone’s Snapchat story. It’s a culture that tries to make the world seem just a little bit smaller by plugging into their viewers lives no matter where they are or what timezone they’re in. I firmly believe that the impact of these content creators have fueled Twitch’s rapid growth over the last few years, and will continue to challenge the way we define and engage with “entertainment”.
I’ll finish by saying this: I’ve been going to conventions for over 15 years now and I can safely say that my time this last weekend at TwitchCon was the most unique and motivating con experience I’ve ever had. With so many content creators who are acutely aware of the hard work, time and dedication needed to create, foster and grow a community, there was a consistent sense that everyone was there to learn something new to elevate their craft. I look forward to returning next year and seeing where this culture of content creation will take us next.