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The Creator Economy, Thought Leadership and AI

Updated: Apr 24

By Rhea Wessel

Many thought leaders are members of the creator economy, but unlike creators focused mostly on writing, thought leaders usually have multiple income streams from their ideas.

These may include consulting, training and speaking in addition to their writing. Typically, thought leaders are not writers making a living by writing for hire.

Nonetheless, thought leaders, with the books and articles they create, are members of the creator economy and are therefore greatly impacted by it.

Thriving in the creator economy has never been easy. Just ask freelance journalists who didn’t get a raise for decades way back when. Then came the blogosphere, in which mass authorship became the norm. Now they are impacted by AI, where mass machine authorship will soon be the norm.

See the figure below that I use in my advanced AI for Thought Leadership Writing workshops.

Figure 1: How authorship has changed since the 1970s.

At a recent conference I attended on AI and content creation, people were tossing around this figure. In good AI style (gasp), it was a figure tossed without citation: Within 10 years, 90% of the content on the internet will be machine written.

Somehow, it all seems plausible. One reason is that AI can write much better than most people already, and AI will only get better.

But let’s take that one up another time.

Understanding the economy you’re in

My point here is this: Thought leaders need to understand the economy in which some of their main income streams are embedded. And they need to understand how that industry, the creator economy, is changing and changing rapidly.

Here’s another prediction I heard at the AI and content creation conference. I didn’t quite grasp it at first because it was just a side comment, so I asked ChatGPT to help me understand.

The gist is this: Since AI doesn’t attribute the ideas that creators create to those individual creators, in the long run, creators will have to create a likeness of themselves and license that likeness.

This is what ChatGPT 4.0 said when I asked for help understanding.

Prompt 1: Give me a brief history of the creator economy.

Answer: The answer focused mostly on the rise of platforms and listed the typical income streams of influencers.


Prompt 2: Considering this, where is the creator economy headed? How will creators make money with the rise of AI, that doesn't attribute their ideas to them?

Answer: GPT sent back some interesting ideas but the money-making parts didn’t sound so compelling. I moved on to the next prompt.


Prompt 3: I heard about a model in which a creator makes a likeness of him or herself and then licenses the right to use that likeness. What could that mean in this sense?

Answer: ChatGPT said, “Instead of creating content themselves, creators can license the use of their digital likenesses to other companies or content producers. This allows their image, voice, and persona to be used in various formats—ranging from virtual appearances in videos, games, and virtual reality environments, to more traditional media like commercials and films.”

Finally, I asked ChatGPT to contrast what it described to the way it works in Hollywood.

It came up with some differences, but mostly in scale.

Seems like the rise of AI will lead to the Hollywood model becoming even more applicable to thought leaders and content creators.

Think Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider video game series, but for subject-matter experts.

Could this be a future business model for you based on your subject-matter expertise?

Never say never.

-Rhea Wessel is a writer and founder of The Institute for Thought Leadership. Her new book on using AI to boost your thought leadership is due out late 2024.

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