When historians write the story of the rise of the Creator Economy, there are two moments, ten years apart, that are guaranteed to appear. The first, in Spring 2007, is when YouTube started sharing advertising revenue with creators—a decision that arguably laid the foundation for the “Creator Economy” as we know it today. The second, in Spring 2017, is when the cracks in that foundation became impossible to ignore, and questions about the legitimacy of the platform economy started to emerge.
Spring 2017 marks what is now popularly known among creators as “Adpocalypse.” YouTube faced a mass exodus of advertisers due to concerns about their ads being featured next to objectionable content. The platform overhauled its advertising policy, and thousands of creators saw their views and earnings plummet as a result—some by as much as 99%.
“Literally almost everyone across the board has seen their views cut in half,” one creator told New York magazine at the time. “So we’re trying to fight the Not Advertiser-Friendly system as well as fighting the new algorithm, and it’s, like, how are people supposed to live off this anymore, you know?”