The future of creator-led media

Exploring some universal truths

Hi, everyone! Kicking off today’s Smoothletter with amazing news: Smoothie Ben Teller and his cofounders of The Blueprint have struck a deal to bring their real estate media company under Estate Media! Nothing gets us going like a creator-led, niche media company getting the recognition it deserves. Huge congrats to Ben and his team!

—Kinsey, cofounder & head of editorial at Smooth Media

The Future of Creator-Led Media Businesses

On Saturday, I traded my usual weekend routine (farmer’s market, pulling out my beloved Shark vacuum, little treat) for something more like this:

That’s because our fearless leader, Josh, was hosting a panel at the MBA Media, Entertainment & Sports Conference hosted by Columbia and NYU Stern. And I never miss a chance to both 1) step foot on a campus and relive my academia glory days and 2) support my friend Josh in talking about what we love most…creator-led media.

From L to R: Alx Bear, Courtney Hirsch, Greg and Rebecca Remmey, Hannah Williams, and some random they picked up off the street

The goal of the panel was to understand the future of creator-led media brands, and the experts delivered

Short story: I’m as optimistic as ever that creators are ushering in a new, vibrant momentum in media that’ll last for years to come.

The slightly longer story: There were a couple key ideas worth doubling down on. The highlights →

1) Creator-led > creator-dependent. The panelists were creators and operators from some pretty diverse media brands—fitness, sports, food, and work. But every expert, no matter the niche, agreed that successful media brands all practice intense focus on building the right team and making the right strategic calls that empower them to be creator-led, not creator-dependent.

For example:

  • Alx Bear from Melissa Wood Health explained how the subscription-based fitness and wellness media brand has brought on other creators to insulate the business from the possibility that its namesake, Melissa, decides to take a step back from being a public figure.

  • Courtney Hirsch from Jomboy Media similarly offered insight on how the sports media brand has chosen new creators to bring into the fold. Instead of picking a sports franchise to cover and finding a person to cover it, Jomboy takes the reverse approach—person first, ensuring they sign on creators with true and independent visions.

2) Happy accidents can really work out. Nobody on the panel had a master plan to start or join a creator-led business, let alone focus on the industry they wound up in.

  • Salary Transparent Street founder Hannah Williams, for example, started interviewing people about how much money they make on a whim after finding out she was underpaid. She stuck with it, and now she’s running a million-dollar brand just two years later.

  • And Greg and Rebecca Remmey from Devour Media started making food review videos when they began dating a decade ago—fast forward to today and they have a booming food-driven content studio and a massive audience.

Tons of success stories start with falling into something because it aligns with your interests, not because it’s a seven-figure business idea. There’s a lot of power in pursuing your natural inclinations, whether you want to be a knowledge creator or an operator. Do what you’re passionate about, then turn it into a profitable business.

3) We’re still so early. Not to sound like a crypto bro (especially today), but we really are. “Creator-led” is a term we’re only now starting to see in the mainstream. This style of business building has so much more room to run, and this weekend reaffirmed to me that some of the smartest minds in media are in agreement: We can’t wait to see where creator-led businesses go next.

Shoutout to Josh for leading such a thoughtful conversation, the amazing panelists who joined Josh on stage, and Brian Ringel for pulling this together.

  • Potential major tool for knowledge creators just dropped: LTX Studio, which uses AI to build really impressive visual storytelling.

  • Productivity and mindfulness creator James Clear launched an app called Atoms. This breakdown of the strategy behind a creator app is super interesting.

  • One of our favorite things here at Smooth? A highly specific niche—like this newsletter covering the late night TV beat we came across this week.

  • David Perell interviewed Packy McCormick (that sentence made at least one Twitter Blue subscriber pass out). Lots of good tips on creativity and writing!

  • Tech creator Marques Brownlee is joining the board and taking an equity stake in tech accessories company Ridge.

Thanks for reading! One last thing: There were even more media layoffs this week. It sucks so hard to see an industry get just absolutely gutted. But perhaps one small silver lining…we’re hiring journalists and writers to join our team building knowledge creator-led media businesses! See the many openings here. And tell your friends!

Have a good one! ⭐