Rejecting the take economy

Knowledge creators are the antidote

Hi, everyone! Our team recently came into the possession of Scrabble Slam, and I fear it’s about to become my whole personality. The game starts with choosing a four-letter word and after I regrettably chose “colt,” I’m turning to all of you for help. Hit reply with ideas for more creative four-letter words. My deeply competitive spirit thanks you in advance 🙏

—Kinsey, cofounder & head of editorial at Smooth Media

The Dismantling of the Take Economy

At some moment between the release of Reputation and the release of Lover, we in the media found ourselves in a precarious situation: We’d entered into the so-called take economy.

What is the take economy? Like a Drake fan or an AI-generated commercial, you know it when you see it. It’s the commodification of opinions in which those perspectives most subject to disagreement are considered most valuable.

In the algorithm era, hot takes are the quickest route to building an audience. Want to stand out in a saturated feed? Say something controversial that sparks conversation (or disdain) ((but most importantly: engagement)).

  • Who should pay on a first date? How talented is Taylor Swift, actually? Is Elon Musk capable of taking Twitter to the moon? The points you have supporting your thoughts matter far less than the extremity to which you take your stance.

  • Women should never pay on a first date. Taylor Swift has no talent. No one can save Twitter but Elon. These—and their most extreme inverses—are the videos that will go viral…nothing in between.

And the take economy doesn’t care how intellectual you are. You can’t just be thoughtful—you have to have a perspective on everything. And if you don’t share that perspective loudly enough, what’s the point of having it in the first place?

The cycle—share a take on the internet, welcome the “well, actually…” crowd, watch the clicks add up, rinse, repeat—perpetuated itself until we fully entered into the take economy, where opinions are held as loosely as they are loudly.

But the thing is: I’m sympathetic here. I’ve even been a willing participant! The take economy feels like a hamster wheel, and none of us are getting smarter or more creative for it. It’s reductive, and it all too often obviates really original ideas.

Plus? Having a take on everything is exhausting! We’re not hardwired to know everything, let alone have a thoughtful perspective in five seconds flat.

So what’s the antidote? How do we get back to a version of the internet that’s a little more useful and a lot more creative?

We listen, we follow, and we support knowledge creators. Knowledge creators—people whose currency is access, information, education, insight, etc.—do not need to have a “take” every day or in every video to bring value to their audience. Let me explain →

  • Knowledge creators can have perspectives, but their core product isn’t their opinion…it’s their analysis. And the subtle difference between those two makes all the difference.

  • Knowledge creators can speak to a more specific audience, limiting the need to stop everyone in their scrolling tracks and instead only stop the right people. They can be subject matter experts instead of commentators on everything from Middle East politics to the return of the ballet flat.

  • Knowledge creators publish content that’s deeply valuable to their audiences. They can still engage in smart storytelling that garners attention, but that initial bait and hook always leads to something worth a viewer’s time.

Ultimately, the take economy is likely a byproduct of what some very smart people have called the flattening of online taste. It’s tough to stand out when everyone is competing for the same attention, even if there are zillions of users prepared to offer it up. But knowledge creators represent a fresh perspective on what creativity can look like in a post-take economy world—a measured approach, marked by thoughtfulness, specificity, and true value.

  • An interesting look at all the ways creators make money.

  • The Neuron's new AI podcast is climbing the charts.

  • If we’re gonna have to participate in the take economy, I at least want creative takes that make me think. Delia Cai’s Hate Read pop-up newsletter has done that consistently—not a coincidence that the Hate Read live event sold out almost immediately.

  • Snaxshot broke major news for fans of high-end snack purveyors: Foxtrot is closing. Love to see a knowledge creator scooping major pubs. 🫡 

Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend and don’t spoil Challengers for me because I won’t be able to see it until next weekend!