After 10 years working on my content-marketing media business that consisted of online education, training, and in-person events, my wife and I exited in 2016. 

It was everything we dreamed it would be. We now had the financial security to live the lifestyle we wanted. I knew I would never start another business again. What’s the point?

And then, in 2017, I fell down the Bitcoin rabbit hole. I became instantly attracted to its mission (non-sovereign money, unchanging monetary policy, leveraging technology/blockchain, a rabid network of fans and believers, scarcity).

Out of that one community and mission, an entire economy was born on the blockchain. I wondered if this kind of technology could lead content creators to develop their own mini-economies and business models. 

A few years ago, @JoePulizzi pondered if tech could lead content creators to develop their own mini-economies and business models. #ContentEntrepreneur Share on X

In mid-2020, I learned about community tokens (social tokens or creator coins). Could both the creator’s business AND its fan base be financially rewarded as the community grew? Are community tokens just a rewards program or could they be the engine of a content business model?

You see, for all the success in growing our media company and its community over the years, at the end of the day, the only ones who won monetarily were the owners. The fans/audience/subscribers received no financial reward at any moment.

Today, I believe that model is now possible. To me, Web 3.0 for content creators means shared financial success with their communities. According to Gregarious Narain, the community can now participate in the value they create: sharing and participating.

Web 3.0 for content creators means shared financial success with their communities, says @JoePulizzi #Web3 #contentbusiness #startup Share on X

That was worth starting another business.

So, in 2021, we launched The Tilt with our community token in the center of the model. ($TILT is on the Rally.io network.) Could community tokens be the new business model for creators? Let’s see.

Theirs vs. mine business models

Over the past decade, two distinct business models for content creators have manifested – “theirs” and “mine.”

In “their” models, creators develop content exclusively for one (or a few) large platforms and monetize within that network. A YouTuber can monetize through advertising and sponsorship. Same for Instagram stars. Twitch streamers can make money through paid subscriptions. 

In the “mine” model, creators leverage those large platforms but also work to build assets away from them. For example, Charlotte Labee created a large following on Instagram. She moved that audience to her email newsletter and now sells products and subscriptions directly to her fans and sponsorships to reach her community.

When I was at the Content Marketing Institute, we had large followings on LinkedIn and Twitter and used those communities to build a substantial email list. That database drove interest in the annual Content Marketing World event, which became our largest revenue vehicle.

Though hybrid models exist, they usually have boiled down to this: A creator develops content on one or multiple platforms, builds an audience, and works to monetize that audience through as many as eight ways:

  • Advertising/sponsorship
  • Subscriptions
  • Affiliate programs
  • Donations
  • Conferences/events
  • Premium content
  • Products
  • Services

And since the dawn of social media, that’s how content creators have become content entrepreneurs. People like Gwyneth Paltrow (Goop), Dave Portnoy (Barstool Sports), and Emily Weiss (Glossier) have all operated in this same type of model. Some are doing the “their” model, while others opt for the “mine” model. Still, others go for a hybrid.

We need a Web 3.0 business model for creators that supersedes the existing "theirs" and "mine" frameworks, says @JoePulizzi. #ContentEntrepreneur Share on X

Ours: The community tokens business model

And then came a new technology called crypto. Because of that, content creators can do and be more. Today, we can build a business  AND have the community participate in the success of the business.

How? Community tokens.

Community tokens let creators build a business AND have the community participate in its success, says @JoePulizzi. #Web3.0 #ContentEntrepreneur Share on X

Linked to a company, organization, or person, tokens can enable holders to get perks from the issuer. In a content business, the tokens can lead to exclusive content, access to the brand’s digital community, merchandise, etc. The community tokens can also be bought and sold.

Creators can set up their community token model so anyone, regardless of location or financial status, can participate. 

For example, we reward community members who sign up for our newsletter with $TILT community tokens. We incentivize them further by sending more $TILT for referrals to new subscribers – after all, they’re helping us market the content business. But, if someone prefers, they can buy $TILT directly on the Rally.io platform. 

Community tokens work because they are:

  • Scarce – only a limited number issued
  • Portable – creators and community members can be anywhere in the world to earn and access tokens
  • Owned – ownership tracked on public internet-based ledgers (i.e., blockchain)

Creating token value

It’s the creator and the community that together provide value. A community token’s value comes from:

  • Transactions – Tokens can be used to purchase goods and services. (At The Tilt, token holders can purchase merchandise and content with $TILT.)
  • Access – Token holders can gain exclusive access to content and experiences. (At The Tilt, those who have (and hold) at least 5 $TILT get an exclusive report every month as well as access to a private chat group.)
  • Rewards – Creators can recognize fans based on their contributions to the community with tokens or how many tokens they hold. (At The Tilt, we enter all holders who have at least one $TILT into a weekly drawing for more $TILT.)
  • Discounts – Community members can receive coupon codes or discounts based on how many tokens they hold. (At The Tilt, VIPs with over 20 $TILT receive 50% off training and education programs.)
@TheTiltNews adopted an "ours" business model. $TILT coins can be used for transactions, access, rewards, and discounts, explains @JoePulizzi. #ContentEntrepreneur Share on X

As The Tilt community has grown, the value of $TILT has too. When we launched $TILT on March 4, 2021, (a month before we launched the newsletter), it was worth $0.34 USD. Within a week or two we had doubled and it was valued at $.066 cents (image below).

$TILT community token price in March 2021

As of Oct. 14, 2021 $TILT was worth $39 per coin (see below).

$TILT community token price in October 2021

How does the creator make money?

When a community token is launched on the Rally platform, the creator receives “Genesis” coins – a large percentage of coins to make sure the content creator is incentivized to make decisions that provide value for the community.

If value is created and a community begins to adopt the token, the price of the token may go up (supply and demand). More value, more success, more network effect … rinse and repeat.

At that point, the creator who needs revenue to do things like pay the mortgage or Netflix can sell some of their original tokens and convert them to cash. If the community can redeem tokens for the creator’s products or services, the creator can cash out those tokens too. 

And, of course, the creator isn’t limited to token-based revenue. You can still sell brand sponsorships, sponsored posts, subscriptions, conferences/events, merchandise, etc., in traditional cash transactions. And you can earn commissions through affiliate programs or accept tips/donations directly.

Boldly go TOGETHER in new frontier

A community token business model creates a Web 3.0 model for content creators that takes the best of what’s worked and adds the puzzle piece that was always missing – rewarding the community for the value they’re helping create in the business. 

I’m excited for what’s ahead, even though I don’t know what’s to come. That said, we will be navigating this Web 3.0 journey for content creators with you, The Tilt community. We will be sharing how we’re doing it and the lessons learned (good and bad) to help you create a community token model for your content business.

Are you ready to go on the ride of a lifetime?

Join @TheTiltNews community to boldly go TOGETHER in the new frontier of the "our" content business model. #ContentEntrepreneur Share on X

Please join us in The Tilt Discord community, where we’ve been talking a lot about Web 3.0, community value, and all things around content entrepreneurship.

About the author

Joe Pulizzi is the founder of The Tilt, author of seven books including Content Inc. and co-founder of speech-therapy fundraiser, The Orange Effect Foundation.