Li is a must-follow — she's been a part of my Reading Roster since the beginning. Pay attention to her penchant for using historical precedents as a lens for approaching the modern world.
Li's now famous essay about the passion economy was a massive influence on the burgeoning creator space. A must read.
The Passion Economy and the Future of Work - Andreessen Horowitz
The top-earning writer on the paid newsletter platform Substack earns more than $500,000 a year from reader subscriptions. The top content creator on Podia, a platform for video courses and digital memberships, makes more than $100,000 a month. And teachers across the US are bringing in thousands of dollars a month teaching live, virtual classes on Outschool and Juni Learning.
Next, Li elaborated on Kevin Kelly's famous 1,000 true fans principle. Instead of 1,000 true fans, she says, now, thanks to modern day tools and the evolution of the passion economy, it's possible to make a solid living with a much smaller audience.
1,000 True Fans? Try 100 - Andreessen Horowitz
More than a decade ago, editor Kevin Kelly wrote an essay called " 1,000 True Fans ," predicting that the internet would allow large swaths of people to make a living off their creations, whether an artist, musician, author, or entrepreneur.
After the passion economy thesis and 100 true fans theory, Li looked into a middle class of creators. Does everyone on YouTube need to have an audience like Logan Paul or Emma Chamberlain? Why can't there be a middle class of creators?
The Creator Economy Needs a Middle Class
In 1788, George Washington predicted that America would be "the most favorable country of any in the world for persons of industry and frugality," ideal for even those in the lowest social classes to immigrate to, given "the equal distribution of property, the great plenty of unoccupied lands, and the facility of procuring the means of subsistence."
Li also co-wrote an interesting case for universal basic income in collaboration with Lila Shroff. Should creators on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc. be paid for posting content and contributing to the aggregator that provides the platform and distribution?
The Case for Universal Creative Income
In the 1930s, the New Deal was a series of programs and projects instituted to aid the unemployed, support economic recovery, and reform the financial system in the midst of the Great Depression. Among the programs was Federal Project Number One, which devoted $27 million-roughly $522 million today-to provide employment for tens of thousands of artists across music, design, visual art, theater, writing, and more.