Photo Credit: Google Images
In the world of sports and entertainment, there appears to be a new trend happening: top influencers and personalities are leaving mainstream media en masse and heading to social media platforms. In most cases, they aren’t doing it for the money. While some big-name personalities – such as podcast superstar Joe Rogan – have managed to cash in with lucrative deals, many are making the move to social media platforms for access and exposure to a much younger, social media-savvy generation or for greater artistic creativity and freedom. And when faced with the decision of whether or not to sign on with a traditional media company or with an up-and-coming company heavy on social media, they are more likely than ever before to choose a company that knows how to leverage social media.
Access to a younger demographic
One big issue is that traditional media platforms have much older audiences than social media platforms. As a result, top personalities and celebrities in the world of sports and entertainment no longer have the same access to the younger demographic they once enjoyed when traditional media dominated with TV, radio and print. A network like ESPN, for example, now skews much older with its audience. That influenced the decision of former NFL superstar Deion Sanders to make the move from the NFL Network to up-and-coming sports platform Barstool Sports, which has thrived thanks to its savvy use of social media and its iconoclastic reputation.
As Sanders explains, as soon as the NFL Network told him that they were cutting his seven-figure annual salary in half, he began to look elsewhere for new opportunities. His kids were big fans of podcasts on Barstool Sports, and that gave Sanders the inspiration to check out what his options might be on a new platform. As soon as he reached out to Barstool Sports, they hooked him up with a new podcast show of his own (“21st and Prime”), signed him up for an NFL pregame show, and invited him to become a regular guest on the most popular Barstool podcasts. At the same time, they pledged to support him in his bid for a college football coaching job. So not only would Sanders get a chance to reach much younger viewers (who are listening to podcasts and watching YouTube videos), but also he would get to follow up with a long-standing passion of his to coach at the collegiate level.
New opportunities for creativity and personal expression
And that example of social media to unlock new avenues of personal expression and creativity is not a new one. It’s the reason why some top personalities and celebrities are leaving traditional media. They are no longer able to tell the truth, and must stay within the narrow talking points of a network. And even some social media platforms that are clamping down on free speech – such as YouTube – are now feeling the heat, now that some top stars like Joe Rogan are heading to greener pastures elsewhere. In some cases, it’s Spotify (which signed Rogan to a huge deal this year), and in others, it’s emerging social media platforms like DLive that do not censor content and do not force creators to watch what they say or speak in code words.
It’s impossible to downplay the importance of artistic freedom and creativity to top creators. Anthony Bourdain, in a Fast Company interview before his death, made the strong case that “uninhibited creative freedom” is the only thing that mattered to him. It’s the reason he loved working with CNN in the early years: they gave him the freedom to make shows wherever and with whomever he wanted. They didn’t interfere with the show-making process and offered him “nothing but support” along the way. But as soon as that ends, that’s when creators are going to look for new avenues of creativity and personal expression.
In many ways, the migration of top personalities, celebrities and creators to social media platforms is one that has been happening for nearly two decades. Back in the early days of blogging, for example, it was always big news when a top journalist made the move to independent “alt” media. And then a few years later, it always became big news when TV shows or movies premiered on an alternative platform such as YouTube or Netflix. And so it’s really a big macro-trend in the making ever since the first appearance of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Social media platforms are the future, and even more than that, social platforms where creators are given free rein to say what they really think are the future.