Curious Case of Content and Creator


With the explosion of new content fuelled by the internet, for the majority of us, consumption reigns supreme. But I don't believe anybody really stops to think about why we consume the content we do and what that says about us and the content. I think generally content is interesting for one of two reasons

  1. The content itself
  2. The creator of the content

All content exists somewhere on the creator-content continuum (the Triple C).

To figure out where a piece of content fits it's helpful to define the edges. Amazingly enough Reality TV sits at both extremes of the Triple C.

The early forms of RTV sit at the pure content side. Think Survivor, Big Brother and The Real World. Literally, random people off the street put into absurd situations for the enjoyment of audiences at home. Do you know who the producers, writers were for those shows? Did anybody know who the contestants were on the show before they started? The only thing interesting about the shows was the misery and drama provided - at least before RTV 'stars' started becoming celebrities in their own right. Pure content.

The more modern forms of RTV are however pure creator. Think KUWTK and basic YouTube vloggers. Content that is only interesting to people because of who the creator is. Literally, famous people doing everyday things. Is it really that interesting watching someone talk into a camera about going shopping if you're not invested in who they are as a creator?

Okay, great. We've got the edges, but what about the holy grail. The middle where content and creator meet in a symbiotic mishmash of pure content awesomeness and creator obsession? That's what I call the Dave Chappelle Divide (previously known as the Beatle Bump). What's the DCD? The DCD is where content is interesting in equal parts because of the content itself and because of who the creator is. I could watch Dave Chappelle sitting, smoking a cigarette and ranting about the world for hours.1 Is that because his routine is insanely interesting or is it because he’s Dave Chappelle? For me, both. I believe the content could stand on its own but coming from Dave Chappelle enhances its character. I call it the Content Creator Compound Effect.

Why is getting to the DCD and creating a CCCE important? Because there's this curious moment where the enjoyment and value one derives from content is actually enhanced by your investment in the creator. The example I would use here is Khan Academy. It started off on the pure content side of the Triple C. It stands on its own. It is highly informative and has been useful to millions of students around the world before anyone knew who Sal Khan was. As Sal has grown in fame and importance Khan Academy have tried having other people make videos but for some reason they don’t quite hit the same way. The same content with a different creator is not as good. In fact I would argue his increasing fame has made Khan Academy even more useful.2 So does that mean we should find the best content we can, propel those creators to fame so that we are able to enjoy and derive even more value from their content? Maybe.

One interesting aspect of this continuum is that the better a creator is at creating content the more and more their future content can fall into the trap of being interesting only because of the creator themselves. Looking historically it appears incredibly hard to straddle the Dave Chappelle Divide. The issue here is fame seems to be a powerful drug. And once a creator reaches some threshold where no matter the quality of their content there is a base level of interest in it, often the content seems to suffer. Why is it that most bands' best work is their first album? Why do so many famous Mathematicians make the breakthrough that they're known for in their 20s? It is said that TV dulls the mind, perhaps fame is the true dullant.3

Let's take a step back to explore other forms of content and try to place them on the Triple C to see what that says about that content, those creators, ourselves and how we should actually consume them.

Startup, financial and business advice often, I would argue, sits on the creator side of the Triple C. Most advice of this type suffers from some combination of generic platitude, survivorship bias or any of the other many smart sounding accusations thrown around on Hacker News. When we consume content that we are meant to learn from and apply in our own lives we really need to be wary of content that is interesting only because of its creator. Because if this content is meant to be informative but it is only interesting because of the creator then you're in trouble. How useful, really, is advice from Elon Musk? Most of us are not in his shoes, we don't have access to his connections and opportunity. When he was in our shoes some 25 years ago at this point the world was a much different place. But millions flock to listen to what he has to say. Of course the question is, is this even wrong? Why should the same content from Elon Musk not be more interesting and given more credence than if it were provided to us by an anonymous person on Reddit? You have to ask yourself, is this creator interesting because of previous content they’ve created 4 in this field? Elon Musk probably doesn’t have that many interesting or worthwhile things to say about yodeling.5 Even if the creator is within their sphere of competence you still need to evaluate the content for itself. If you don't, all the content is good for is entertainment. If it is just entertainment you’re seeking, that, is totally fine. I am a huge fan of entrepreneurship porn but you should be honest with yourself and not be tricked into thinking you're doing something productive. So what, are we supposed to ignore all startup advice? Well no, but you should stop to think a little more, is this within their sphere of competence? Is this only interesting because of the creator or is there some merit to the content? Well how am I supposed to know if there’s merit to the content, that’s the whole reason I’m seeking the content from this creator? Uhh 😬, good question. Let me get back to you on that one.

Clubhouse is interesting - watching rooms fluctuate in size when a well known person joins highlights the incredible power of the creator. Their mere presence increases how interesting the content in the room appears and often is. But, I've also been involved in the complete opposite rooms where nobody says anything interesting and I get to the end of the hour and realise I've listened to an hour of people introducing themselves and trying to sound important, get more followers without saying anything actually worth listening to. To be fair I don't blame them, making good content is hard and it also isn't enough, you need to promote it too, but it is hard not to feel a little cheated when you sit through the promotion but the worthwhile content never materialises.

So, where does this yarn sit? If you think this yarn is in any way interesting and you’re reading this in 2021 then it’s purely content based because nobody knows who I am. But if for some inexplicable reason I was to gain some form of notability and you are reading this in 2031 it could theoretically be true that this formation of words is only interesting to you because I’m the creator. The bizarre case of the wandering content.

I'm interested to hear where other people would place the content I've discussed and other forms of content on the Triple C.



2. Listen to his How I Built This Episode where they briefly discuss students really wanting to see videos made by Sal

3. Is 'dullant' a word? If it's not I'm claiming it like Shakespeare claims eyeball.

4. I count accomplishments as content i.e. starting a successful business

5. If Elon sees this I’m happy to be proven wrong, would love to see you yodel