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The Shifting Tides of the Creator Economy in MENA: Monetization, Business Models, & Future Prospects

Updated: Mar 29

Making content creation your business

In the rapidly evolving landscape of the digital world, the creator economy has emerged as a game-changer, transforming how content is produced, consumed, and monetized. To say the least, there’s been a myriad of independent content creators rising to prominence and businesses capitalizing on the power of content marketing.

In this comprehensive exploration of the creator economy in MENA, we delve into two distinct approaches to content creation – one driven by individual creators and media companies seeking to grow audiences for monetization, and the other adopted by businesses for marketing purposes, not solely reliant on audience monetization.

Additionally, we examine the business models employed by media giants like The Economist and Bloomberg, contrasting them with the strategies utilized by individual creators in the digital age as they build audiences, wield influence, and generate revenue through sponsorships and digital products.

Note: If you’d like to learn our content strategy and apply it to your business, we teach everything we do and give personalized feedback in our content marketing course and community. If you’d like us to do content marketing for you, then feel free to fill out the form on the bottom of our contact us page.

Content creation for monetization vs. marketing

The journey of content creators in this region begins with leveraging various online platforms to express their passion, skills, and interests. These digital entrepreneurs (such as Khaled Al Ameri — captured below) tap into the power of social media, video sharing platforms, and other online communities to reach a global audience.

Through persistent dedication and creativity, these content creators monetize their digital prowess through various means, including advertising, sponsorships, e-commerce, crowdfunding, and subscription-based models.

The MENA region has witnessed an impressive surge in independent content creators, who have become the new-age celebrities catering to the preferences of the tech-savvy youth demographic. This shift has been driven by the realization that the internet offers vast potential for creative expression and boundless business opportunities, transcending the traditional barriers of time and space.

In contrast, businesses in the MENA region utilize content creation as an integral part of their marketing operations. These businesses focus on providing value to their target audience, offering informative and engaging content that complements their products or services.

Unlike individual creators, their primary goal is not to monetize an audience directly but to enhance brand visibility, establish authority in the industry, and foster customer loyalty. Content marketing has become a powerful tool for businesses to navigate the digital realm, build a loyal customer base, and differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

The business models of media companies in the digital age

In the MENA region and beyond, media companies have been at the forefront of content creation and distribution. Two notable examples, The Economist and Bloomberg, have adapted their business models to thrive in the digital age while maintaining their status as trusted sources of news and analysis.

The Economist, a prestigious publication, has adopted a hybrid approach to content access. While some articles and insights are freely accessible to the general public, a substantial portion of their content is hidden behind a paywall, available only to subscribers. This strategic blend of free and premium content allows The Economist to cater to a broad readership base, attracting casual readers while enticing dedicated subscribers with exclusive and in-depth analysis.

The Economist's free content includes their social media like Instagram, and their podcasts like The Economist Podcast. The Economist's paid content includes their magazine and premium articles on their website.
Image credits: The Economist

Similarly, Bloomberg has embraced a tiered content access strategy. The organization provides breaking news and basic market information for free, thus attracting a vast audience. However, they reserve their most specialized content and analytical offerings for paying subscribers. This tiered system enables Bloomberg to strike a delicate balance between generating revenue and maintaining a broad readership.

Bloomberg's free content includes their social media like Instagram, and their podcasts like Bloomberg Talks. Bloomberg's paid content includes their magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, and premium articles on their website.
Image credits: Bloomberg

By tailoring their business models to adapt to the digital age, both The Economist and Bloomberg have managed to retain their relevance and influence in an era characterized by information overload and the proliferation of free content.

The business models of individual creators in the digital age

The advent of the creator economy has empowered individuals in the MENA region to forge their paths and monetize their passions, talents, and interests. Harnessing the power of social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, these creators have successfully cultivated engaged and dedicated audiences. Building a community around their content, creators leverage their influence to monetize their efforts through sponsorships, affiliate marketing, and e-commerce.

Sponsorships have become a prevalent avenue for content creators to generate income. Brands recognize the value of influencers' ability to connect with their audience on a personal level, leading to more authentic and impactful endorsements. By partnering with creators who align with their brand values, companies can tap into a niche audience, which often results in higher conversion rates and a stronger brand-customer relationship.

Affiliate marketing is another vital revenue stream for content creators. By promoting products or services and providing affiliate links, creators earn a commission on sales generated through their recommendations. This mutually beneficial arrangement creates a win-win situation, as creators can leverage their loyal audience to generate additional income while providing valuable leads to businesses.

E-commerce has emerged as a lucrative avenue for creators to diversify their revenue streams. Here’s an example of merch (a mug) that’s up for sale for views of AB Talks by Anas Bukhash. From digital products such as e-books and online courses, to physical merchandise like apparel and accessories, creators can leverage their expertise and creativity to create products that resonate with their audience. This approach not only strengthens their brand but also enables them to develop a sustainable business model independent of external sponsorships.

Black mug with white text that says "How are you really doing?" on one side (with "really" in red instead of white), and Arabic "بصراحة كيف حالك" on the other side (with "بصراحة " red instead of white).
Image credits: #ABtalks

Looking for a career in content yourself?

The MENA region's unique blend of cultural diversity, entrepreneurial spirit, and technological advancements has facilitated the growth of the creator economy, unlocking immense potential for individuals and businesses alike. The dynamic landscape of content creation has witnessed a surge of independent creators, who have risen to the status of digital celebrities, wielding influence and shaping consumer trends. Simultaneously, businesses in the region have embraced content marketing to forge deeper connections with their target audience and drive sustainable growth. As we look towards the future, the creator economy is set to play an increasingly significant role in shaping consumer behavior, marketing strategies, and economic landscapes.

Despite challenges such as cultural barriers and limited access to funding for creators, the MENA region's creative talent and innovation are poised to gain global recognition, solidifying its position as a major player in the ever-evolving creator economy. As more and more creators from the MENA region continue to make their mark on the global stage, we can expect to witness a growing recognition of the region's creative talent, driving innovation and empowerment for years to come.

If you’re looking to learn about the business of content creation, as well as get started with your career as a creator, you can learn everything you need to know in just 4 weeks with no media experience by joining the next cohort of our Content Marketing Launchpad.

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