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The U.S. economy is at a tipping point and that’s good news for creators

Understanding the shift from an industrial economy to an information economy and what it means for you.


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Meghan Wenzel

2 years ago | 4 min read

Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels

Article originally posted in UX Collective.

The internet-based economy is transforming the wider economy, creating new
markets and driving job growth for large and small businesses alike. A
new
study led by a Harvard Business School researcher and commissioned by the
Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) announced that over the last four
years the internet economy grew
seven times faster than the total U.S. economy.

Shifting from industry to information

This rapid digital growth is reshaping the overall economy. We’re evolving
from establishing foundations and developing infrastructure to focusing
on information, connection, and data.

The
U.S. has reached a tipping point in its shift from the industrial
economy — one that relied on the buildout of hardware — to an
information economy that relies on the transfer, storage and implementation of data.

In the past decade, the internet-supported economy has shifted demand from technical functions, like coding, to information and communication functions, like data analysis. As the internet expands, its infrastructure has become more efficient —since 2008 its ecosystem grew eightfold while its infrastructure only doubled. We’ve turned our focus to collating, synthesizing, and making sense of the metastasizing content, information, and data available.

Democratizing business and increasing innovation

As SaaS (software as a service) companies proliferate, they’ve democratized business, allowing entrepreneurs from a wider array of backgrounds to outsource their technical needs and focus on differentiating business functions such as design, marketing, and sales.

A co-author of the report explains: “Over the eight years since our last two studies, the internet has made business formation a much more democratic process. Not only large firms, but also large numbers of small firms and individuals, now have the platforms and tools to find customers, engage with them, and transact. And founders don’t need to bring large amounts of capital to the table. Investors have shown great willingness to
supply the capital, confident that advertising, sale of subscriptions and licenses, and freemium options will get them an attractive return on their investment.”

Core characteristics of the information-based economy are driving a burgeoning business ecosystem

  • Companies can scale at very low costs
  • Companies can scale very quickly (especially compared to the industrial age)
  • Data collection and digital advertising (for better or worse) have made it much cheaper and easier to match products to buyers’ individual needs
  • Reviews and customer feedback allow companies to iterate and refine their products more effectively
  • Companies are more agile and build on each other’s ideas, spurring interdependence and innovation
  • The internet enables cheaper, faster, and more effective experimentation, which increases the rate of change and innovation

Creators are thriving

As the internet matures, increasing focus and energy have gone into news, information, and entertainment.

  • News and information-related publishing roles tripled to over 142,000 people since 2008.
  • Digital entertainment revenue grew 13 times while employment quadrupled since 2008. New industries such as podcasting, streaming, and digital gaming have grown the most. Gaming revenue alone grew tenfold, while employment grew threefold.
  • Digital creators, performers, and entertainers (200,000) are catching up to the established U.S. entertainment industry as represented by membership in the largest unions (160,000 in the SAG-AFTRA, 80,000 in the American Federation of Musicians, 24,000 in the Writer’s Guild, and 9,000 in the Authors Guild).

Creators use a variety of platforms and tools such as TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Twitch, Wordpress, Etsy, and more to communicate directly with fans and followers. These tools help creators craft, distribute, market, and monetize their content.

What it means for Design

  • Our synthesis, problem solving, and communication skills are in high demand. The
    internet is shifting from building to sense making. As we’re awash in information, we need to make sense of it all. Synthesizing and communicating information in a clear, concise, and usable way is paramount. Design can draw on our expertise to interpret information and make it more comprehensible and accessible.
  • The barrier to entry for business formation and entrepreneurship have never been so low. Business creation is being democratized, meaning people from a wider range of
    backgrounds, perspectives, and means are able to establish and build
    their own businesses. Designers are poised to do well, as they have the skillset to identify and understand needs and craft elegant solutions.
  • Design is a massive competitive differentiator. As companies increasingly outsource their tech and infrastructure, they can focus on competitive differentiators such as design, branding, and marketing. As we’ve seen in the explosion of direct-to-consumer
    companies, design is a key differentiator.
  • We have the tools to build more user-focused and valuable products and services.
    We have more data than early entrepreneurs could ever have dreamed of. From usage data to customer reviews to customer feedback, we can better understand our customers and build more relevant and efficient products. Experimentation and iteration is much cheaper and easier than ever before, allowing us to test, evaluate, and refine our work.

The internet has evolved beyond its early days. As its foundations and infrastructure have matured, focus and energy have shifted to making sense of information, forging connections, and fostering creativity. This transformation benefits designers and creators, as their skills are highly valuable and in demand. They’re invited to showcase their
talents, engage and entertain audiences, synthesize and communicate data, innovate and iterate based on feedback, and build better, more valuable products.

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Created by

Meghan Wenzel

As a User Researcher and Strategist, I help companies solve the right problems and build more relevant, efficient, and intuitive products. I started my UX career at a Fortune 500 company, and I've since helped established the research practice at three B2B startups. I'm currently a Senior User Researcher at Unqork, the leading enterprise no code platform.


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