Why Bo Burnham’s ‘Inside’ Is a Creator Economy Masterclass
A lesson in sustainable distribution for the creator economy
The Internet has always been a creator economy. What’s new? Now, you can distribute content almost as easily as code.
If you’re one of the 50 million people worldwide who identifies as a creator, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face is scaling your content without burning out.
The best way to do that? A pyramid scheme.
Hear me out.
For many career creators — or people on that path — distributing their content can be harder than creating it.
If you’re putting out new material every week/day to please the algorithmic gods of your chosen platform, there’s a good chance you tap the creative well dry — aka burnout.
Unless creators figure out how to create and distribute their content sustainably, 50 small businesses around the world could shut down.
The content pyramid scheme (or model, if you’re boring) is a way to multiply your content distribution without burning out your creative juices.
It may also be the best way to turn a content creation hobby into a real career — more on that later.
Here’s what this piece will look like:
- What the content marketing pyramid is and why it’s so effective.
- A generic example/walkthrough.
- A case study example from my own podcast marketing experience.
- Some tips to keep in mind when you try it yourself.
- Other real life examples.
It’s all about multiplying your content across social media platforms and formats
The content pyramid involves slicing up a piece of longform, involved content into smaller, social media-ready highlights that can stand on their own.
The holy grail you’re hunting with this strategy is a long-term audience relationship. This strategy helps you do that in two ways:
1. Your social media content is so abundant, valuable, and consistent that your audience becomes loyal to you over a long period of time.
Gary Vaynerchuk. He puts excerpts of his podcasts, interviews, rants, and speeches on Instagram where I follow him.
I rarely follow it back to his longer podcasts and vlogs, but since he puts out so much social content so consistently, he’s carved out a presence in my social media diet.
2. Your social media content funnels people back to your longform content where the relationship is built via longform content sprints.
I’m talking a couple of hour-long podcasts, an e-book, a YouTube docuseries.
Example: Bo Burnham’s song ‘Welcome to the Internet’ was the catchiest, creepiest thing I’d heard in a while. I wanted more, so I checked out his 90-min long Netflix special. More on Bo Burnham later.
Either way, a long-term and loyal relationship between you and your audience builds you a moat in the wildest, most competitive kingdom the Internet has seen in years.
Let’s walk through a generic process of how you might multiply social media content.
Before you begin, understand this:
Different kinds of media require different levels of involvement from you as a creator.
There are different ways to think about this: how much time does it take to produce, how many people are needed, what skills/software/hardware do you need, how expensive would it be.
Here’s one way of looking at it:
- Interactive multimedia (video games/software)
- Written word
I’m not trying to take shots at any illustrators or writers (I mean, that’s me). Your list might be different.
This list is constructed with one idea in mind: the higher up on the list your OG piece of content is, the easier it is to transmute it across all the mediums below. E.g. it’s easier to clean up a video transcript into a blog post than it is to do the reverse.
Let’s get started.
It all starts with your original longform piece — a popular format right now is a video interview series.
It’s a classic show: you’re a charismatic host who interviews pro mud wrestlers about their techniques, journeys, and favorite PowerPuff girl — all while wrestling them yourself. It’s called Muddy the Talkers.
Video: It’s a 40 minute long video interview you post to YouTube. You cut interesting segments and funny clips to post as separate, shorter videos. Post them to TikTok, Instagram, a second clips channel — almost anywhere.
- Joe Rogan puts clips from his show up on PowerfulJRE.
- Lew Later Clips is a clips channel containing highlights from Lew Hilsenteger’s podcast (Unbox Therapy).
Audio: You pull the audio from the interview, clean it up, and publish it as a podcast on all platforms. You can also split this audio up and publish its clips.
An example from Tim Ferriss:
Written word: You clean up the audio transcript into a blog post. Take your most interesting paragraphs and post them as Twitter threads. You pull the best quotes and post them on Twitter/LinkedIn. You splash them over still images from your video to make an Instagram post.
Gary Vaynerchuk does this a lot:
Here’s an example from my own podcast, Work In Progress.
I did a longform podcast interview, not video:
I went up the list, not down: audio to video.
While I didn’t publish the transcript from the episode as a standalone article, I used it as a launchpad for a companion piece.
I also took quotes/lists from the episode and published them as Tweets:
This was my first ever attempt at this strategy, so it’s imperfect. But I’ve picked up some tips from people with more experience since then:
Tips for when you try content marketing yourself:
Curate ruthlessly. In an audio transcript of 10,000 words, maybe 1,500 are actually valuable. Clarity > complexity.
Plan your content pyramid in advance. Doing a video interview?
- Time stamp every time you hear a good quote or interesting sound bite.
- Watch out for B-roll you could license out later.
- Keep the script for your interview clean so it’s easier to transform into an article.
- Ensure your video has incredible audio so it’ll make a good podcast.
Keeping these things in mind will reduce your mental workload when transforming content and speed up your workflow.
Over index on the right mediums and platforms. Remember, you’re doing all this to deepen your relationship with new and existing audience members. Curate your social content for the social platforms they prefer.
Targeting Gen Z? Make more TikToks than blog posts. Millennial professionals? Focus on Twitter and LinkedIn. Remember — make data-driven decisions.
Examples you can learn from:
- Bo Burnham’s comedy special! ‘Inside’ is basically a video album that’s been stitched together into a musical. It’s a 90 minute long comedy special (longform video), 20 music videos (short form video), and 20 songs (music). That’s not even mentioning the countless memes, quotes, and other earned media this special has inspired.
- Dimension 20 is a D&D show from Dropout.tv, a comedy subscription service. They put clips on TikTok and YouTube Shorts, which pushed me to watch entire seasons of 2 hour-long episodes on YouTube.
- Freakonomics Radio publishes podcast episode transcripts to their website.
- Scott Galloway sometimes takes excerpts from his books and publishes them as newsletters or blog posts.
- Robinhood Snacks Daily will send a bite-sized version of their daily podcast as a newsletter.
- Tim Ferriss’ video interviews are published as videos, podcasts, and full audio transcripts.
The key is curation.
I told you earlier that this strategy could turn your content creation hobby into a career — to really join the creator economy.
That’s because the goal with generating all this ‘sub-content’ is to drive traffic and interest towards your main (hopefully paid) content. Your Patreon, your OnlyFans, your Substack.
You do that by showing people a sneak peek of the best stuff — not all of it, save some for your customers.
This strategy is what gets them in the door.
In the US and UK at least, kids want to be YouTubers more than anything else.
Even if they don’t know it, most people want to be content creators. The job description is: ‘do what you love and tell people about it’.
Unfortunately, it’s a lot harder than it looks — and competition has never been fiercer.
If you’re a content creator, put your mental health and creativity first. If you ran a farm, you wouldn’t be harvesting crops every single week, would you? You’d run out product in no time. Your farmland is an asset that should be leveraged carefully.
Your creativity is no different — it’s the asset that leverages a hobby into a career. But to get paid to do what you love as a content creator, you have to do it at scale. I hope this content pyramid scheme helps you do that!