Are The Internet’s Gatekeepers Really Gone?
Anyone can reach worldwide audiences simply by posting online — what does this mean for the digital creators?
There are over 50 million people in the world who consider themselves creators. That’s a lot of Gumroad courses, Amazon e-books, Etsy crafts, and Youtube videos.
The internet has provided a burgeoning marketplace where creators can make a living off of their passion projects. It’s changed technology, business, and entertainment as we know it.
Yet if it weren’t for the abolishment of the traditional gatekeeper, none of this change would exist. Gatekeepers no longer get to decide on popularity, success, identity, or credibility.
We owe this to the internet, which has made the entire process democratized. No longer do the big media companies dictate what we read, view, listen to, or consume. Anyone can participate by simply opening an account.
Yet the internet hasn’t gotten rid of gatekeepers: it rearranged them. People will always face some kind of barrier. It’s how life works.
Yet there’s no reason why people shouldn’t use gates to their advantage.
Come in and let’s explore how.
What is a Traditional Gatekeeper?
Before you begin scratching your head in confusion, let’s set the record straight.
Urban Dictionary defines a gatekeeper as “someone takes it upon themselves to decide who does or does not have access or rights to a community or identity.”
On a basic level, replay the scene in Mean Girls when Gretchen shrieks, “You can’t sit with us!”
If you haven’t seen Mean Girls, we question your life choices.
But here’s another example: applying to a job to become a part of a company, only for a hiring manager to throw your resume in the trash. Now that’s an experience we’re sure everyone can relate to.
As long as there’s been information, there have been gatekeepers who control its access.
At the beginning of the age of media, this was the printing press. It slowly transitioned to the radio, newspaper, to magazines, and eventually broadcast TV channels. Yet for each medium, it was the same: each message went through a hyper-selective process.
Gatekeepers — those who owned these mediums — had the authority. Not just anyone could swoop in. And for a long time, it’s how they regulated pop culture. A new study on the creator economy said it best,
“Before the internet, an aspiring writer, photographer, filmmaker, musician, craftsperson or other types of artist had to depend on agents, managers or dumb luck to be considered by a publisher, music label, film studio or gallery to showcase their work. These middlemen and corporations were the gatekeepers of American popular culture.”
But it’s a new world. Creators no longer have to convince brick and mortar outlets to market and distribute their work. Instead, with a single click of a button, creators can broadcast their work online.
This has allowed for now-celebrities such as The Weeknd, Charlie D’amelio, and Mr. Beast to propel to stardom. In fact, it’s allowed for a new generation of creators to bypass traditional gatekeepers for the first time in history.
Where the Gatekeepers Reside
Here’s the thing.
Gatekeepers never go away. The internet has certainly abolished the majority of gatekeepers in big media, but creators aren’t out the clear just yet.
Creators are unknowingly surrounded by gates at all times.
They can be found:
We envision a gatekeeper as a grumpy a**hole who prevents us from accessing a promised land. Unbeknownst to us, creators themselves can be a nasty gatekeeper.
Saying things such as “I could never be a creator,” or “No one would actually want to listen to me” they put up invisible barriers. It’s this mentality that prevents creators from achieving their dreams.
Yet the internet has removed the possibility of “Can I be a creator?” and transformed it into “What should I create?”. Anyone can be a creator if they so desire; it’s a matter of first getting over their own mental blocks.
“Communities” and “creator economy” are two coined terms attached to the hip. You can’t have one without the other.
Communities are how we connect, find like-minded people, and get inspired or feedback. If savvy enough, creators can monetize them, too.
Creators either begin their own communities for their business, or they join communities. In the former, the creator becomes a gatekeeper. In the latter, the creator must sneak past the gates.
For example, creator Dickie Bush has a community around his product Ship 30 for 30, a 30-day writing challenge. To join the Slack community, you have to purchase the $199 product. In this case, the gatekeeper is waiting for payment information before letting you in.
In Social Media Platforms & Search Engines
Social media platforms and search engines are the new gatekeepers but are far more democratic than all their gatekeeper ancestors.
Those who have Search-Engine-Optimization (SEO) knowledge will have a better chance at being noticed as they can rank higher on Google’s search engine. Considering how over 4 billion people use Google, this is a considerable advantage.
On social media feeds, algorithms determine “relevance” to sort through a sea of information.
The algorithms don’t come out of thin air. They’re made by real people, human beings just like us that have unchecked biases and assumptions. Their code dictates how information is accessed.
How Creators Can Use Gates to Their Advantage
Online or offline, there will always be an entity that redirects the otherwise free-flow of information. They within yourself, online communities, and the very social media platforms creators depend on.
Yet, the problem isn’t so much that there are gatekeepers. It’s more so on the gatekeepers’ judgments. A creator can use a gatekeeper’s presence to their advantage if they’re intentional.
Taking Advantage of the Gatekeepers Within Yourself
Separating thought from reality is a powerful exercise. Repeat after us: you are in control of your identity.
If you feel as though you can’t be a creator, recognize this thought for what it is: a doubt. And this doubt is nullified once you realize a creator does not need a million dollars, fans, or pieces of content to be successful.
You just need to believe in yourself and get started.
Taking Advantage of the Gatekeepers Within Communities
Gatekeepers of a community are there to separate the intentional users versus the unintentional ones.
A community is only as good as its members. Guarding who gets access to a community is a way to filter in those people who truly want to be there.
If you’re a creator wanting to facilitate a community, use gates to your advantage. Gates can be opened in various ways; money, questionnaires, interviews, and applications. Making potential community members go through a process sends a message that only those who make an effort are allowed in.
Here’s the thing. You can also redirect users who might not want to join your community just yet to your newsletter or website. That’s the thing about gates — you can just use them to redirect people to a new location.
If you’re a creator wanting to join a community, notice your reaction to gatekeepers. If you’re annoyed by them, ask yourself: do you really want to be there?
Taking Advantage of the Gatekeepers Within Search Engines & Social Media Platforms
Creators should learn the fundamentals of SEO to have a fighting chance to outsmart the search engine gatekeepers.
Creators should also build audiences on multiple platforms to avoid having a single social media algorithm dictate their reach.
Remember: Even Well-Meaning Gatekeepers Slow Innovation
Gatekeepers will always be lurking around. If there is information or a collective identity, you bet there will be someone moderating it.
Creators can use gates to their advantage to build an intentional community, engaged audience, and overcome their mental blocks. Yet remember that gatekeepers stand in the way of innovation.
If a creator is ever facing a gatekeeper they cannot pass, they must take it in their own hands to skirt right past them. This means creating without permission. Building a community no one has ever heard of before. Not waiting around for a “yes” before building.
If you’re one of these creators, Officeparty can help. You’ll find thousands of creator communities. If you want to start your own, You can put out your content and community all in one place — and set up as many (or as few) gates as you’d like.
We’re putting the gatekeeping power in your hands, for once.
If you’d like to join the party, you can find us here :)