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Catalina Goanta for Monetizing Philanthropy

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Monetizing philanthropy: First findings

In our project, we set out to understand how creators monetize philanthropy on social media. In this quest, our first project deliverable was supposed to be a journal article reporting on how creators perceive monetization and philanthropic initiatives on a handful of selected platforms. This question mushroomed into a series of needs our team identified in the process.

Study #1: A systematic literature review on content monetization and philanthropy

We set out to first systematically collect literature so we can define some basic terms but also cluster reported content monetization models. Our review focused on the following questions:

  • What is the place of content monetization in the broader landscapeof Internet monetization?
  • What are the business models used by content creators to monetizecontent?
  • How is philanthropy monetized by content creators? These questions are relevant for the centralization of scientific knowledge produced across various disciplines, and they are a starting point in the process of proposing an academic agenda to further explore the research gaps identified in the review.

We interrogated literature across law, social science and computer science, by retrieving literature from four databases: HeinOnline, Web of Science, Scopus and the ACM Digital Library.

The search resulted in 90 papers. The list of all papers is available for download and reuse here. The final literature review details the exact search string used, as well as the process of further filtering the results, using the PRISMA model.

One of the most distinct issues in the overviewed literature is terminological inconsistency. As an example, terms such as content creator and influencer are generally used interchangeably, and there does not seem to be any agreement in literature relating to how to refer to the different business models. We'll post an update on the Community as soon as we have the complete lit review.

Content creators dataset for study #2: Surveying + interviewing content creators about monetization and philanthropy

The months we spent on the literature review, trying to disentangle the knowledge generated across different disciplines, was necessary. But browsing after content creators is where it gets really interesting.

The second study planned for our deliverables, which we recently started, focuses on the original goal of understanding creator perspectives on philanthropy. In social media studies, academic methodologies rarely go into great detail when it comes to how creators are selected, what makes the perspectives of the selected ones so important to report on, etc. Our selection process for content creators is supposed to be weary of current gaps in methodological reporting. We wanted to make sure we would include in our dataset three main categories of content creators:

  • creators who generally engage in philanthropy for themselves as a monetization model (e.g. asking for donations);
  • creators who occassionaly engage in philanthropy for others based on various public (e.g. #blacklivesmatter; #stopasianhate) or individual causes (e.g. donations for a particular incident);
  • creators who generally engage in philanthropy for others as a monetization model (e.g. social justice creators).

This taxonomy of engagement with philanthropy was our starting point in collecting the data, which we have done by combining a series of approaches, which are specifically labelled in the dataset:

  • manual Google searches based on causes, platforms and different languages (English, Romanian and Portuguese) ensuring the retrieval of content creator names from news items, which would help us retrieve names of creators from categories 2 and 3;
  • systematic list searches on platforms such as Social Blade or Twitch Tracker, useful to discover creators from category 1;
  • manual additions on the basis of over 50 hours of browsing various social media platforms, useful for categories 2 and 3.

We wanted to make sure that our list would not reflect only the practices of creators from the global North, who dominate news narratives. For this reason, we have chosen to focus specifically on countries and languages represented in our research group (e.g. Brazil and Romania).

For each creator included on the list, we have mapped all the platforms used in the process of content monetization. In the dataset, the social media platforms on which the creators are active have been marked with the number of followers. In addition, the dataset reveals what platforms are used by these creators. This will be further detailed in a separate post.

We curated a list of 300 content creators, which we published here, in the hope that it can be further used by researchers. We obviously had to remove personal data in order to share this list publicly, but if you are an academic researcher and are interested in further data points for this list, do contact us.

Study #3: Browser extension facilitating micropayments for philanthropy on social media

Pietro's update on the work of Team 2:

In the beginning of January we started with literature review to research state-of-the-art models for blockchain based philanthropy applications. Towards the end of January we began with the development of our own smart contracts which will be used to moderate funds transactions in a transparent and automated way. In parallel we also researched Interledger technology and how it can be integrated in our application to enable payments across different networks. During March we started with the development of a first prototype which includes a backend system written in Django and the browser plug-in client. We also looked for digital wallet providers such as Uphold or Gatehub that we could integrate with the system. We recently enabled our back end to interact with the smart contracts and going forward, we will implement the remaining functionalities.


We were happy to briefly present the project, as well as discuss the Grant for the Web research framework, at the first annual conference of the Platform Governance Research Network, in the company of brilliant researchers from around the world dealing with social media and platform governance.

More to come!

Top comments (6)

erikad profile image

Great update - I love that you shared your lit review and content creator data set!

catalinagoanta profile image
Catalina Goanta

We're working on some nice graphs as well! And we'll also be writing about how to best share data (legally and ethically) such as the content creator lists!

chrislarry profile image
Chris Lawrence

This is fantastic, looking forward to following your learnings. Is there any documentation from your presentation at the Platform Governance Research Network?

catalinagoanta profile image
Catalina Goanta

Thanks a lot! Unfortunately not, but there is a Slack community for anyone else who wants to be involved in the network! Let me know if you're interested and I'll share that! We do have some other slides we've been preparing - happy to share that as well!

chrislarry profile image
Chris Lawrence

I would be interested in the Slack channel

becks profile image
Becks Boone

Thank you for sharing. My project will personally benefit from your work, so am invested in seeing what comes next. β˜€οΈ