The original concept of "1000 True Fans" was initially conceived in 2008 by the brilliant futurist and founder of Wired Magazine, Kevin Kelly.
His premise goes as follows:
Rather than pursuing widespread celebrity, creators and entrepreneurs only needed to engage a modest base of “true fans”—those who will “buy anything you produce”—to the tune of $100 per fan, per year (for a total annual income of $100,000). By embracing online networks, creators could bypass traditional gatekeepers and middlemen, get paid directly by a smaller base of fans, and live comfortably off the spoils.
But since 2008 a lot has happened, and now Li Jin from the VC fund Andreessen Horowitz takes it a step further and suggests that today even 100reds of fans might be enough to sustain you and your business.
How it works
Through your blog, YouTube channel or newsletter you can cultivate a large free audience. They consume what you put out, but its all free. Then you start converting some of those into donors or "patrons", through platforms like Patreon or Substack.
You can then offer those fans additional content, courses, exclusive event access or direct interactions for a premium price.
"If you can convince a small number of super-engaged people to pay more, you can also have a general audience that pays less."
And the trend is clear:
People are willing to pay more for exclusive, ROI-positive services that are constructive in their lives, whether it’s related to health, finances, education, or work. In the offline world, people are accustomed to hiring experts across verticals (think interior designers, organizational consultants, public speaking coaches, executive coaches, and tutors) and are willing to pay premium prices for the promise of measurable improvement and results. Now that mindset is filtering into our digital lives, as well.
The recipe for earning $1,000 per fan
So what do you need to get right to profit from this trend?
Easy perks like offering users ad-free content and access to back-catalogs can help creators monetize at a lower dollar amount. But to gain fans who are willing to pay $1,000 a year—no small sum—creators need to offer a step-function increase in value. The recipe, then, is to go niche and to tap into users’ desire for results. Practically, what does that look like?
It means providing differentiated content, community, accountability, and access:
- Premium content and community that has no close substitutes
- Delivering tangible value and results
- Access, recognition and status
In her article, Li unpacks these four points in detail and leaves us with a quote:
“The internet enables niche in a massively powerful way.” For creators who earn the trust of a niche audience and who deliver what those users crave—whether self-improvement, connection, recognition, or belonging—100 True Fans provides an updated monetization model for the fast-growing Passion Economy