The Silver Screen
Wisdom from an elder of TikTok and YouTube
Illustration by Garrett Golightly
Creating Over 70 Years Old: What Makes It Work?
For a burgeoning industry that’s nearly 50 million strong, the demographics of the creator economy are surprisingly homogenous.
According to data from the Global Web Index, creators are likely to be young (63% are Gen Z) and male (52%).
For us, that data tracks, at least anecdotally. While attending VidSummit last year, we noticed attendees and speakers overwhelmingly skewed young, male, and white.
We think it’s no surprise, then, that in all that sameness, some of the most common questions we find in our Press inbox are about creators who are more diverse, more different. And one group in particular is gaining steam across our industry: senior creators.
From Brunch with Babs to The Old Gays to Cooking with Lynja, we’re finding that older creators are riding a wave of popularity to command enthusiastic and robust followings built on trust and authenticity.
Why the newfound interest in the older set? We talked to Steve Austin, aka Old Man Steve, to find out.
NBC / Old Man Steve
Quick bio on Old Man Steve →
Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas
Platform of choice: TikTok (which was hacked last week, but Austin says the platform is aware and working on it)
What makes him so popular: Austin radiates positivity and feels like the grandpa you never had. His simple, self-produced videos of him saying hello or sharing grandfatherly wisdom resonate with fans eager for a regular comfort watch.
In speaking with Austin, we came to understand what makes his appeal so universal.
Why do we love senior creators? Because they appear to be anomalies. They’re older creatives publishing on platforms largely populated by young faces.
It’s “surprise and delight,” but for the FYP. Seeing senior creators participate in dance trends or showcase their vibrant, status quo-defying lives in an authentic way is a stark contrast to societal preconceptions about both older people and technology.
And the appeal for wholesome, sometimes silly content like what Austin makes from his room in a senior living complex is broad: Most of Old Man Steve’s 1.7 million TikTok followers are Gen Z.
The age-agnostic charm is a strategic advantage for older creators when compared to their younger counterparts—would your grandparents follow Noah Beck?
Brands know the answer. And that’s why they’re investing heavily in older creators.
But? They haven’t always. For decades, brands have targeted younger generations for a couple reasons:
To win brand loyalty when consumers are young.
To appear youthful (read: not stodgy) themselves.
But, as Austin or any 70+ creator can tell you—times change. Consumer demands for authenticity have forced brand marketing to become more inclusive of all body types, backgrounds, ethnicities—and, increasingly, ages.
Inclusivity is a solid strategy. According to Sprout Social, 60% of consumers report that they’re more likely to buy from a brand with inclusive marketing strategies.
Austin has done endorsements for brands like the vitamin company Nature Made, Stouffer's food, and the mattress company Lull.
And as for pricing: Austin’s is admittedly low for someone with a following as large as his.
“If someone wanted me to do a two-minute video, I wouldn't do anything less than $500, and that’s an extremely low bid,” Austin said.
FYI: The average cost for a sponsored TikTok is $3,514. For someone with a following as large as Austin’s, most brands could typically expect to spend $7,000+ per post, depending on engagement.
Austin’s pricing, “extremely low bid” or otherwise, is something he’s tried to refine as a player in this creator game for quite some time:
Though Austin started on TikTok in 2020, he has actively participated in the latest apps for nearly 12 years.
When Vine was around, he had 50,000 followers, and after that died he tried other short-form video apps like Kong.
“If one app dies, something else will always come along,” Austin said.
That’s Austin’s perspective in action. The years under his belt have given Austin a long-term view many younger creators haven’t had the time or opportunity to understand completely, at least not yet. If seniors can get hip to tech, they have more life experience that helps them 1) reach audiences and 2) be savvier.
The way Austin sees it, these platforms provide him a second chance at performing that he didn’t get growing up.
“I was a frustrated actor, dancer, and singer, and I never felt like I was good enough at any of those to actually try them in public,” Austin said of his younger years. “But now I do them on video and it doesn’t bother me because I don't have to look at people. Now I'm more comfortable, but I never could [have performed] before.”
Big picture: The core ethos of the creator economy is that it was built to be free from gatekeepers who might prohibit creative types from participating—the platforms are mostly free, the content is intelligently and widely distributed for free, and all you need is a phone and a WiFi signal to unlock monetization opportunities and audience building in an industry worth $100+ billion. Austin’s experience shows how capable this space is of giving people of all ages a second (or first) chance.
When asked about his long-term goals, Austin said he posts one Short and one TikTok per day plus one YouTube video per week…and that’s pretty much it. “At my age I just live from day to day,” Austin said. “I still try to keep an open and creative mind when making my videos. I’m in fairly good health, but I do have to pace myself.”
In that, Austin and his senior creator peers offer a necessary lesson in perspective. Many maintain a modest, sustainable (and attainable) publishing schedule. Many have said they’d be fine if their creator journey ended tomorrow. Many feel empowered by what makes them different from other creators on the FYP, not fearful of it.
And it’s clear that letting go of those fears has allowed older creators to experiment, from Babs’s viral jingle ball margaritas to Baddie Winkle’s adventures in Las Vegas. There’s a lesson for creators of all ages here—when you relieve that self-induced pressure, you open up the door to a whole new side of this creator world.
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