Cambodia Investment Review
Rising Giants (RG) and Cambodia Investment Review’s (CIR) inaugural Start-Up & Innovation Festival Cambodia 2023, featured its third speaker panel discussion on “Cambodia’s Expanding Creator Economy”. The sold-out event took place on April 8 at FACTORY Phnom Penh and brought together leading players in the startup space from Cambodia and Southeast Asia.
Read more: RG & CIR Start-Up and Innovation Festival 2023: The Most Important Trends Impacting Startups in Cambodia
The panel featured Penhleak Chan from Raintree Development as the moderator, along with Sopheak Chheng from Rean Podcast, Sok Visal from KlapYaHandz, Chy Sila from Sabay, and Pzee Youk from 8TEEN Communication.
The current state of Cambodia’s creative industry
Penhleak Chan General Manager of Cambodia’s first creative office Raintree Development and moderator of the chat started the discussion by asking the panel how they would describe the current state of Cambodia’s creative industry.
Sok Visal, founder of KlapYaHandz, an independent Hip Hop and Alternative Music label that has been operating since 2004 described the industry as “growing,” noting that despite the over 20-year presence of his label, the film and music sectors in Cambodia remain young. “The film and music industry in Cambodia is still very young,” he said, adding that some of the earlier films have become national treasures.
Sopheak Chheng, behind one of Cambodia’s leading local podcasts Rean Podcast, emphasized the importance of monetizing creator content and credited talent agents for helping to achieve this. He said, “Now there are two types of approaches I have identified from my work: one is insert, and the other is embedded. By utilizing these two concepts, we have been able to survive.” Chheng also added that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased awareness of the digital creator economy.
Pzee Youk, of 8TEEN Communications a production studio for Cambodian KOLs and digital influencers, acknowledged the rapid growth of the influencer market, starting with only 8 KOLs in 2018 and expanding to over 300 today. She also credits the increase in internet coverage and smartphone usage for the overall growth of the industry. “The strong uptake in internet coverage and smartphone usage in both the main cities and now even reaching out into the more remote provinces has been driving the overall economy,” she said.
Monetizing content and working with platforms
Chy Sila, founder of Sabay, one of the most visited and popular Khmer websites discussed the challenges of monetizing local content, particularly on major online platforms like Facebook and YouTube. He shared his experience, saying, “Sabay has 1 million subscribers on YouTube, but we only made $128 last month.” Sila revealed that Sabay is now exploring the potential of micropayments and web3 platforms to help creators monetize their work. “Right now, we are creating the web3 platform, which I hope can solve some of these issues and allow the creator to monetize directly with the consumer,” he said.
When asked about the trends he has seen among content creators, Sok Visal responded, “Over the last 20 years working in the industry, it has always been hard to monetize our artists’ work in a small niche market like Cambodia – this is especially true for film. You never really make the money back, but we need to continue to push and develop the industry.”
Sopheak Chheng advised creators to focus on long-term brand deals to produce more aligned content and to understand their worth in terms of monetization. “The hardest part of being a creator is not about the numbers but being able to stay relevant for a long time,” he said. Chheng also highlighted the importance of creators seeing themselves as brands rather than individuals, saying, “Creators should look at themselves as a brand and not a person.”
Pzee Youk noted that while there has been an increase in local companies utilizing influencer marketing, many do not fully understand the market, leading to inefficient spending. “From our experience, many of these companies did not really know the market properly, and hence their spend-to-impact ratio was not very good,” she said. Youk also mentioned that even NGOs and government organizations are now using influencers for their campaigns.
The future trends of making money from content
In response to a question from the audience about monetizing from his loyal fanbase, Sopheak Chheng said, “Unfortunately, selling to your audience, such as merchandise, is not really an option in this market unless you’re someone like Vanda with the number one brand in the Kingdom.” Chheng also emphasized the need for creators to balance audience numbers and brand expectations, as well as understanding and working within a sponsors’ agenda.
Chy Sila, when asked about how platforms could better help creators monetize or distribute their work, responded that he had been creating various platforms throughout his career to assist creators in achieving their goals. “Sabay has been working with many different genres of creators, ranging from fast news to long-form novels, which can be uploaded to our platforms,” he said. However, he acknowledged the challenge of getting people to pay for content, saying, “The biggest problem in Cambodia is that people just don’t want to pay for anything.”
Sopheak Chheng expressed hope that one day, creators could sustain themselves without relying on brand deals, but he doesn’t see this changing within the next five years. “I hope that one day in the future, I could sustain without brand deals because it’s so different content without a brand. However, this will not really change in my opinion over the next five years,” he said.
In conclusion, the panelists highlighted the growth and potential of Cambodia’s creator economy while acknowledging the challenges it faces. The panel emphasized the importance of innovation, adaptation, and collaboration among creators, platforms, and brands to overcome these obstacles and continue driving the industry’s growth. With the right strategies and a focus on long-term success, Cambodia’s expanding creator economy holds immense potential for both creators and consumers.
Listen to the full podcast here on the Rising Giants platform.