“And Today’s Top Donator is”: How Live Streamers on Twitch.tv Monetize and Gamify Their Broadcasts

Johnson, Mark R. and Woodcock, Jamie (2019). “And Today’s Top Donator is”: How Live Streamers on Twitch.tv Monetize and Gamify Their Broadcasts. Social Media + Society, 5(4)

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305119881694


This article examines cultural and economic behavior on live streaming platform Twitch.tv, and the monetization of live streamers’ content production. Twitch is approximately the 13th most-viewed website in the world, with over 150 million spectators, and 2 million individuals around the world regularly broadcasting. Although less well-known than Facebook or Twitter, these figures demonstrate that Twitch has become a central part of the platformized Internet. We explore a seven-part typology of monetization extant on Twitch: subscribing, donating and “cheering,” advertising, sponsorships, competitions and targets, unpredictable rewards for viewers, and the implementation of games into streaming channels themselves. We explore each technique in turn, considering how streamers use the affordances of the platform to earn income, and invent their own methods and techniques to further drive monetization. In doing so, we look to consider the particular kinds of governance and infrastructure manifested on Twitch. By governance, we mean how the rules, norms, and regulations of Twitch influence and shape the cultural content both produced and consumed within its virtual borders; and by infrastructure, we mean how the particular technical affordances of the platform, and many other elements besides, structure how content production on Twitch might be made profitable, and therefore decide what content is made, and how, and when. Examining Twitch will thus advance our understanding of the platformization of amateur content production; methodologically, we draw on over 100 interviews with successful live streamers, and extensive ethnographic data from live events and online Twitch broadcasts.

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