MANILA – More and more Filipinos are venturing into the online market for extra income, and creatives and enthusiasts are finding refuge in social media and live-streaming platforms for that extra money.
Jemima Nabong, 40, runs her family’s wholesale fish business in Pampanga, but wants to earn her own money.
“Hindi naman natin alam ang mangyayari in the future, ok rin ‘yung meron kang extra income. Hindi naman all businesses will last. So if ever na can mangyari, meron kang back-up,” Nabong said.
(We don’t know what will happen in the future, so it’s best to have an extra source of income. Not all businesses last, so it’s good to have a backup.)
She turned to her passion for the culinary arts by selling baked goods from their family home.
Recently, Nabong found a better outlet for his cooking skills: live streaming.
She said she first heard about Kumu from a friend from an online plant interest group who moved her online business to the live-streaming platform.
Nabong started by posting dishes she would cook at home on Kumu, which eventually landed her an invite from the platform’s growing culinary community.
She began contributing to the community, affectionately referred to by her users as “Kumunity,” in January. In 10 months, she earned badges as a culinary content creator, rewarding her with more exposure.
With over 3,000 subscribers, an average of 2,800 viewers watching an average of 43 hours of his streams per month, Nabong spends at least an hour with his viewers in a live stream at least three times a week.
As content creators like Nabong interact with viewers in their live stream through comments, viewers can send them “gifts” equivalent to earning “diamonds,” points convertible into cash.
Nabong sets up a tripod with a small ring light in a small corner of their dining room an hour before his live broadcast program. A telephone is fixed in the middle of the light ring, the camera facing his kitchen installation. She leans a second phone against the wall, the front camera facing her.
With very little space required, Nabong was able to achieve an hour of live streaming from the safety and comfort of his home.
In that hour she spent cooking ginataang gulay for her family’s lunch and chatting with her viewers, Nabong was able to earn over 21,000 diamonds from over 800 viewers, which equates to around 470 pesos.
When his diamonds reach 50,000, Nabong will be able to cash out his winnings equivalent to P1,000 directly to GCash or his bank account.
Nabong knows she has a long journey ahead of her to get her break.
“Sana mabigyan is passing the chance to post on other Kumu channels, to gain experience and more exposure,” she said.
(I hope to have more chances to broadcast on channels that can give me more experience and more exposure.)
In Kumu’s thriving “creator economy”, some 1,700 creators are “financially viable”, earning around 20,000 pesos a month while some earn as much as $3,000 (176,801 pesos), the founder of Kumu said. Kumu, James Rumohr, at the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines’ (IMMAP) Digicon Valley 2022.
“In times when some Filipinos didn’t have certain job opportunities because of the pandemic, people found Kumu to be a place where they could really find success and get income-generating avenues through broadcasting live,” he said.
Among those who discovered Kumu when the pandemic hit the country was nursing student Rasbi Claveria.
“Sabi ko, ‘Sige, try ko lang muna to’. Tapos, pagka-start ko mag-live, biglang dumami yung nanood sa akin. Sobrang natuwa ako kaya na-engganyo ako na magpatuloy,” she said.
(I just wanted to try it. When I started live streaming, a lot of people started watching, and I started liking it, so I kept going.)
Claveria started streaming live on the app in March 2020 and by the following month she had already qualified for a payment. She celebrated her birthday in April using her earnings from Kumu.
Claveria often sings in her livestreams. She was also doing game streams.
Shared that she started out like any new streamer: with no particular content in mind and barely any gear. She recalls streaming as early as 6 a.m. for the best morning light and using solar lights for an evening stream. She even streamed chores, talking to her viewers while she washed the dishes or did the laundry.
After Claveria gained a following on the platform, she started earning up to 100,000 pesos per month in her first year.
Rasbi Claveria always makes it a point to greet his viewers when they enter his stream and thank supporters who send gifts that convert to cash. Courtesy of Rasbi Claveria
Currently, Claveria is live on Kumu from her bedroom, with a decorated corner of space as the background for her various streams. With a single smart phone, microphone, pink neon behind her, she entertains her viewers by taking song cover requests.
Now that she is in her final year of nursing school, the 23-year-old has had less time to broadcast, which she admits has affected her Kumu earnings.
On its 4th anniversary, Kumu already has over 6.5 million hours of live streams watched each month. While that may mean more engagement for streamers like Claveria, more creators have also saturated the platform, dividing viewers’ attention.
“Pati mga artista, sikat na vloggers… Parang, ‘It lang kami eh, tapos yung tatapatan namin, sobrang, ang daming mga followers nito, kilala sila eh’. Parang fastest makipagsabayan. So ‘yung ibang streamers, pinanghihinaan sila’ ‘ Claveria said.
(Even popular celebrities and vloggers use Kumu now. We’re not as popular as them, and they have so many subscribers. It can be hard to keep up, and some streamers get discouraged.)
Nevertheless, without giving details, Claveria said what she earns from Kumu these days is still enough to go to college and pay her bills and food as she lives alone in Mindanao.
She also helps with her younger brother’s school expenses and pays her mother and younger brother’s bills and groceries in Batangas at the house from which she got the down payment on her income from Kumu.
At one point, Claveria thought she should focus on streaming, when Kumu proved lucrative for pioneers like her. But she knew she would be better off with a degree, and streaming could remain her second source of income.
Despite the time and energy demands of nursing school, Claveria only allows herself an hour to rest after returning from class, then goes live to check in and allocate time for her viewers. .
Kumu also provided a platform for Claveria to secure gigs as a host and product endorser.
While Claveria’s success on the livestreaming platform may prove appealing, it reminds would-be streamers to see the Kumunity beyond a secondary hustle.
“Kailangan supporters ‘yung mga, kailangan hindi lang’ yung tingin mo sa kanila ay may makukuha ka. Kailangan gawin mo rin silang part ng life mo, ng journey mo,” she said.
(You shouldn’t treat your viewers like cash cows. They’re part of the community. They should be part of your life and your journey.)
“Nung naka-ilang mois na, hindi ko na iniisip yung kitaan, kasi parang hinahanap na rin ako nung mga tao. ‘Uy, bakit hindi ka na nagla-live?’ o ‘Nasaan ka na, Rasbi? Hinahanap ka na namin.’ Masaya ako kasi nawawala ‘yung stress nila pag pumupunta sila in ko live. Sobrang saya raw na ilalagay lang nila yung phone nila sa gilid habang pinapanood ako, tapos nagco-computer sila,” she added.
(After several months, it wasn’t just about the money anymore. Viewers were the ones searching for me, searching my live streams, “Why aren’t you online? We miss you.” I’m happy because my feeds help relieve their stress. They tell me I keep them company while they work, with their phones on my feed propped up next to their computers.)
For Claveria, Kumu has become a safe space to spend time online. Beyond a source of income, she shares how some viewers would open up to streamers in the comments, seeking companionship and advice.
“Malapit na ako makapagtapos ng pag-aaral ko, [nasa Kumu] by rin ako. Talagang [Kumu] ang nagtaguyod sa akin,” she said.
(I’m about to graduate and I’m still with Kumu. It helped me further my education.)