This December will mark the end of an era for creator monetization on TikTok, and, according to creator-industry expert Samir Chaudry, which may open up new doors for how people make money on the social media app.
This week, TikTok announced it would end its inaugural creator fund, with the program’s last day landing on Dec. 16. When it was first announced in 2020, the fund was a $1 billion pool the company said it would pay out to encourage users to create more content. While TikTok has been instrumental in popularizing smaller voices and creating some of the well-known digital culture brands of the moment, many creators expressed frustration with the small payout. Payments were determined by a combination of views and engagement, but became smaller as more users joined the creator fund. In a 2022 YouTube video, popular vlogger Hank Green said he made 2.5 cents for every 1,000 views on TikTok with the Creator fund, even with 8 million followers.
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With the Creator Fund shutting down, the social media site is turning its focus to the Creativity program, which is currently undergoing beta testing, but is a stronger attempt by the app to share larger payments to high-performing users. Like the creator fund, users must be 18 years old, have over 10,000 followers and 100,000 views in the last 30 days. But the new program will only reward videos longer than 1 minute, excluding shorter clips. According to TikTok, the Creativity Program gives creators the potential to earn “up to 20 times the amount previously offered by the Creator Fund.”
As one half of Colin and Samir, a YouTube channel and business dedicated to helping creators maximize their funds, Chaudry tells Rolling Stone that Tiktok’s old payment scheme pushed users to rely on more stable streams of income, and the change could see more TikTok-based content grow and remain on the app.
“Funds [are] a temporary solution to attract creators to upload. The problem they face is that it’s a set amount,” Chaudry says. “So the more content that gets uploaded, the creator fund gets smaller and smaller. So the reality is, it’s a temporary solution, no matter what. The best version of monetization in the Creator economy is a revenue share. “
Chaudry points to the monetization of the YouTube, which evaluates creators based on their views and subscribers and rewards them with revenue from ads hosted on their videos. According to Chaudry, short-form vertical videos, like the ones TikTok is known for, are much harder to monetize because viewers can watch so many in a short amount of time. So the same thing that makes a TikTok for-you-page so hard to leave also makes it hard to pinpoint which creators deserve what money. He says its most likely why the new creativity program only rewards longer videos.
“Video length does equate to deeper connection and having a deeper connection also offers more monetization opportunities,” Chaudry says. “The core of what we do in the creator economy is build depth with an audience. And depth does suggest that people are willing to sit for long periods of time with you.”
At the moment, the Creativity Program is still in beta development, but TikTok has announced plans to make the program into one of their main forms of monetization. “The Creativity Program was developed based on the learnings and feedback we’ve gained from the previous Creator Fund,” a TikTok spokesperson tells Rolling Stone in a statement. “As we continue developing new ways to reward creators and enrich the TikTok experience, we value the feedback and direct insights from our community to help inform our decisions.”
Chaudry tells Rolling Stone that the key is for creators to really connect with their viewers, in order to turn their content into a living.
“If you remove some of the top creators from TikTok, [the app] is still enjoyable to watch, and I think the next chapter has to be building brands. People need to seek you out. And so I think the future of the creator economy is creators understanding that they need to build depth with their audience, not just viewership. And I think platforms have to support the time it takes to do that, and give [creators] a healthy foundation and pay to build on top of.”
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