Unpacking the creator monetization problem on short-form content platforms: Are creator fund programs enough?

Creator Fund Programs just aren’t making creators enough money for a sustainable career. Another solution is required. 

Such financial failings have led creators to openly call out what they believed were vague explanations from the platforms as to how those payouts were determined by the funds. Eventually, the platforms listened, and in doing so started reevaluating their creator funds and in some cases replacing them outright with more palatable options that creators would hopefully welcome.

The real issue is best summed up by; Jamie MacEwan, senior research analyst at Enders. “[Creator funds] are a band-aid over the fact that short-form video is not monetized as effectively as long form on YouTube or the Instagram feed, so you need additional incentives for creators to support the newer product on your platform, as well as against your competitors”. 

Furthermore, Creator Programs were knee-jerk reactions to the competition amid the rise of the short-form format, so the platforms could lock down more creators and the subsequent millions of users they command. It was always going to be a question of when, not if, they were replaced. A long term monetisation plan was never put in place.

This has been further proved in the neglecting of certain programs. YouTube’s Shorts is leaving creators with less money these days, while Meta has paused its own version of a creator fund for Reels (Reels Play Bonus Program) in the U.S. to focus on developing a revenue share deal instead. 

TikTok’s former head of product Sean Kim admitted as much at the recent SXSW conference in Austin. He revealed that the entertainment app’s first creator fund wasn’t created to enable creators to monetize. It was simply a reaction to the competition. Creators — or rather their coffers — were actually an afterthought. What’s worse is that as the platforms gained popularity and more and more creators were creating short-form content, their share of the pots have by default, got smaller and smaller.

TikTok has tried to make changes such as with its Creativity Program Beta (dubbed by the industry as TikTok Creator Fund 2), following feedback from creators on its creator solutions. However, it is too early to tell with creators who have millions of followings still unable to see revenue from it yet. 

The issue is that, unlike YouTube long form content where ads can be placed both within and before the video (sometimes even in the middle), people are spending more time watching shorter videos on short form platforms that make less ad money. If anything, over advertised content is unattractive. 

We are seeing platforms roll out more creator monetization tools like subscriptions and tipping – take TikTok’s Series as an example – which provide alternative routes for creators to earn money that are more recurring and do not eat into the platform’s revenue too much. 

But these new monetary streams aren’t directly addressing the crux of the problem: that short-form video is difficult for platforms to monetize right now. Subscriptions and tipping, for instance, put more onus on creators’ own communities to almost fill the pay gap. And understandably, creators are reluctant to rely on their fans to pay revenue they previously made directly from the platforms.

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