While much is being made of the rising tide of the creator economy to disintermediate the giants of social media, equally if not more significant are the ways major platforms have hit back.
Established platforms from Facebook to TikTok have been investing heavily in new features and new terms and conditions designed to arrest an exodus of independent video creators.
Let’s take a look, courtesy of Engadget, which suggests that the pandemic turbocharged the creator economy.
Twitter, which previously only had a single monetization feature — a video-centric tool used by publishers — opted to reorient its entire platform around creators. In 2021 it launched Ticketed Spaces, in-app tripping, and started building a newsletter platform. It also launched Super Follows, a subscription service for influencers. Twitter plans to take a 20% cut from its highest-earning creators using this feature, according to TechCrunch, although the feature only generated around $6000 in its first two weeks.
Meta released dozens of creator-focused updates and monetization features onto Facebook and Instagram as part of a $1 billion planned spend on tools for content creators. Mark Zuckerberg has pledged not to take a cut of content creator earnings until 2023.
Snapchat has also spent big — outlaying more than $250 million on creators via its Spotlight feature, according to Variety.
What’s more, Pinterest launched a $500,000 creator fund and built its first monetization tools; Microsoft announced a $25 million creator fund for LinkedIn and Tumblr launched a subscription service for its bloggers.
At the start of 2021, YouTube identified the “growing the creator economy” as its top priority. Among its initiatives was a $100 million fund for Shorts (its TikTok-like feature).
Meanwhile, TikTok itself, which launched a $200 million content creator fund in 2020, also released a raft of new monetization features in 2021.
All of this has seen more creators pile into the market. One report from payments company Stripe found that the number of creators was up 48% in 2021.
READ MORE: Indexing the creator economy (Stripe)
It’s not just that creators were suddenly incentivized by platforms; the pandemic had a huge role in funneling people’s creativity online.
“Many people were left without offline alternatives for work and income and had to turn to online platforms in order to continue their creative careers,” Li Jin, founder of Atelier Ventures, observed in Engadget.
This groundswell, combined with new asset and royalty enabling technologies such as blockchain, meant established platforms had to respond or risk running dry.
“Creators are responsible for a significant amount of engagement on their platforms of choice,” says Engadget. “If enough of an app’s biggest stars leave, they could take large chunks of users with them.”
Creators are deemed crucial to drawing in new users and keeping existing users entertained. For Facebook, they could help the company avoid, or at least dampen, what The Verge calls the “existential threat” of declining teen users. There’s even a suggestion that revenue from creators could also one day help Facebook generate income beyond advertising.
Snapchat has touted Spotlight (with well north of 100 million users) as a key source of growth.
Ultimately, though, it’s the platforms that will benefit most from creators. According to Jin, “Nothing is done purely altruistically. It’s to strengthen the company and their profitability.”