WrapPRO Special Report: Social media giants are playing catch-up given TikTok’s in short video clips — and trying to monetize the content too
The battle over content creators is heating up as companies race to the next big business driver: short-form videos.
Social platforms are just beginning to experiment with monetization and revenue-sharing options for short video content, which saw massive popularity fueled by 5-year-old TikTok during the height of the pandemic. Bite-size viral videos helped boost the ByteDance-owned app past 1 billion monthly users last year — a feat that took Facebook eight years to achieve.
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As a result of that success, more established platforms from YouTube to Instagram have cloned the feature on their apps and poured millions into getting creators to use it. While YouTube maintains the oldest creator partnership program, paying out billions of dollars each year to creators, this an emerging area of the business that’s newer to the platform. YouTube Shorts, which is gaining traction at 5 trillion all-time views, is competing against Facebook and Instagram Reels, Snap Spotlight and TikTok posts — and this is a major battlefield in the war for creators.
What platforms are doing to rival TikTok’s short video dominance
Even as Snap, Facebook, Instagram and others have modeled their feature after TikTok’s, the older platforms struggle with attracting the coveted Gen Z users. As Instagram’s user base ages, it’s losing out on Gen Z users (those born between 1997 and 2012) who are more engaged on TikTok and other more youth-skewing apps. Plus, Facebook this year started to shrink for the first time as daily users decline and monthly users continue to stagnate globally. Although the pandemic provided a short-term boost for many platforms, their short-videos experimentation efforts have yielded mixed results.
Last July, Twitter killed Fleets, a Snapchat-like video that got tweeted, after just eight months. The company said Fleets ads were its first attempt at full-screen vertical ads and that it has more to learn.
This month, Facebook parent Meta is expanding Reels to its flagship platform in more than 150 countries to test overlay ads, which include banner and sticker ads, and offering a bonus rewarding creators up to $35,000 per month based on views. A Meta representative said Reels is now the fastest-growing content format, with watching videos accounting for half the time users spent on Facebook and Instagram.
“We’re also expanding tests of new monetization tools for Facebook Reels… so that more creators can earn ad revenue, and we’re rolling out full-screen and immersive ads between Reels soon,” the Meta rep told TheWrap.
Snap said the number of Spotlight viewers subscribed to its creators more than doubled in Q4 from the previous quarter, and the app currently pays millions of dollars per month to creators using the feature. This month, it also started testing an ad revenue-sharing plan with a small set of creators posting these stories, with pay based on posting frequency and audience engagement, Snap told TheWrap.
Triller, another TikTok rival for creators, similarly started out with an app featuring short videos with music and even signed several big TikTok creators, including Charli D’Amelio and Noah Beck, to content deals. Its business model differs in that it has since expanded to acquiring subscribers with a focus on delivering live events, entertainment and sports. Currently, all eyes are on the company as it approaches a reverse merger with video-tech company SeaChange that will take Triller public this year.
YouTube has also stepped up its Shorts efforts, creating a separate Shorts Fund for creators in 100 countries. YouTube said more than 40% of creators earning through this fund last year weren’t a part of its regular YouTube Partner Program, which means it’s attracting a new crop of creators.
“The Shorts Fund is working,” a YouTube rep told TheWrap. “In the coming months, we’ll start to test other ways to make money on Shorts — like building branded content through BrandConnect, integrating fan-funded features like Super Chat, and bringing the ability to shop directly from a Short.”
YouTube is attracting creators by looking beyond its original monetization, Ali Fazal, VP of marketing at creator management platform GRIN, told TheWrap.
“YouTube allows for a lot of diversity and creator types because of the flexibility of the platform,” Fazal said. “You could have content from social influencers, athletes, celebs, podcasters and by providing an avenue for all different types of content creators to work, it is a much more appealing place to be.”
The explosion of shorter videos has allowed upstarts like TikTok to eat into YouTube’s long-term advantage, particularly among Gen Z. Creators know that creating quality original content takes significant time, energy and money, so many focus on established sites like YouTube where they have the widest reach. But for many creators, the short video format is also more accessible — allowing them to produce more posts more quickly.
“Growing your subscriber base on YouTube remains one of, if not the hardest, social platform,” Ryan Detert, CEO at influencer marketing company Influential, said. “The amount of hours of content that someone needs to make on a consistent basis is more than all other short form video social platforms.”
TikTok is now expanding into longer-form content
The jury is still out on how much money companies can actually make off these short clips; even TikTok has been slowly bumping up its video length in order to test out monetization options. After initially capping clips at 60 seconds, TikTok raised the maximum length to three minutes last July and will soon push the limit to 10 minutes.
The Beijing-based app’s expansion into longer video clips directly challenge sites like YouTube as it explores content substantial enough to play on TV screens instead of just phones. While still early, experts are viewing the company’s move as beneficial for advertising and providing a new outlet for content creators. This year, TikTok teamed up with streaming provider Atmosphere to start delivering TV content to businesses in the U.S, from gyms to restaurants. The service will feed popular, curated content from TikTok to re-create a viewer experience much like the popular app’s mobile version.
This gives TikTok a new opportunity to build enterprise customers as the company looks to grow — and allows users to share content in a different way than they would on their mobile devices. “It’s one of the reasons that all of the content on the platform is audio-optional and why we focus on snackable, short-form content, at which the TikTok community excels,” Atmosphere CEO Leo Resig told TheWrap. “The length of the content is important, but it’s also content that creates a more energizing and engaging environment.”
If TikTok can do the same thing with long-form videos that it has accomplished with short ones, it can become pretty hard to challenge in the battle for creators. “TikTok is addictive,” Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst at eMarketer, told TheWrap. “Its algorithm that determines which videos people see when they start scrolling the app is incredible. Video creators have quickly learned how to maximize TikTok’s video creation features to build suspense and keep users watching.”
This is Part 3 of a WrapPRO series on the Battle Over Content Creators.
Wednesday: How YouTube Is Winning the Fight Over Content Creators | Charts
Thursday: Why YouTube – With Its Deep Pockets – Isn’t the Perfect Fit for All Creators
Friday: How Social Media Platforms Are Racing to Win the Short Video Market Away From TikTok