Passing the 1 Billion monthly active user milestone this fall, it's no secret at this point that Tik Tok has taken the internet, and by extension the entire creator economy, by storm. Established social media platforms and creators alike have been slow to adapt to the rapidly evolving creator landscape, where TikTok's short-form video format has become king.
Instagram rushed to launch a competing product in the form of Reels back in 2019, and while Reels have definitely helped keep the platform stay relevant, it's no secret that Instagram has lost some major ground to TikTok recently. Reels feels like more of a secondary channel that creators use repost their TikTok content rather than being an actual creative content hub, and it shows in the numbers, with TikTok posts averaging 6x the total engagement and 44% more comments than Reels from Aug 2021-2022.
YouTube, on the other hand, took a different approach with its Youtube Shorts program, extensively testing its new content format before finally releasing Shorts to the public in June of 2021. I'll be the first to admit I was sceptical of YouTube's approach. After all, TikTok was looking more and more like an unstoppable juggernaut that would be impossible to compete with the longer YouTube waited. However, I'll also be the first to admit that I was wrong, and the extra time spent preparing and testing the product has allowed YouTube Shorts to jump into the short-form video market with a splash.
YouTube quickly figured out that the secret to getting creators to take Youtube Shorts seriously would be to ensure that creators were making original short form videos rather than simply borrowing content from TikTok. They did this by incentivizing already established creators, many of whom don't have an active TikTok presence, to make their own shorts by boosting their reach and by extension the engagement numbers just for posting shorts. YouTube also added a really simple tool into its studio that enables established creators to repurpose clips from their existing content into shorts, making it as simple as possible for them to start adding shorts into their content catalogue. Most importantly, YouTube did a great job selling the concept of Shorts to its creators by describing them as a feeder for their longform content, rather than being something separate from their existing content.
The real secret to YouTube's success with shorts is creating a monetization scheme to make creating shorts worthwhile for creators. Upon launching Shorts, YouTube announced its $100 million Shorts fund, which would reward creators with bonuses of up to $10,000 based on the performance of their Shorts. For creators already in Youtube's partner program, this added opportunity to earn extra revenue with minimal effort made creating Shorts a no-brainer. As a result, Youtube Shorts have exploded over the past year, reaching an impressive 1.5 billion monthly active users as of June 2022. YouTube has since doubled down on Shorts by announcing a 45/55% ad revenue split with creators starting in 2023. They also lowered the bar for Shorts creators to join Youtube's partner program to 1000 subscribers and 10 million Shorts views over a 90 day period, which opens the window for Shorts-exclusive creators to join the partner program.
These announcements by Youtube may not seem shocking on their face, especially given the revenue split that the platform is offering to its creators is actually below the 55/45% split that they offer for long-form video content. However, TikTok certainly took this announcement as a direct threat to their survival, since they went ahead and announced a 50/50% ad revenue split on their highly anticipated Pulse program, giving creators with over 500,000 followers a chance to start making some serious earnings off their top-performing videos. However, the devil is in the details, and there is a big difference with TikTok's monetization scheme: TikTok will only place ads and dish out revenue to the videos that are performing in the top 4% on any given day. This could be the difference maker for YouTube, as TikTok creators who consistently perform well but can't quite crack that top 4% mark with their content on a regular basis may end up seeing Youtube as the more attractive platform.
Ultimately the war between Youtube Shorts and TikTok is just heating up, and it will likely be years before one of the platforms secures a definitive edge in the market. One thing I do know for certain is that everyone in the creator economy is already following this battle closely, as it could end up being the difference maker for content creators that are investing their creativity, time, and effort into one of these platforms. Make sure to come back here for more updates on the Creator Economy.