As every social platform looks to latch onto the success of TikTok, by bringing their own, replica TikTok-like functions into their apps, it has seemed that Snapchat may well be on a winner with its 'Spotlight' option, which enables Snap users to post short video clips which are then displayed in a vertically scrollable feed in a separate tab in the app.
Launched in November last year, Spotlight is already up to 125 million monthly active users, which, when you consider that Snap has only 280 million users in total, is a significant amount, helping to drive more engagement and activity within the app, and ideally, keep Snapchatters from migrating across to TikTok instead.
In itself, the option aligns with the key elements of TikTok clips, but Spotlight's real kicker is that Snapchat is also offering cash payments for the best-performing Spotlight clips, which has seen some Snap creators making big money from the option, and even enabling a select few to quit their regular jobs and become full-time Spotlight creators as a result.
But more recently, some creators have expressed concerns with delays in Spotlight payments, and even a halt in payments entirely, as Snap works to evolve the program.
Indeed, a group of Spotlight creators, who've got together on Discord, claim that what initially started as a steady flow of payments, essentially funding their process, has now all but dried up, with Snap making significant changes to the way in which it pays its top performers.
Snap did change the Spotlight payment process in June, shifting from daily payments of $1 million for Spotlight clips to a more vague 'millions per month'. But even within that, creators say that payments have all but stalled since April 11th.
That's essentially cut off many creators from the funding they had quickly come to rely on, and many have complained that Snap has not been transparent in how it's sought to change payments, and what that will mean for the program moving forward.
As per one Spotlight creator who contacted SMT:
"Snapchat has left us all in the dark with no information on if our content has earned any money, and if so, how much."
In response, Snapchat has acknowledged that the rising popularity of Spotlight has caused some delays in payment processing, due to the need to verify that each submission follows the platform's terms and guidelines for the program.
Snapchat has paid out over $130 million through Spotlight thus far, but Snap also recognizes that payment processing has, at times, been problematic, and that it is working to resolve issues with its systems.
And while some creators have suggested that Snap has stopped making payments entirely, Snap denies this, noting that it has consistently been paying Creators, despite more recent issues with disbursement.
"Creators have been notified of their earnings in a timely manner and we take care to validate payments."
The issues underline another element of consideration within direct funding programs like this, and with Instagram seemingly looking to implement a similar performance payment program for Reels, it's worth noting the challenges Snap has experienced as it seeks to evolve Spotlight payments, and shift the program towards a more self-sustainable model.
The plan, eventually, would be to insert ads, or other revenue generation elements, into Spotlight to give Spotlight creators a means to essentially fund themselves, but thus far, Snap hasn't included ads within its Spotlight stream, and offers no direct revenue programs for Spotlight creators, outside of these payments.
But it is gleaning usage benefits from Spotlight content. Whether that's worth the millions that it's paying out is a calculation for Snapchat to measure, but it does seem that Snap could now also be running the risk of alienating a significant proportion of its creator base, as it looks to change the Spotlight payment process over time.
Can Snapchat build a self-sustaining system for Spotlight that will replace its direct funding model, or will creators see their Spotlight earnings gradually evaporate, potentially driving them to other platforms to better monetize their work?
And if that's the case, what impact will that have on Snapchat usage more broadly, particularly if those top stars look to take their audiences with them?
The early numbers for Spotlight look promising, but there may be further challenges ahead, as the broader battle for creative talent heats up, and raises the stakes for all platforms.