In a move inspired by the success of Snapchat's 'Spotlight' creator payment program, YouTube has today announced the launch of its new Shorts Fund, which will see the app pay out up to $10k per month to individual creators based on Shorts performance.
As explained by YouTube:
"Each month, we'll reach out to thousands of eligible creators to claim a payment from the Shorts Fund - creators can make anywhere from $100 to $10,000 based on viewership and engagement on their Shorts. The Shorts Fund is the first step in our journey to build a monetization model for Shorts on YouTube and is not limited to just creators in YPP - any creator that meets our eligibility criteria can participate."
The funding will come from YouTube's broader $100 million Shorts Fund, which it announced back in May, and will provide a direct pathway to monetization for short-video creators, who aren't able to monetize their Shorts efforts with ads at this stage.
As noted, direct payment for short video performance has been a big winner for Snapchat's own TikTok clone Spotlight, which initially saw the app paying out $1 million per day to the most popular Spotlight clips. That helped Spotlight quickly rise to 125 million active users, and enabled various creators make big money from their clips.
Snap has since scaled back its payments, as it looks to build a more self-sustainable ecosystem for the option, but the process has provided a framework, of sorts, for YouTube's own take. The compounding costs of the program, and rising creator frustration with payouts, may also point to why YouTube is starting with far lower payout amounts, though $10k per month will still be enough to spark significant creator interest (and on balance, with far more users, YouTube may still end up paying out big dollars as a result).
Will that help make Shorts a real competitor for TikTok, and potentially slow its momentum, and keep both users and creators more aligned to YouTube for video content?
YouTube's definitely keen to find out. According to YouTube, Shorts is already up to 15 billion daily views - up from 6.5 billion back in April - and with Shorts now available in all regions (in beta mode), you can see why it would be bullish on its potential for success.
And as an aside, YouTube actually claims that it, not TikTok, originated the short-form video trend.
In an interview with The Verge this week, YouTube's Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan noted that:
"The way I would give you some insight into how [Shorts] came about is actually going back 15 years to the very first video that was uploaded to YouTube, which is kind of a canonical, famous video now: “Me at the Zoo.” That was an 18-second video that was uploaded in the San Diego Zoo, and it was the genesis of YouTube."
Right. So it wasn't TikTok suddenly gaining massive traction in all key markets, and rocketing on a path towards a billion users faster than any other app in history. The genesis of Shorts, and short-form video more generally, came from YouTube itself.
I mean, I guess you can tell yourself whatever you want - but the fact remains that TikTok is still the most downloaded app at present, and has been for the past 18 months, and that poses a direct threat to usage of both YouTube and Facebook, which are both reliant on video engagement to fuel growth.
Which is really why YouTube is making such a big push on Shorts. And while it's keen to promote these 'billions of views' stats, how those views have come about is also important to note, because YouTube is counting all views of short content within its app, not just those that have come from the Shorts player, its TikTok-like vertical feed of clips that's more aligned with evolving video consumption behaviors.
That's where TikTok is really winning out, and where YouTube needs to tackle it head-on. Which is why it's launching this new creator fund, in the hopes that it can lure top creators away from TikTok, and other apps, and beat it, as it did Vine, by providing more pathways to monetization, and broader reach to turn platform influencers into major stars.
Which YouTube can do. It's done it repeatedly, with many of the biggest emerging stars in Hollywood now getting their start in the app. TikTok hasn't established similar pathways as yet - and if it can't offer equivalent creator funding over time, eventually, it will lose some of its top talent to the bigger players.
Lose too many, and their audiences with them, and TikTok could still fall away. Which is where YouTube is aiming with this - no matter who it claims started the short-form video shift.
Will direct creator funding deliver a body blow to TikTok - or indeed any blow at all that can slow the app's progress? We're set to find out over the coming months.
You can learn more about YouTube's Shorts Fund here.