Would you pay £1m a day to your talent?

New platforms are co-opting the audience

In the battle for the attention of the young, TikTok and Snapchat are really going for it.

Snapchat has invented much of what has been adopted by other services, including Stories and timed, disappearing messages. It has also innovated with what its camera can do. The rise of TikTok, though, has been uncomfortable for Snapchat as it too targets 13 to 19s and has become the de-facto place for young people to consume short form, entertaining video clips.

Snapchat itself hasn’t gone away (they have 90m daily active users in the US, 249m across the world). It’s also still massively used as a messaging platform between teens, and indeed lots use Snapchat’s camera to make their TikToks. The problem for Snapchat was that it concentrated on the original social network feed idea of showing content just from the people that you’re following. Meanwhile TikTok exposed public posts more easily for other people to find. With many social media users always clamouring for more attention, this feature resonated well, and particularly because much of social video is literally performing for others.

Snapchat’s answer was to add TikTok style functionality to its app, but more importantly to incentivise its use. To do this they announced they would be giving successful creators a share of $1m every day.

Their feature - Spotlight - follows the same swipable pattern of TikTok, but their algorithm works slightly differently. When users create Snaps they submit them to Spotlight. Snapchat then adds them to the feed of 100 or so people. Depending on what they do, it can then get shared to more and more users. Each day the top videos divide the dosh. What’s clever about this system is that you don’t have to be a mega influencer, someone with no following can still get up the charts if it resonates with users.

They introduced the $1m a day scheme on the 23rd November and last week a spokesman said they have no plans to stop any time soon.

The rules around it are pretty broad - no political/controversial content, you need to be over 16, but also you can’t re-upload other material (so no downloading your TikToks (with its watermark) and uploading them to Spotlight).

With 60ish days of the scheme running (and $60m distributed) it’s made lots of young people rich already.

The New York Times profiled a selection of winners including 19 year old Cam Casey who’s pocketed $2.7m and Katie Feeney, 18, who’s made over a $1m from unboxing videos.

Snapchat’s fund has been pretty aggressive, but they aren’t the first to put their money with their mouth is. TikTok, again, got their first dedicating $230m for creators over three years in the US, UK, Germany, Italy, France and Spain. But to qualify you need to have 10k followers and 10k views in the previous 30 days. Instagram has also been approaching big name social talent to use its Reels function (again, it’s a TikTok clone). But both these initiatives are focused on larger creators, whereas Snapchat’s lottery tickets seem more achievable by all.

The issue the three apps face is how to get attention from younger audiences and to keep them regularly visiting their ecosystems. Their fight will likely be expensive and bloody.

All of this seems a world away from the audio sector, even though we’ve never been shy of doling out big money for top presentation talent.

There’s something interesting though in the co-opting of the audience to platforms and using their creativity to help power growth. Perhaps Kiss, Capital or Radio 1 should make bounties available for special remixes, clever breakfast show content or ideas for stunts? Maybe some podcast networks should open up shows that can make use of this talent (or their marketing ability). We’ve always relied on the audience sending in things for free, should we be better at incentivising them to take part?

Audio businesses have always needed great creative talent to help them grow and develop. Nowadays, talented ones have some very good options for directly monetising their creativity. They’re more than willing to re-point their creativity at YouTube, TikTok, Reels or Spotlight where they can share in financial success. Perhaps it’s time audio stepped up.

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