March 19

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TikTok Officially Launches Creator Rewards Program (Amid, You Know, Other News)

Finance, TikTok

Big news on the TikTok front. No, not that news — this is a little less controversial. TikTok has officially launched its Creator Rewards Program, the final iteration of what was first the Creator Fund, then the Creativity Program Beta. 

It's understandable if you missed the announcement, despite TikTok sending the notification directly to creator notification inboxes. Right now it seems all anybody wants to talk about is whether or not TikTok will even be around to pay those creators. 

So first, let's cover the news about the Creator Rewards Program, and then let's briefly talk about the prospects of a TikTok ban. 

Creativity Program Beta Is Officially The Creator Rewards Program

TikTok's official program for paying creators based on views left its "beta" state on March 18th, 2024 and officially became the Creator Rewards Program. In announcing the official program, TikTok highlighted three main components:

  1. "More rewards for quality content. Enjoy increased rewards for your original 1 Min+ videos that have longer play durations, higher completion rates, and stronger engagement that's unique to you and resonates with the viewers."
  2. "More rewards for audience engagement. Collect more rewards for posting content that encourages viewer engagement, such as likes, comments, and shares."
  3. "More rewards for higher search value. Get rewarded for videos that correspond to popular search terms which increase the value for searchers."

And in a footnote, they also mention, "You'll now also be rewarded when your account's advertising value rises as more of your viewers watch ads on TikTok." 

Before we dive into how TikTok actually pays for your views, let's dissect these points a little bit. During the Creativity Program Beta, viewers were often left in the dark about what exactly they got paid for. The only clear stipulation was that videos needed to be more than 1 minute long. 

Now, it's clear TikTok is incentivizing content that truly keeps viewers hanging around. The fact that longer watch times directly equate to higher rewards (i.e. money) is interesting, considering TikTok doesn't currently insert ads in the middle of videos the way YouTube does. But it's not surprising in general that content that leads to a better perceived experience for the user earns more.

It's unclear directly how the platform measures "search value" and "advertising value." While platforms like YouTube have a fairly robust backend that allows you to dive deeper into stats that may help you deduce these numbers, TikTok, well, doesn't. So will TikTok eventually show you things like the value of your search traffic or give you an advertiser rating based on your content? 

Don't get your hopes up — it's interesting to know they are paying attention to it. 

What Videos Qualify For Money In The Creator Rewards Program — And How Much

When you're perusing your Creator Rewards Program dashboard, you won't see a ton of information. You'll see a figure of your estimated rewards over a certain time frame (options are currently limited). You'll also see a graph representing those earnings, your number of qualified views, your RPM, a few tips, and a brief list of your top earning content. 

Let's break a few of those stats down a bit more. Estimated rewards just means how much money you'll probably get paid. They say estimated because there could be slight fluctuations, though we haven't spoken with anybody who saw a major discrepancy between what their estimated rewards were and what they actually got paid. 

Qualified views are where things get the most restrictive. There are five key requirements for a view to count towards the money you get paid (in addition to the video needing to be at least 60 seconds long):

  • View watch time must be at least 5 seconds
  • The view doesn't count if the viewer disliked the video 
  • Only one view per user counts towards monetization, i.e. repeat views don't count
  • Views can't come from videos being boosted by ads, and any video that is a paid promotion or sponsored post doesn't qualify
  • Views have to come from the For You feed (and not the Friends or Following feed)

So as you can tell, it's pretty restrictive. But these limitations are also why TikTok views are considerably more valuable to creators than views from Facebook Reels and YouTube Shorts. In fact, TikTok pays as much as 20 times the amount of these other platforms for qualified views. 

And how much your views are worth, also known as RPM (which TikTok conveniently calls "reward per mille," versus YouTube's "revenue per mille"), is also determined by multiple factors. They include:

  • Overall video performance, such as average watch time and video completion rate
  • Video views on the Search page and related topic searches after watching your video
  • The region in which your qualified views occurred
  • Percentage of highly engaged followers
  • Your account's advertising value

As you can see, those factors get a little undefined near the end. While we don't actually know how TikTok is determine your account's advertising value or how we see our "percentage of highly engaged followers" (and whether that's for your overall account or just the video), we know they're part of determine how much you get paid. 

One thing is for sure: these rewards are significantly more valuable than TikTok's initial Creator Fund.

Ok But Does Any Of This Matter If TikTok Gets Banned?

Alrighty, so here's the elephant in the room. The United States House of Representatives recently passed a bipartisan bill that could theoretically lead to TikTok getting banned. And if TikTok isn't available in the U.S., well the value of the Creator Rewards Program certainly takes a huge hit. 

But how likely is it to happen? 

While there are lots of great news sources and podcasts that break down the likelihood of a TikTok ban, here's the gist: the likelihood of TikTok leaving the U.S. overall is very slim. 

There are multiple reasons for this.

The first is that the bill doesn't outright ban TikTok, but rather force a sale of the company from its current China-based owner ByteDance to a U.S.-based alternative. And we know there are already plenty of companies lining up to pay top dollar for TikTok, which could be worth as much as $50 billion right now. While ByteDance could choose to pull out of the U.S. and stay in the rest of its markets, the U.S. market reportedly accounted for $16 billion in revenue for the platform in 2023. It would be pretty tough for ByteDance to take that kind of revenue hit and keep the platform. 

But let's say ByteDance refuses to sell TikTok. Well, it may not even have to, as courts in the U.S. have previously determined that a forced sale was not, at that time, based on enough evidence to prove TikTok was a threat to national security. In other words, when the Trump administration tried to ban TikTok, two federal judges said no. When a state tried to ban it state-wide, another judge said no. 

If this bill made its way all the way to the president, it would immediately go to the courts. Previous court opinions currently favor TikTok, and the process could be lengthy. That brings up the final hurdle: even getting this legislation to the president. 

While the bill flew through the House of Representatives, it faces staunch bipartisan opposition in the Senate from two ideologically opposed factions — progressive Democrats and far-right Republicans. Strange bedfellows indeed. There is no Senate alternative to reconcile with the House bill, and many users have been very vocal in their opposition to a forced sale.

So while it's completely possible that TikTok could go away, there are three major hurdles likely to prevent that from happening, or at the very least prolong the process indefinitely. 


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