After terminating a program to pay creators, Meta says it’s expanding tests to compensate creators on Facebook Reels

Mark Zuckerberg
Meta CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg is luring advertisers and creators toward Reels by expanding payouts for creators--with scant details.
Michael Nagle—Bloomberg/Getty Images

After abruptly ending its old system in March, Meta announced Tuesday that it’s expanding a test to pay short-form video creators. The company said it’s inviting thousands of creators of Facebook Reels, its short-form video product, to be compensated based on the performance of their videos directly, not the ads surrounding them. The company did not share any details on how engagement would translate into income. 

“This means creators can focus on creating engaging content while we optimize the ad experience for advertisers and people,” a Meta spokesperson said via email. “With a performance-based model, creators can focus on the content that’s resonating with their audiences and helping them grow; advertisers get access to more ad inventory to reach more people; and people get a more consistent viewing experience with more relevant ads.”

The company first announced that they would be conducting tests to pay Facebook Reels creators in February of 2022. At that time, the payouts were based on advertising revenue share (like YouTube’s), along with direct contributions from fans to creators. Today’s announcement marks a departure from that test model, as the company is now experimenting with payouts that are based on performance of Reels that are surrounded by ads, rather than the ads’ performance. To be eligible to participate, creators must be over 18, based in specific countries, and in compliance with Facebook’s partner and content monetization policies. The opportunity is invite only.  

Meta’s new ad testing program is mostly focused on Facebook Reels creators. For Instagram, the company will tap a “small group of creators and advertisers in select markets” to begin testing a “similar performance-based payout model.”

Meta’s new moves come as its competitors double down on efforts to pay short-form video creators. Snap expanded its revenue-sharing program for its Stories feature in late April, which has paid some creators upwards of $30,000 within 72 hours. A few days later, Alphabet announced that YouTube’s “number one” priority was Shorts, its mobile-first short-form video feature. And although TikTok has largely failed to meaningfully compensate creators, it announced that it would expand its Pulse program to premium publishers, which promises to split half of ad revenue with the top 4% of creators. Those publishers include NBCUniversal and WWE.

Despite these new changes, platform payouts to creators have historically been small, and the vast majority of full-time creators rely on brand deals, consulting and entrepreneurship to stay afloat. 

Meta’s new expanded test is very similar to its previous official model for paying creators, the Reel Play bonus program, which launched in 2021 and rewarded them for views on their Facebook and Instagram content. But many creators reported confusion on how to qualify and the structure dictating their payments, with a fairly high maximum payment of $35,000 per month. It had mixed results. Some creators found they could hack the algorithm, going viral by posting simple face filter videos and hitting the monthly maximum payout of $35,000, The New Yorker reported. 

Fortune interviewed six Reels creators earlier this year who participated in the Plays bonus program, who expressed confusion—and gratitude—for the payments from Meta, with checks ranging from $0 to $6,000 per month. Meta quietly and abruptly ended the program in March of this year, causing panic among some creators. 

“The program wouldn’t last forever, we knew that, but the fact that I’m taking an almost $100,000-a-year pay cut with only a few days notice is dirty,” Azure MacCannell, a full-time video creator, texted Fortune at the time. “The Meta reps just keep saying to use the tools given (stars, subscriptions, etc.) which are basically just begging followers for money, making Meta money in the process.”

Last week, Meta’s IAB Newfront presentation—their annual show-and-tell to inspire marketing executives to advertise with the company—was predominantly focused on Reels and creators. “We are big, big fans of creators,” said Meta’s global business group head Nicola Mendelsohn in her keynote presentation on Reels, adding that 80% of the company’s investments in 2023 have focused on improving core apps and services for “people, creators and businesses alike.”

But when the Reels Play bonus program ended in March, MacCannell expressed discontent relying on the previous iteration of Facebook Reels pay.  

“Looking forward to a day when creators aren’t taken advantage of!”

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

Artificial IntelligenceCryptocurrencyMetaverseCybersecurityTech Forward