On today's ALLi Self-Publishing News we ask, how do we get paid for the items we create when the people who enjoy them don’t purchase things item by item? And specifically, how does TikTok pay creators?
In the traditional marketplace, where I sell copies of my work and people buy copies of my work, I can get a better deal or a worse slice of the pie. But figuring out the size of that pie is straightforward. It’s the amount the customer pays. Governments, platforms, other rights holders, other intermediary parties – all of them might take a slice of their own, making my slice smaller. But the pie remains the same.
But when customers pay in other ways, such as a subscription, figuring out what pie I’m owed a slice of is not that simple. At its most basic, we’re still talking about a pot of revenue and how that’s divided. But there’s a lot of slicing and processing that goes on before anyone actually gets a glimpse of the pie (OK with the food metaphors, but the “processed” metaphor with all its connotations is a good one).
By and large, this pre-processing makes transparency hard and the payouts for creators small. The former was at the centre of the row between authors and their publishers who struck a deal with Spotify, not to mention rights holders selling through Audible. The latter has been a cause for disgruntlement with the likes of KDP Select.
The ring-fenced creator pool
The thing about KDP Select is that payment comes from a ring-fenced creator pool. And while that pool has increased over time, the payments to authors per page read have shrunk. And elsewhere, fixed payout pools have put even more of a squeeze on, especially when consumption increases.
Most recently, that has happened at TikTok. It feels like only yesterday that I covered the launch of the Creator Fund, a $1bn pot to pay out for the most popular creators. But the rapid growth of TikTok has meant that even millions of views for a post now yields negligible returns. As a result, TikTok has canned the scheme and instead launched the Creator Program.
It’s not clear exactly how the new system, which opens on December 16, will work. But one interesting factor is that it is said to incentivise longer content. It’s also worth pointing out that it forms part of a wider programme for TikTok creators that includes tips and merch – something which echoes the music industry’s response to Spotify.
How writers make a living in a streaming world is something not enough column space or thought is devoted to (hat tip to Mark Williams who is forever reminding writers and the rest of the industry that streaming is here to stay). But what stories like this show is that the answer for many is likely to lie in what one might call a “blended ecosystem” of fan-driven income – something which isn’t a million miles away from Kevin Kelly’s vision back when this all began.
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