When TikTok announced a $200 million Creator Fund to directly pay creators for their content, it should have been a reason for TikTok creators to celebrate. Yet only a few weeks after the fund’s launch, many creators have already left.
Four creators who left the fund all cited declining views as their reason for leaving. Nina Ward, who has 44,000 followers, left the fund after her posts went from getting at least 1,000 views per video to a couple hundred per video. Similarly Amber, who has close to 80,000 followers, saw her views go from the tens of thousands to the low thousands.
Some creators have accused TikTok of purposefully suppressing their content.
“I don’t think they actually want to pay [creators],” Cee, a creator who is currently considering leaving the fund, said. “They’re taking away a lot of their views or at least suppressing their videos so they don’t have to pay them as much as they should be.”
It’s worth noting that other accounts saw little to no difference in viewership after joining. Several creators attributed the sudden shift in views to increased competition rather than anything intentional on TikTok’s part.
“I think what [creators are] experiencing is an influx of people being like, ‘Oh, money’s involved now so I’m gonna step up my content. I’m gonna post more,’” Jeff Couret, a TikTok creator who specializes in digital marketing, said.
A representative for TikTok has said that the decreased views are purely coincidental. However, these aren’t the first rumors of content suppression and the accusations fall into a greater pattern of mistrust between TikTok creators and the app itself.
Distrust of TikTok
To understand the fears surrounding the fund, you first need to understand how the Creator Fund compensates users and why it’s complicated. The fund pays per view (TikTok hasn’t specified how much), which frustrated some users since TikTok views are often more sporadic and inconsistent than they are on other platforms.
This is because TikTok’s main interface is the “For You” page, where your video — if selected by the app’s recommendation algorithm — is broadcast beyond your followers to a larger audience. The algorithm behind the “For You” page is mysterious and addictive.
That’s part of the magic of TikTok, and arguably one of the things that has drawn so many creators to the platform. You can have a measly 100 followers and still wake up to millions of views. But it also means that an unknown algorithm can uplift your content one day and fail to boost you the next.
“I think a lot of people are just conditioned to the algorithm, which was so good at pushing people out,” Austin, a creator with 24,000 followers, said. The downside of this, he added, is that if your content stops making the “For You” page, people quickly blame TikTok rather than their own content.
Essentially, when the Creator Fund monetized views, it monetized an aspect of the app that is very difficult for creators to understand or control.
This isn’t the first time creators have suspected TikTok of intentional content suppression; the app has faced accusations in the past of shadow banning certain content, particularly footage of Black Lives Matter protests. Shadow banning refers to when a user’s content is blocked or partially blocked from an online platform so that it is not obvious to the user that they are banned. You can see this fear of being shadow banned play out as people tried to spread information about the fund.
To avoid being censored, some veiled their criticism of the Creator Fund with fake makeup videos. In these posts, the audio instructs the user to comment on the video “as though it were a completely normal makeup tutorial.” The voiceover then describes how the fund decreases viewership and advises creators to leave it.
One of the videos has received over half a million views, and the audio has been used by 141 other accounts.
An inefficient way to monetize
For many creators, leaving the fund was a no-brainer when they saw how much they were making.
“My first couple of days I only made $2, which was confusing because all my videos were over 1,000 views,” Kathy, a TikTok creator, said. “They’re very wishy-washy on how many views actually gets you a good amount of money.”
TikTok hasn’t specified exactly how much it pays per view, and many creators reflected Kathy’s frustration at earning so little despite thousands of views.
To make big money on TikTok — like the handful of creators who pulled seven-digit salaries last year — you still need to go outside the app. The Creator Fund paychecks are, for the most part, negligible compared to what influencers can get from sponsored posts or brand deals.
The TikTok Creator Fund was meant as a key step for creators to monetize their content. Instead, the fund may have backfired and increased the overall distrust of the app.
Although TikTok has promised to address users’ concerns, it may be too late to earn back creators who have already left.
“After seeing what it did to my account, it just wasn’t worth it,” Ward said. “I wanted to leave and just have fun creating content for my followers.”
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