TikTok Going Down – This Time Feels Different

Sorry this is late. Had wordpress problems. Turns out you can’t paste text with emojis in it. Who knew?

This Week: Feds spoil TikTok’s creator summit, which was long on promise, short on details. Plus the maturing of Mr. Beast, Rooster Teeth takeaways, research proves nano creators are best, 4 research studies you need to see, unexpected AI prompting tips and much more.

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This Time Feels Different: The US government is considering a bill that would force TikTok to sell. Again. But what’s different this time, according to an insider friend, is that it has quickly gathered bipartisan support – and the national security implications are very troubling to many feds. TikTok reacted predictably, imploring creators to phone up their representatives and complain. That did not go well (while disproving the canard over GenZ’s lack of telephone prowess). For more, check out Casey Newton at the Platformer.

Hollywood Reacts to Chicken Little: Tyler Perry cancelled his $800M studio due to AI generated video fears. Variety’s latest story attempts to put that in context. Yes, storytelling is hard. But the risk is real. Large Visual Models, starting with Sora, but including tools like Runway and Augie, increase access to storytelling tools that have been only accessible to WETA-class companies and big VFX houses. Just as PCs and mobile and YouTube and TikTok let anyone become a video creator and reach a global audience, this gives millions more access to super-high-quality tools, locations, and capabilities. Also, media has also gone from discovery to replacement. With 11-13 hours a day spent consuming media there’s no more TIME to experience more media. If these generated videos take up 5% of your daily media diet, what do they replace? For a bit of skepticism, some think it’s just a great demo. Word from those trying Sora, though, is that it really is all that and more.

The Maturing of Mr. Beast: More story, less speed – Mr. Beast jumps on the slow-content trend. 14 years since the launch of “Kids React” by The Fine Bros, it feels like this reality TV format has run its course. Reminds me of Reality TV’s arc on television, as Survivor and Big Brother led to an explosion of copycats – the nadir was likely “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”. Happily, most of the bad examples have faded away – as they will on YouTube too. Survivor survived – and Mr. Beast will too. And I predict YouTube will become a friendlier, less frenetic place as a result.

Why Smaller Influencers Drive Outsized ROI: A new academic study finds that brands get better ROI when they work with nano and micro creators than larger creators. Why? Because more followers lead to less engagement per follower. The study looked at nearly two million sales data points across hundreds of paid endorsements and analyzed both revenue and cost of campaigns.  The Nano and Micro creators beat larger creators on all three metrics: Revenue Per Follower, Revenue Per Reach, and Return on Influencer Spend. The ROIS numbers were particularly telling – larger creators drove 3x more revenue but were 18x more expensive than nano-creators. Note the study only looked at DTC companies in fashion and beauty – and creators between 1,000 and 1.4M followers. But it’s still telling to have academic rigor applied to ROI in the creator space. A summary of the research is here.

Rooster Teeth Shuts Down: So sad to see this pioneer of online video shut down by its fading corporate overlords at WB Discovery. It’s an epic tragedy with more twists and turns than a George RR Martin novel. After selling VidCon to Viacom I had 5 bosses in my 5 years there – I can only imagine how the team survived five OWNERS in the 10 years since being acquired by Full Screen. Hard to execute a successful strategy when you can’t remember the way to the executive washroom.

Good News from TikTok’s First Creator Summit: Positive news from the “For Creator: Future Formats Summit”, including 50% of watch time now goes to  longer videos, an increase of 350% since 2022. TikTok also enhanced payouts for longer videos, as their “Creativity Program” now becomes the “Creator Rewards Program”. Videos over a minute long will be scored based on originality, play duration, search value and audience engagement. Subscriptions are also now available to both live and on-demand creators. And TikTok announced a new “Creator Center” to help creators make better videos and more money. All well and good. But I asked TikTok’s press team for clarification – but didn’t hear back at press time. Here’s what we don’t know:

  • What do they consider long-form (a minute? 10 minutes? 50 hours?)
  • What makes a creator eligible for the subscription program?
  • What makes a creator eligible for the Creator Rewards program?
  • Announcing a formula implies math. How do you define and weight the four variables that determine payouts in the new program – Originality, Play Duration, Search Value and Audience Engagement?
  • Total creator revenue (from the creator program) increased “by over 250% within the last 6 months”, and the number of creators making $50,000 each month nearly doubled”. What was the total revenue paid out, how many creators are in the program, and how many creators made $50,000 or more?

I applaud the essence of the announcements, but without specifics on who can participate and how videos are scored – and how payouts are calculated – it’s seemingly just another way for TikTok to create the appearance of rewarding creators while only supporting a small fraction of deserving talent.

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I’ve built and sold multiple creator economy startups to top media companies – including Discovery and Paramount. Subscribe here on LinkedIn to get this newsletter every Monday.

Thanks for reading and see you around the internet.

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