TikTok confirmed Thursday that it is testing support for paid subscriptions, paving the way for creators on the short form video platform to charge for their content. First reported by The Information, the company didn’t share details about when it might roll out to creators, how many creators are currently testing it, or what the pay structure might look like. Company spokesman Zachary Kizer said in an email to The Verge that the subscriptions were a “concept that’s been in testing,” and that it was “always thinking about new ways to bring value to our community and enrich the TikTok experience,” (whatever that means).
If adopted, it would be the latest move by TikTok to help its creators monetize their content; it introduced its Creator Next hub with monetization tools, and rolled out its tipping feature to eligible creators in December, after testing it with a smaller group.
How TikTok will add direct-to-creator payments to its highly successful business model is bit of a head-scratcher. The app’s major advantage over competitors is its uncanny algorithm that surfaces content to users’ For You pages. It’s a way for creators to reach users and ideally turn them into subscribers. But if creators are holding their best content for subscribers, that content is probably not available to fuel the algorithm, which in turn could reduce engagement, since in theory, it’s not being surfaced to non-subscribers.
This is not a problem unique to TikTok, of course; all digital platforms trying to help content creators and influencers monetize their content are trying to balance engagement vs. letting creators monetize directly. And the creators themselves have to be able to predict what content subscribers will be willing to pay for, and what content will help them best promote their own work.
TikTok’s test of paid subscribers follows Instagram’s announcement that it, too, is launching a test of paid subscriptions with a small number of creators and influencers. Subscribers will pay a monthly fee to access exclusive content from creators they follow, including Stories and Live videos. The different tiers will range in price from $0.99 to $99.99 per month depending what the creator decides to charge, and a purple badge will denote a subscriber’s status to the creator/influencer in the comments section. Meta-owned Instagram says it doesn’t plan to take a cut of creators’ subscription revenue until next year at the earliest.