Snapchat Takes on TikTok: Snap Launches Spotlight, Will Pay Creators Over $1M Daily for Top Videos

Snapchat Spotlight
Courtesy of Snap

Snapchat users, put on your thinking Snaps: The app company is launching its first program to pay creators for the most-viewed daily video posts, which will be showcased in a new TikTok-like feed.

Snap is launching Snapchat Spotlight, which will show users a stream of publicly submitted posts surfaced based on personalized content algorithms. Snapchatters who contribute to Spotlight are eligible to get a cut of more than $1 million daily, doled out based on popularity. It’s a bid by Snap to keep top creative talent on its platform — as it faces growing competition from short-form video rivals TikTok and Instagram.

Snap has funded some creator projects before. But Spotlight represents its first program to systematically pay money for user-generated content. The company is emphasizing the meritocratic structure, with anyone (16 or older) eligible to earn cash from their creative efforts.

“Spotlight shines a light on the most entertaining Snaps created by the Snapchat community, no matter who created them,” the company said in a blog post announcing the program. “We built Spotlight to be a place where anyone’s content can take center stage — without needing a public account or an influencer following.”

For now, Snap is positioning Spotlight’s payment program as an experiment. It will run the $1 million daily payout at least through the end 2020 “and potentially beyond.” Earnings are determined by a proprietary formula primarily based on the total number of unique video views a Snap gets in a given day (calculated using Pacific Time) as compared with the performance of other user posts in Spotlight that day. The company noted that it will “actively monitor for fraud to ensure that we only account for authentic engagement with Snaps.”

Spotlight started appearing in the Snapchat last week, showing up as a fifth tab in the Snapchat app on the far right-hand side (joining Map, Chat, Camera and Stories/Discover).

At launch, Spotlight will not have advertising but the company expects to add that in the coming months. Spotlight is first available in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and France.

Spotlight’s content algorithms are tailored to individual users to show Snaps you are are most likely to be interested in, according to the company. It’s an approach akin to the way TikTok’s main feed is populated. Snap’s ranking algorithm looks at factors such as the amount of time someone spent watching a piece of content; whether it’s favorited; and whether it’s shared with friends. It also considers negative factors, including whether the viewer skipped watching the Snap quickly.

On the other hand, Snap is trying to diversify content in users’ Spotlight feed and mitigate against “echo chambers” in a way the company claims will distribute views more fairly across a broad group of creators.

For example, “if you show us in Spotlight that you really like dogs, we want to give you entertaining puppy Snaps to enjoy!” Snap explained in the blog. “But we also want to make sure we’re surfacing other types of content, other creators, and other adjacent interest areas for you, like creators who focus on nature, videos about travel, or even just other animals.”

To appear on Spotlight, all posts must comply with Snap’s Community Guidelines and the company said human moderators will monitor Spotlight content for policy violations. Among other things, the guidelines prohibit posting of false information (including conspiracy theories), misleading content, hate speech, explicit or profane content, bullying, harassment and violence.

In another safety measure, content in Spotlight doesn’t allow for public comments. Snapchatters will eventually be able to directly reply in response to a Spotlight Snap from someone with a public profile, but not at launch. The company plans to filter out spam and hateful comments from direct replies, and will let Snapchat users with public profiles add a custom list of words they don’t want to see in replies.

In addition, Snap will age-restrict public profiles for users who submit to Spotlight only to those who are 18 or older. (That said, like every other internet platform, Snapchat relies on users providing their actual birth dates to apply age-gated features.)

Snapchat Spotlight is, ultimately, a move to compete more directly with TikTok and Instagram’s Reels. As part of that strategy, Snap has expanded its creative tool set, including last month launching Sounds on Snapchat, the ability to incorporate a curated list of music into Snaps as well as record sounds for Snaps and make them available to the whole community. It also now lets Snapchat creators share their follower counts to be on par with other platforms.

Snap said it will soon launch additional new creator tools, including the ability to use captions throughout Snaps; a continuous shooting mode for longer-form Snaps; and the ability to trim singular Snaps.

Watch the launch video for Snapchat Spotlight: