Snap is shelling out millions to creators as it tries to chase TikTok in the booming short-form video space.

In the six months since launching Snapchat Spotlight, a new section of the app that lets users share and watch TikTok-like user-created video clips, the company has paid out more than $130 million in total to a group of more than 5,400 creators. It made the announcement at Snap Partner Summit 2021 on Thursday.

“Snapchatters are continually rewarded for their creations, and anyone can earn from the millions per month we offer to those who make top videos,” said Reesha Sodha, head of product marketing for creator platform.

Snap is continuing to invest in Spotlight, all before the social media company throws on the monetization switch for the new section (with plans to test out ads in Spotlight later in 2021).

When it launched Spotlight, Snapchat said it would pay out more than $1 million per day to creators, based on engagement with their content (noting that “only a small percentage of creators” will receive payments). As of June 1, Snap is no longer committing to $1 million daily payouts; instead, the company said, it will pay “millions” of dollars per month.

Meanwhile, at the partner event, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel touted a new metric: He said Snapchat reaches over 500 million monthly active users globally and that the app reaches nearly 50% of all U.S. smartphone users. The company historically has reported only daily active users (which averaged 280 million in Q1). Roughly 40% of Snapchatters are now located outside of North America and Europe.

Spiegel also announced a new generation of Spectacles, Snap’s first smart glasses designed for augmented reality. And the Snap CEO announced a partnership with Disney to feature location-based AR Lenses in the Snapchat app for Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. — letting visitors take selfies with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse (who can even give you a hug) as well as virtually transform Cinderella Castle with a mosaic of moments shared by guests to celebrate the park’s 50th anniversary.

As part of doubling down on Snapchat Spotlight, the company launched a web destination for the feature at snapchat.com/spotlight. The new website lets creators who work on desktops and use advanced software tools like Final Cut Pro upload video into Spotlight directly from Chrome or Safari. It also opens up Spotlight videos for anyone on the internet, even if they don’t have a Snapchat account, to see the top-trending videos in the section.

Snap also announced Story Studio, a new standalone app designed to give creators a suite of editing tools — that are more powerful than in the baseline Snapchat app — to make professional-grade mobile content. Story Studio will allow users to see analytics insights, like what’s trending across Snapchat’s Sounds, #Topics, and Lenses, and share videos to Snapchat and other platforms. (Watch a intro video to Story Studio at this link.)

In reporting Q1 results, Snap said Spotlight reached over 125 million active users in the month of March while the number of viewers watching Spotlight for at least 10 minutes per day grew by over 70% during the first quarter of 2021 and daily video submissions increased by over 40%.

Snap also announced new monetization program for creators: Gifting, which will let users purchase tokens to buy digital “gifts” to send directly to Snap Stars (popular creators who have been certified).

Snap Stars will earn a share of the revenue from the gifts (the company declined to detail what the split will be), which are received through Story Replies and purchased via Snap Tokens. The Gifting feature will start to roll out to Snap Stars later this year on Android and iOS.

Snapchat Gifting

Snap also announced the launch of the Creator Marketplace, which it announced earlier this month during its NewFronts presentation. The Creator Marketplace lets brands find and contact verified creators, starting with top AR Lens Creators and in the future Snap Stars and Spotlight creators.

Ben Schwerin, Snap’s senior VP of content and partnerships, said the new features and programs are “the next step in the journey we started several years ago” in supporting creators on the platform. “Content is an essential part of the Snapchat ecosystem,” he said.

Over the last few years, Snapchat has added a range of features for creators including ecommerce, audience analytics and full-screen profiles. The app recently expanded many benefits of Snap Stars to other creators — for example, now all creators can create a public profile that displays their subscriber counts.

During the presentation, the company called out creators featured in Snapchat Shows, including comedian Ross Smith, whose three shows have already reached over 100 million viewers this year, and beauty mogul Nikita Dragun, whose “Nikita Unfiltered” Season 2 has been watched by over 30 million Snapchatters since its March debut.

Among other news at the 2021 Snap Partner Summit, the company announced that it is adding the Scan feature (which matches what you see through the camera with relevant AR experiences) to the Snapchat app’s home screen. It’s also launching “Screenshop,” a which lets you use Scan on a friend’s outfit to help users shop for similar looks with recommendations from hundreds of brands.

The company highlighted API-powered Snapchat Lenses, which will let brands build AR shopping lenses
(by uploading their product catalogs and 3D product assets) to provide real-time product and pricing updates. In addition to shopping, partners like Major League Baseball and Strava will use the API to feed real-time scores and stats directly into Snapchat Lenses.

Snap announced Lens Studio 4.0, which among other things adds multiperson 3D body mesh, advanced cloth simulation, and a new visual effects editor. Snap used those capabilities to create a Lens promoting Walt Disney Pictures’ “Cruella,” which debuts May 28 in theaters and on Disney Plus (for a $30 early-access fee). “With this Lens, you can sport Cruella’s infamous look, just in time for the film’s premiere,” Snap CTO Bobby Murphy said.

Part of Lens Studio 4.0 includes Connected Lenses, which lets friends interact with each other through Snapchat Lenses. For example, two people can build a Lego kit together virtually.