Short-form video creators are losing access to a steady source of income after Meta announced that it is pausing its Reels Play bonus.
The invite-only program, which awarded payments to users based on the video views they generate, was available for US creators on Instagram and global creators on Facebook. A spokesperson for Meta told Insider that the company’s plan is to shift to “investing in a suite of monetization solutions.”
"Creators can still monetize directly from Meta, and from the support of fans and brand partnerships, all of which have seen significant progress over the past year,” they added. Instagram head Adam Mosseri said the company paused the program to focus on making it “ROI positive.” Tom Alison, the head of Facebook, told Insider that the platform would focus on scaling ad revenue options for reels.
Though Meta says its goal is to help creators monetize their content, the news of the Reels Play bonus ending came as a shock to many creators with small- or medium-sized followings, who knew they could regularly generate video views, but not brand deals. For some, the money they make every month has helped them invest in the products needed to launch a full-time career as a creator — a dream come true for many. Others use the extra cash, usually between $100 and $1,000 per month, to pay bills.
“that was my car payment money every month 😩” Christen Nino De Guzman, a career coach for creators, commented on an Instagram post. “Honestly feels like it’s getting harder for creators everywhere,” wrote Shawn Bhatia, a food and travel content creator.
BuzzFeed News spoke with eight creators who have made steady income from the Reels Play bonus program over the past year. Their responses have been edited for length and clarity.
I am a disabled Air Force veteran and part-time student. Because of my disability, it’s harder for me to get a traditional job, so with the help of the bonus program, I was able to pour my free time into my content because I knew I was getting something monetary in return. That money has helped me elevate my content by being able to buy equipment, etc.
As a creator, most of our income is sporadic — from brand deals and collaborations that come up. The bonus program was one of the things that, as a creator, I could rely on to know that I’m for sure making [a certain] amount of money this month. I just hope that they decide to reinstate it in some form or fashion because it has helped creators like myself in many ways.
As creators, we’ve watched Instagram start a few initiatives over the years that promised to “help us make money on the platform.” However, few seem to have longevity and success.
In February 2022, they shut down in-stream video ads for creators, they canceled their affiliate program in August 2022, and now are pausing reels bonuses in the US in March 2023.
It feels like these beta programs pop up as a quick fix or headline while other important parts of the app are falling short for creators. This repeated pattern of stop-start programs and unclear expectations of how they work and who gets access for each one is mentally exhausting to keep up with. Creators are the reason for much of Instagram’s success as a platform, and I think Instagram should be prioritizing finding sustainable and long-term solutions to let creators share in that success.
The Reels Play bonus program has been pretty monumental for me as a content creator. I put so much work into my content that getting paid for it doesn’t feel like work at all. If this change is for sure happening, it’ll be pretty devastating. It's my full-time job. It’s how I’m able to continue to produce quality content for my followers and for brands.
I haven’t made tons of money off of it, but it’s been enough to help a little with my student loan payments each month. It’s going to really suck not to have that little bit of help every month.
The program has been such a big part of my life since it began. It’s an opportunity to create while also being able to invest that same funding into my businesses, music, and everyday needs. It’s probably been the most fun job I’ve had.
I’ve been a creator with Meta’s Dale Tú program as well for the past few months. We’re pushing the culture forward by bringing both the Latinx and LGBTQIA+ community together while being funded with bonuses. There most certainly are worries that we won’t be able to create without some possible funding. So much goes into creating that many don’t know about, just to keep everyone happy and seen! I just hope it’s not taken away forever.
I have been using Reels Play bonuses and have been generating a few hundred dollars per month on the platform. I'm saddened to hear that a program that was being tested in the US, and eventually being rolled out worldwide, was being taken away. I'm remaining optimistic that hopefully Meta will be coming up with an alternative solution for creators, but time will tell.
It is unfortunate that I won’t have access to this funding, because it was all being reinvested into my platform and, ultimately, my brand. It has helped pay for state-of-the-art production equipment and software that allows me to create high-quality content for my followers and community. Without this funding, the delivery of my content will be impacted. I will have to build a new strategy in the meantime.
I’m extremely disappointed and a little surprised, at the news about the IG Reels bonuses ending. I’ve been lucky enough to have been in the program since November 2021 and have earned more than $10,000 during that time. It’s been a great incentive, especially compared to the TikTok Creator Fund, and I find the current monetization tools on IG very lacking. But it’s a good reminder to all creators to diversify their income streams. I truly hope they create something else comparable moving forward, because this has really left a sour taste in so many people’s mouths.