Britain Lockhart never knows what he will find when he dives for treasures. Nor his viewers on Facebook who reveal a surprise. His page, Depths of History, has grown steadily on the social network since he started posting videos there about two years ago. He now has 70,000 followers on his site, which has started generating thousands of dollars a month in advertising revenue.
“I did not really think it would be so profitable at all, but Facebook has so many users on the interface who do not even use YouTube, but they want to be on Facebook,” he says, adding that he ̵
His income varies, although he says he will typically earn between $ 2,000 and $ 3,000 per month via Facebook. But in 2021 so far, the income has unexpectedly dried up. The payout in January was only $ 931, leaving him thousands of dollars. In February, it was even lower and came in at just $ 664. He double-checked the creator’s backend, and the numbers didn’t make sense there either. Facebook’s revenue estimation tool estimates he should have received $ 3,397 for January and $ 1,477.52 for February. When the checks came in, he ended up with more than $ 4,000
“It was like a slap in the face,” Lockhart said. “I was looking forward to buying more camera equipment to grow my business, buying things that could extend me to working with Facebook and working with YouTube.”
And he is not the only one who is not fully paid. The Verge spoke with two other Facebook video creators, all of whom say the company shorted them with cash and ignored their requests for help. The creators had no reason to question the amount they were paid since Facebook’s estimated revenue tools almost always reflected their actual payouts. Usually they would be short at just a few hundred dollars. But after their income worked for two months in a row, the creators said they were looking at the problem. All three say the problems began in January, around the time Facebook switched to its new Pages experience and made updates on how creators can make money.
The sudden change is particularly alarming due to Facebook’s ambiguous approach to revenue sharing in general. The company’s core business has always been direct, targeted advertising, but Facebook now sees an opportunity to share revenue with video creators, in line with YouTube or Twitch. Facebook has claimed all kinds of creators – gamers, writers and video hosts – through broader revenue generation options, such as in-stream ads, shopping and even subscription newsletters. It is still unclear how many creators are on Facebook, but the strategy seems to be working. Facebook says that there are more than 1 million stores across the app and Instagram, and that from 2019 to 2020, the number of content creators on Facebook increased by $ 10,000 per month, 88 percent, and creators who earned $ 1,000 per month increased by 94 percent .
But these creators say that Facebook only cares about advertisers, so they have no one to turn to when their payments are unexpectedly short. They reached out for help, but the company gave them no feedback on what could be wrong.
After The Verge reached out for comment, however, Facebook said it “solved a technical issue that prevented a small number of video creators on Facebook from receiving their full in-stream payouts.”
“We are notifying these partners that they will receive the remaining in-stream payments during the payout cycle in April, and we apologize for any inconvenience,” a spokesman said in an email.
This is good news for creators who get a discount, but still an alarming precedent – to hold back thousands of dollars for months with little explanation or guarantee that the same problem will not recur in the future.
Volodymyr Popkov, the creator of the page Painting Inspiration, which demonstrates tutorials for acrylic paints, suggests that Facebook does not value the creators who make the platform thrive. “They have live chat Facebook support for people who spend money on the ads, who bring along [Facebook] their money, but for people like us, the creators, they owe us money right now, and they do nothing, ”he says.
Facebook estimated that Popkov would receive $ 13,000 in January, he says, but he received only $ 4,600. In February, he was estimated to receive $ 29,000, but earned only $ 6,400. He knows the number is only an estimate, but he says he has not seen any change in the number of viewers on his videos – at least not enough to explain a shortfall of $ 32,000. This is a special problem because Popkov hires artists to create works of art for the site. His Facebook income serves as a salary for them, along with the income from YouTube.
Another creator, Erik Reed, on the page Outdoors With Erik, says he owed over $ 10,000 and went off the estimation tools. He specifically joined Facebook because other creators told him that revenue generation options and engagement levels were worthwhile.
Facebook has a long history of scary calculations that cause problems for partners. Earlier this month, court documents showed that Facebook gave advertisers “inflated and misleading” calculations for many years about how many people their ads reached. The company apparently knew that the reach of these ads was enhanced by fake and duplicate accounts, but chose not to delete them. A spokesman told Facebook The Verge at the time that this reach tool only gave “an estimate”, even though Facebook reportedly knew that the advertisers had based decisions around the calculation. The company also previously faced a lawsuit claiming that it deliberately overestimated how much video content users were watching. Facebook decided the suit in 2019.
The creators who talked to The Verge have all spread out from Facebook to avoid being dependent on one platform; they run all YouTube channels along with their Facebook pages as well as with other social pages. For the revenue sharing model to work, Facebook needs creators to be happy and post. But increasingly, creators are skeptical of the company’s incentives.
“Working with platforms is difficult,” says Popkov. “And you do not work with yours [own] platform, so it’s not like I can trust them. ”