Advertisers who relied on TikTok to reach a wide audience have all but exited the short-format video space.
After the Indian government banned short-format video app TikTok on June 29, a string of strikingly similar apps cropped up. That apart, Facebook’s Instagram launched Reels for the Indian market in early July, and YouTube introduced its own TikTok rival — Shorts — in September.
Before it was banned, TikTok had about 200 million users in India and 120 million monthly active users (MAUs). The void left by TikTok has resulted in its users and content creators scrambling to find the next best alternative, resulting in the fragmentation of the app’s user base. Consequently, advertisers who relied on TikTok to reach a wide audience have all but exited the short-format video space.
Despite a number of new apps offering advertising opportunities such as hashtag challenges, video ads and branded filters, advertisers are wary. “Brands that were advertising on TikTok have not moved their spends to new short-format video platforms. They prefer to invest on platforms they have more faith in, such as Instagram, Facebook and YouTube,” says Suraj Nambiar, managing partner and national media head, Tonic Worldwide.
Platforms such as Roposo, Trell and Chingari find far fewer takers than TikTok, say digital media buyers. Roposo has around 55 million MAUs — nearly half that of TikTok when it was banned — and Trell has about 30 million.
Most of these platforms have not explored monetisation fully. For instance, Instagram’s Reels is yet to be monetised, and YouTube Shorts is currently testing waters in India. Roposo, says Bikash Chowdhury, CMO, Glance, the company that owns the app, offers two main advertising solutions for brands: standard display advertising (static), and video and brand integrations through hashtag challenges.
Shrenik Gandhi, CEO and co-founder, White Rivers Media, says the apps that are hoping to be the new TikTok lack the technological prowess. “The algorithms that made TikTok addictive and, therefore, an attractive avenue for advertisers, were very advanced. The app could recommend personalised content on loop to keep the user scrolling endlessly,” he adds.
Some like Trell want to carve a niche of their own to get out of TikTok’s shadow. “Our differentiator is that we are a three-to-five-minute storytelling plus commerce app, where 70% of our content creators are women,” says Sahil Deswal, its VP – growth and monetisation. Kiko TV, meanwhile, has focussed its efforts on social commerce.
Since monetisation is highly dependent on the number of users, content is a big draw on these platforms. However, content creators have no incentive to be present on a platform with few users. “On average, about 10-15% of users on a platform are active content creators,” says Chowdhury. This chicken and egg situation has prompted platforms to enrol popular content creators on their apps as a first step towards monetisation.
Actor-comedian Danish Sait has been roped in by Roposo to create cricketing content. MX Player’s TakaTak has added rapper Badshah to its list of celebrity content creators. Zee5’s HiPi is creating dance, fitness, and IPL-based content with influencers, actors and stand-up comedians.
Another approach is strategic content tie-ups. Chingari and Roposo have entered into strategic content partnerships with ALTBalaji, while Sharechat has acquired HPF Films, a digital video production company, to augment content on its short-format video app Moj.
Additionally, platforms are signing exclusivity deals that will force the creator to post content only on one app and not move back to TikTok if the app returns. For example, in an exclusive content tie-up, a content creator with four million followers could earn `2 lakh every month for a period of six months. Further, the platform could repackage and migrate a person’s TikTok content onto their apps for a hefty sum.