Creating fast, secure and flexible payments for the creator economy

March 29, 2023 | By Anton Kornilov
Content creator using microphone

For many, the concept of a "content creator" can seem vague. But for younger generations, it couldn’t be more normal and self-explanatory.

With the rise of social media, more and more people are taking to platforms like Instagram, YouTube and TikTok to broadcast and blog about their lives and interests. The industry has boomed in recent years, and it’s now reported an estimated 50 million people worldwide work in the content creator economy, with the industry valued at $100 billion.

It’s no surprise that for more young people becoming a professional influencer is now seen as a viable career path. A recent survey showed that the drive to turn social media posts and content creation online into sustainable income is highest among America's youngest generation of workers. In fact, almost two-thirds of creators told us they envision turning their endeavors into businesses, as their end goal is to create a value exchange that honors their content.

Some might argue that young people are simply choosing an easy career path, but anyone who’s an influencer knows what it requires: round-the-clock work, producing content daily - and even hourly - to maintain your audience and the revenue that stems from it. In many ways, it epitomises the "always on" digital world we live in, where we expect to access services in real-time from wherever we are.

But if there’s one aspect of the content creator industry where this doesn’t ring true, it’s in how creators get paid.

Eight in ten creators told us they make money by leveraging multiple revenue streams to build financial security. This can include paid or sponsored posts, marketing referrals, platform fees based on number of views, tips, and donations. And, creators unanimously agree that there will be more ways to monetize in the future. More than four fifths (84%) believe that, “In the next three years, more platforms will be developed for people to make a decent income as a content creator.”

But getting this money into their accounts is not straightforward. Many face slow or late payments, with little visibility around transactions and further challenges when receiving payments in a different currency. More than half say that financial challenges, from invoicing, chasing down payments, taxes and inconsistent income streams, are one of the most frustrating parts of their businesses and key inhibitors to growth. Of these financial challenges, inconsistent and unpredictable income streams are a top barrier with nearly a third of creators citing it as a concern.

This is a challenge not only for the creators themselves, but for the platforms that host their content. Attracting and retaining content creators is critical to platforms’ business model, but if payments aren’t rooted in speed, choice and security, many influencers will simply vote with their feet. Indeed, there have been recent reports of creators leaving platforms for rivals due to payments becoming ‘erratic’.

If there’s one aspect of the content creator industry where this doesn’t ring true, it’s in how creators get paid.

For creators, secure and fast payments were the top "must haves" from a digital platform. So, those platforms that offer these – and the financial control and peace of mind that stem from them – will set themselves apart from the competition, retain the most influential content creators and attract those away from platforms with unreliable payments.

At Mastercard, we’ve been focused on helping content creators and digital platforms that host their content overcome these challenges. It’s why we now offer platforms the ability to provide near real-time and secure payments around the world for their creators. Using our Send technology, part of Mastercard Transfer Solutions product family, they can pay their creator community on their terms.

We’re giving creators the choice to get paid quickly and securely in a way that works for them. Choice in payments is paramount for creators, with many saying a mobile wallet – rather than a traditional bank account – is their preference for receiving payment as it helps them better manage their finances. This is why we enable our customers to offer creators to receive payments to digital wallets and payment cards, as well as in the currency of their choosing – reflecting the fact that the creator economy is truly global in nature and scale.

Mastercard is already changing the way creators get paid. We have broad partnerships and collaboration with those in the content creation industry, including some of the top leading social media platforms. And with the creator economy booming, we’re continuing to develop solutions that resolve creators’ pain points.

The creator economy is transforming and democratising the way people engage with media around the world. But unless we solve crucial issues like those in payments, we risk stifling its potential.

By offering creators and platforms a faster, more secure way to pay and get paid, we can provide talent with the financial control and peace of mind they desire, and enable platforms to scale and grow by attracting and retaining that talent. 

Anton Kornilov, Senior vice president, Transfer Solutions