Creators are the stars of tech earnings calls

Which social media platform cares the most about creators?

There are countless ways one could try to measure that, but one of the simplest is to listen to how often the companies talk about creators during their quarterly earnings calls. And based on the recent spate of calls, one might get the impression that social giants Snap and Meta are deprioritizing creators, while Alphabet (via YouTube) can’t get enough of socials’ main characters.

It’s fascinating because creators drive users and advertisers to social platforms, but as the creator economy matures and tech giants prioritize “efficiency” (layoffs), it seems courting and compensating creators is no longer trendy.

In the latest Meta earnings call CEO and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg only mentioned creators once. As he talked broadly about artificial intelligence opportunities across Meta’s family of apps, he notes, “I expect that these tools will be valuable for everyone from regular people to creators to businesses.”

That’s it. 

At this time last year, Zuckerberg made creators a hallmark of his earnings call. “I believe our investments in A.I., all the different types of content we support, and our work to build the best platforms for creators to make a living will increasingly set our services apart from the rest of the industry and drive our success,” he said, going on to highlight revenue opportunities for creators in the metaverse.

While there are a million other factors at play—notably metaverse de-emphasis—the company beat Wall Street expectations on revenue, earnings, and users in the first quarter with year-over-year revenue growth after three quarters of revenue declines, per CNBC.

Down the California coast, Snap—whose executives mentioned “creators” a whopping 33 times in keynotes at last week’s annual dog-and-pony-show Partner Summit—only mentioned creators when prompted by investors in this quarter’s earnings call. It is, however, worth noting that Snap’s call was more devoted to question-and-answer than those of Meta and Alphabet.  

In response to an investor characterizing “confidence in [Evan Spiegel] and the team” as “the big challenge” (yikes), Snap chief financial officer Derek Andersen says, “The investments we’re making in the creator stories program, which you noted, were much smaller in scale are deepening monetizable engagement. And we’ve been pleased to see this drive really significant growth in impression inventory over the last two quarters.” (UPDATE: A Snap representative notes that the company’s investor letter, which is published ahead of the earnings call, mentions creators more than ten times).

Downplaying the investment into creators and highlighting the income squeezed from their content is a far cry from this time last year, where Snap executives called out “creators” a hearty 16 times during the first quarter earnings call. “There are many different ways for creators to grow an audience and build a business on Snapchat,” said CEO and cofounder Evan Spiegel on last year’s call, as he and his team discussed creator opportunities in augmented reality, lenses, Spotlight, Creator Marketplace, Stories and so on. 

Again, plenty of other things are at play, but Snap clocked revenue at $989 million this quarter, down 7% from the same period of last year when the company generated $1.06 billion. After posting results from Q1 2023, the stock plunged. 

Meanwhile, Alphabet, which quite obviously encompasses the non-social business of Google, devoted significant portions of this year’s earnings call to courting creators on YouTube, with executives invoking creators 14 times during the one-hour call, and emphasizing Shorts as the “number one” priority for the company’s video arm. 

This remains fairly consistent from last year, when Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said, “We are continuing to invest in making Shorts a fantastic experience for creators and viewers alike,” on the first quarter earnings call.

Still, YouTube operated at a loss this year. The $6.7 billion it generated in first quarter 2023 advertising revenue dropped 2.6% from this period last year. It’s a less brutal decline than the 7.8% drop it suffered in the last quarter, but red is red.

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Alexandra Sternlicht

Data Sheet’s daily news section was written and curated by Andrea Guzman. 


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