Adam Mosseri, Instagram’s CEO, recently discussed the platform’s challenges with creator monetization. In a 90-minute conversation with Colin and Samir, Mosseri admitted that programs such as the Reels Play Bonuses were expensive and produced low-quality material.

Burning issues with creator payments

Mosseri covered a wide range of Instagram-related topics, but the difficulty of paying creators took up a large portion of the discussion.

He explained, “We work hard, contrary to popular belief, on trying to keep them happy.” He did point out, though, that just a small group of creators depend on income.

“The vast majority of creators are very small and too small to monetize meaningfully. And so, yes, they care about monetization, they want to hear about monetization, but it’s actually not the thing they can or should really focus on,” he said.

YouTube vs. Instagram: a monetization battle

Colin noted that, in contrast to Instagram, YouTube creators are very keen on making money. Recognizing YouTube’s success, Mosseri referred to the platform’s AdSense program as the “best in class” for monetizing creative content. He believed that because they have more viewers, bigger creators are more significant.

Reels play and photo bonuses

Reels Play on Instagram was discontinued more than a year ago. Since then, occasional bonuses — such as the current Spring Bonus in the United States, Japan, and Korea — have been the main source of monetization. Originally centered around videos, these incentives now feature photo posts. Mosseri said, “It’s much easier to make those programs ROI-positive for photos than for videos.”

Quality concerns and replacement value

Mosseri expressed concerns about the quality of content produced for bonuses, stating, “That drop [in quality] is much lower for photos than for Reels.”

Another issue is “replacement value,” meaning that content made for bonuses might not add new engagement. “From a business perspective, if we hadn’t paid you $1,000, we would’ve made the exact same amount of revenue,” Mosseri explained.

Slow progress in monetization

Instagram has taken a long time to monetize its creators. Every few months, there is a bonus round where the revenue is assessed to determine whether or not paid content boosts it.

According to Mosseri, Instagram would keep “iterating” its bonuses in the United States, Japan and Korea. Mosseri concluded the monetization talk by saying, “Rev share’s not the only way to make money as a creator.”