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Instagram tries to pull off a Netflix but will its subscription feature find takers?

Although players in the influencer market space expect creator earnings to see a boost, some also pointed out that India is a price-sensitive market and the subscription model would discourage users from using Instagram.

November 16, 2021 / 11:46 AM IST
Instagram said that it has worked with third-party experts to gather advise and tips on how the

Instagram said that it has worked with third-party experts to gather advise and tips on how the "Take a Break" feature could work.

Content creator and entrepreneur Masoom Minawala, who has 1.1 million followers on Instagram, said a subscription feature on the platform is something she wished for.

“I’ve been in the industry for almost 10 years and something like this when I was starting off would have given a sense of security,” she said.

Facebook-owned social media platform Instagram is testing a subscription feature which is live on App Store in India at Rs 89 per month. The feature will allow creators to put exclusive content behind paywall, giving influencers another way to monetise content.

“It will be extremely encouraging for the creators to see their content being monetised,” said Tarini Shah, a GenZ content creator with 265,000 followers on Instagram.

Content monetisation pressure


While the opportunity is good, Madhura Moulik, Co-Founder and Director of Skilfinity, a digital marketing firm, said it comes at a high mental wellbeing cost if not managed well. Plus, the feature is “skewed towards Instagram earning money than essentially creating a way for the creators to monetise their craft”.

Moulik showed that if the platform deducts 40 percent of an influencer’s earnings coming through subscriptions then the creators may not earn a lot, especially the nano and micro-influencers.

“The nano influencers (who have 1,000 to 10,000 followers) have the highest engagement rate in India. While they make the perfect contributors for generating exclusive content for paid subscribers, they may not see return on investment. Because the earnings post platform fee deduction won’t justify the time or effort spent creating exclusive content.”

She noted that for IGTV ads, Instagram splits the revenue and 55 percent lands in the creator’s pocket. As for YouTube, it takes 30 percent of the revenue earned on Super features and memberships after taxes and app store/play store fees are deducted.

Earnings via subscription

“Rs 89-a-month per user may not seem like a lot, but when weighed against the 180 million Indian users on the platform, there’s definite scope for a boost in their (creators) earnings even with the cut Instagram is likely to take,” said Mili Biswal, Head of Marketing at Zensciences, a digital marketing agency.

In terms of subscription feature’s contribution to the overall earnings of a creator, Pranav Panpalia, Founder of OpraahFx, an influencer marketing agency, said, “On a platform like YouTube, content creators are known to earn about 20-25 percent of their revenue from paid features like super chats, super stickers, and super thanks.” He estimates similar percentage in terms of content creators’ revenue via subscription feature.

Challenges in Indian market

Although players in the influencer market space expect creator earnings to see a boost, Raj Shamani, a content creator and investor with one million followers on Instagram, pointed out that India is a price-sensitive market and the subscription model would discourage users from using Instagram.

“In a country like India, where not everyone has access to digital payments, users may not be comfortable paying to see stories or access other content,” he said.

Neha Puri, CEO and Founder of Vavo Digital, had a similar take on the matter. “More the platforms come up with this sort of feature (subscription), the more people will start looking for free things in India. I feel it can strategically be difficult to attract followers to pay money to see you.”

Will subscription suit Indians?

Sagar Pushp, Co-Founder and CEO of ClanConnect, an influencer marketing platform, said that if apps like Amazon Prime and Netflix have seen such a positive response from the Indian market, it is also possible for Instagram to taste success with its subscription model.

“The odds are in Instagram’s favour, given India’s massive user base. Even if the percentage of followers who go for subscriptions is tiny, it will translate to a substantial number of Individuals using the feature,” he said.

Aayush Tiwari, VP, Talent Management and Music Business, Monk Entertainment, noted that in the past, “we have seen decent community support where users don’t mind paying a certain fees to avail more of their favourite content”.

Adding to this, Ajay Kudva, CEO and Founder, en:lyft, an influencer marketing agency, said, “With this subscription feature, creators can focus on creating quality user-focused content.”

Who will benefit the most?

“This feature will allow the creators from domains like education, reviewers, speakers, experienced individuals who have their own courses to earn more and make their business more sustainable. Have seen doctors to real estate agents use Instagram very creatively to get more clients,” Abhyudaya Mohan and Gautami Kawale, creators of YouTube channel Slayy Point, with over 5.6 million, said.

Shuchi Sethi, Business Head at AnyTag India, an influencer marketing platform thinks that lifestyle and comedy influencers who get more traction on their profile will benefit from this feature.

Panpalia thinks micro-influencers who create selling content and enjoy the most loyal fanbase will have a great opportunity to monetise their content.

Moulik said that over 50 percent of Instagram’s user base are nano influencers, according to Statista data.

Micro influencer Urmila Lawekar, with 66,000 influencers on Instagram, said that the subscription feature is a big opportunity for creators in India. especially for those who make premium quality videos and are yet not rewarded that greatly.

“Also, brand deals for such content may differ. Targeting a specific group, brand deals cost for exclusive content will only increase,” she said.
Maryam Farooqui
first published: Nov 13, 2021 11:50 am
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