Thukten Zangpo 

Bhutanese digital content creators are not able to earn as much compared to those in other countries.

The bottlenecks are Bhutan not being recognised or not being eligible to register for monetisation on various digital platforms and its small population size.

For content creators in Bhutan, registration for monetisation is usually done from Singapore, Australia, India, and the United States of America via Google AdSense.

One of the popular platforms, YouTube, in Bhutan earns only around USD 200 to USD 400 a month. Similar content in other countries earns around USD 1,000 a month.

In Bhutan, most of the content pages meet the basic eligibility criteria for monetisation. YouTube needs at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 views. A minimum of 10,000 followers is required for Facebook and Tik Tok platforms.

Yeshey Lhendup from Yeshey Lhendup Films said that Bhutan is not in the option for monetisation or is not eligible in the region because of the small-sized population.

Yeshey Lhendup films have 160K subscribers on the YouTube page. He earns about USD 200 a month. “A similar YouTube page in other countries could earn at least USD 1,000 per month.”

YouTube gives USD 1 for every 3,000 views in other eligible countries.

Yeshey Lhendup said that on Facebook, YouTube, and Tik Tok platforms if the viewers are from outside Bhutan, the earnings are more. 

“Not much difference is made by the Bhutanese viewers.” Videos viewed outside Bhutan come with the ads attached to the video.

He has both PayPal and Bank of Bhutan’s (BoB) SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) code accounts. Yeshey Lhendup said that he uses SWIFT for the money transactions. However, PayPal does not work in Bhutan, and withdrawing money is difficult.

A SWIFT code is a standard format of Bank Identified Code used to specify a particular bank or branch. The code is used when transferring money between banks, particularly for international wire transfers.

Yeshey Lhendup said that the income earned from YouTube is withdrawn annually because it incurs fees for every transaction; USD 16 is charged for every transaction.

He said that he creates the content expecting content manager to change the policy in the future.

A blogger, Passang Tshering, said that prospects of making money from the digital platforms are slim because of low viewership in Bhutan. “Most of the videos do not receive a million views. There is no recognition for the Bhutanese content creators and they fake their accounts from other countries to monetise,” he said, adding that it should be a nation’s initiative to address it.

Passang Tshering said that earning is better on YouTube than on blogs. He earned only USD 70 from his blog after a year of operation.

Another social media influencer, a travel blogger, Tshering Denkar, said that the location is the biggest challenge for any digital content creator. “There is no provision for monetisation in our country and Bhutan is not recognised in the cyber world.”

One of the challenges she shared is that data is very expensive in Bhutan, the other being complicated payment gateway.

“Creating content is not a challenge but generating income like other content creators around the world is challenging,” Tshering Denkar said, adding that population dynamics play a huge role.

An official from the Department of Information and Media, Ministry of Information and Communications said that PayPal payment gateway is easier but PayPal refused to consider Bhutan given the small market size.

Chief Executive Officer of the first OTT platform, Samuh, Nyema Zam, said that the company uses three international payment gateways, namely BoB’s e-payment gateway, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.

She added that the company explored alternative payment services, Apple Pay and Google Pay because the BoB’s e-payment gateway accepts only VISA and MasterCard and the company’s success was not as expected.

Anyone with a credit card can pay online directly through the apps and Google or Apple transfers the amount to the partner bank, BoB.

Nyema Zam said that Apple Pay and Google Pay work for only app purchases and not for website payments.

However, she said the process was lengthy as one must establish the company’s authenticity and legitimacy.

According to the Department of Information Technology and Telecom, the monetisation of digital media platforms is dependent on the internal priorities of companies like Google, Facebook, etc.

“It is the size of the country’s population, among other things, that affects the decision to enable such features in a country,” it stated.