Yesterday, YouTube announced a significant change in policy that will reward anyone who posts popular user-generated content with cash. Essentially, they will identify any video as it gains popularity, then contact the owner who posted it and ask if they will allow their content to carry advertising. The two parties will then split the proceeds based on views with the content-provider earning the majority. In the words of a spokesman, “Very popular videos can make thousands of dollars a month.”
All of which is a pretty amazing reset of the status quo. Until now, YouTube has functioned as a predominantly-amateur crowdsourcing community with the only real reward for amateur posters being pride and public recognition…and possibly a Tonight Show appearance if they earn spectacular hits. Now however, they are introducing cash into the equation and on at least some level, that positions YouTube as a viable commercial platform for producers of micro-video content. Find a prairie dog making a funny expression, cut it to a ten second clip and you could conceivably make thousands for your hobby: that’s YouTube’s new premise.
Of course, larger providers already do this. Record companies post videos with integrated pitches to sell albums or downloads, TV shows post their content to advertise their programs (Susan Boyle anyone?). In these instances, adding further advertising would create a meta situation: attaching advertising to sell a product to advertising already selling something else. But that really isn’t their play. Instead, they are squarely targeting the amateurs posting clips of a muddled young Davids dealing with dental anesthesia, jolly, giggling babies and skateboarders taking spectacular faceplants.
Will bringing money to the equation upend the crowdsourcing community currently posting nearly a year’s worth of original content to YouTube every day? Will it be seen as polluting the site’s democracy with professional commerce? And will this platform ultimately pay off for advertisers?
Only time will tell, but once again, our media landscape continues to evolve with breathtaking speed, introducing ever more legitimate niche platforms. It will be interesting to see if this leads to a new video gold rush, as stage-parents and pet lovers and kid-auteurs add to the already-dunning crush of original content YouTube posts every day.
In fact, I should call a few makers of skateboarding safety equipment: I have an idea for a smart new place to invest their tiny marketing budgets…