YouTube is no longer just for water-skiing squirrels and pre-teen girls facing off about which of the three Jonas Brothers is the hottest. In light of record-low unemployment rates, the user-created video Web site is putting Americans back to work — in front of their webcams.
In October of 2006, youtube.com, then in only its second year, was bought by search engine giant Google for $1.65 million. Before the buy, Google Video was YouTube’s biggest competition, allowing all its users to upload lengthy videos, whereas on YouTube uploads were limited to a length of 10 minutes unless granted a director account. This brought advertisers and viewers looking for full-length pictures like the conspiracy theory film phenomenon Zeitgeist: The Movie over to Google’s side of the fence.
Google Video used its fan base and advertising power to create an Internet super-hub for self-expression via YouTube. In early 2008, to promote this self-expression — and, of course, to generate revenue — Google created the YouTube Partner Program, a sector of Google Ads used to pay YouTube stars for their work.
According to the partnership’s homepage, “YouTube partners are independent video creators and media companies who are looking for online distribution and who meet (the partnership’s) qualifications. Becoming a partner gives you the ability to share in ad revenue from your YouTube videos.”
This may come as music to the ears of relentless vloggers and undeclared college students searching for their lot in life, but becoming a YouTube partner isn’t as simple as becoming a partner at your local food co-op. To become a partner, users must meet three qualifications: They must create original videos suitable for representation by YouTube, own the copyrights for all video and audio used and upload videos regularly that are viewed by thousands of YouTube users.
Such exclusivity is unusual for Google Ads, as on blogspot.com anyone who wishes to add the application can. This is because Google Ads on BlogSpot are all from Google’s small business AdSense program, which doesn’t bring in nearly as much money per advertiser as YouTube, according to an AdSense support representative. Support of Google Ads on blogs typically brings in 3 to 5 cents per hit for bloggers.
The YouTube Partner Program, on the other hand, deals with the big corporate bucks. Sponsors include the likes of Sony, Verizon, LG, CBS and McDonald’s, to name a few, and their advertising dollars will be spent only in a medium in which they can reach hundreds of thousands of people. Michael Buckley of buckhollywood.com was one of the first handful of video creators to make it as a YouTube partner. His online show What the Buck?, a commentary on all things celebrity, comes out three times a week and averages more than 200,000 views an episode. Buckley told the New York Times that his show earned him over $100,000 in 2008, the year in which his videos were most viewed.
Buckley may be a case of one-in-a-million YouTube stardom, but one doesn’t have to be a household name to gain sponsorship. Newer YouTube channels with only a few videos at 25,000 views a piece have gained sponsorship, and YouTube moderators help give potential partners a jump start by featuring some of their favorite videos of the day on the homepage.
Heather Jayne, a senior majoring in social work, is grateful for the partnership program because even if not everyone can make it big on YouTube, everyone can benefit from it.
“Everything is online now, so everyone gains from this. The people who make the videos make money, the people who make the ads make money and the people watching these videos get free entertainment,” she said.
Commenting on the press coverage of the YouTube Partner Program on his live BlogTV webcast last month, Buckley shared this sentiment with his viewers and all of YouTube:
“It’s nice to see people off of YouTube getting successful and creating positive press attention. It’s (no longer) like a viral and freakish ‘Oh! Do you believe these kids did that on YouTube!’ kind of thing anymore. It really is a great day for YouTube.”