In the future everyone will be famous for 15 dollars

This column was written for The Stirrer website:

Money can do funny things to people. Some can’t stop spending, some can’t stop hoarding, some can’t stop giving it away.

For YouTube, recent beneficiaries of a Google buyout, it’s a bit of a mixed bag as, awash with Google money, and with the prospect of actually making some profit off the back of their vast catalogue of videos, the video sharing site have finally done the decent thing and said they will share advertising revenue with users who upload popular content.

So if you have a funny video of your dog, a friend who mimes amusingly to popular songs, or a great concept for a short film rattling around your brain, this may be the time to think about uploading one of the above to the YouTube community.

Of course, the concept is not a new one – many of YouTube’s rivals also offer a cut of ad revenue – while Google’s own AdSense technology offers bloggers and website owners the opportunity to earn money in exchange for allowing Google to place dynamically generated ads on their website.

And the fact that YouTube should do this is no huge surprise. Given that Google/YouTube was offering to pay media companies like Disney and NBC for their content (translation: “please don’t sue us for copyright infringement”), the only way to stop disgruntled amateur video posters leaving in protest was to apply this to anyone providing popular content – and YouTube’s popularity is not based on previews of 24.

But the real story here is that the sheer size of YouTube’s audience, and the popularity of some of its videos, means we could be seeing the birth of the video equivalent of iTunes or Blogger – a way of publishing directly to your audience, and earning a living from it, without the need for a major broadcaster or production house.

YouTube has already made a number of ‘stars’ who have been picked up by large broadcasters, ad agencies and other companies off the back of impressive online work. But this announcement means online content creators may no longer need establishment approval and the offer of a job to make money from their work – just some very good ideas – or at least a very talented pet.

Add in the ‘Long Tail’ potential of YouTube – the potential to make lots of little sums of money from videos that appeal to niche markets – and we could be looking at a future where everyone will be famous for 15 dollars.

Useful links:
YouTube to pay contributors
Web sites begin to pay for content

Paul Bradshaw lectures on the Journalism degree at UCE Birmingham media department.

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