Fans of popular YouTube personalities will soon have a new way to show their support for their favourite creators. Yesterday YouTube announced several new tools for YouTubers to generate revenue, including a Channel Memberships feature that will allow viewers to subscribe to channels for a monthly fee.
A general view of atmosphere at the YouTube 'Dear White People' Reception on 20 January 2014 in Park City, Utah. Photo: Getty
Made public by YouTube at the VidCon conference in Anaheim, California, the new subscription tool will give fans a chance to provide direct monetary support to YouTube creators. The membership fee will cost $US4.99 ($7) per month and will give backers access to exclusive digital goods and content.
Borrowing from the model popularised by game streaming service Twitch, YouTube's Channel Memberships is a sort of premium model subscription plan.
Instead of just subscribing to a channel and receiving videos from the creator in your feed, folks that pay the $US4.99 ($7) recurring monthly fee will get extra content and features. That includes access to "Members-only" posts in the Community tab of a channel, unique badges for their profile, and emoji.
YouTube's Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan suggested in a blog post that creators might provide exclusive live streams, extra videos made available only to members, and shout-outs in videos as other potential perks.
This isn't YouTube's first foray with the membership model. As TechCrunch pointed out, the platform has used a similar "sponsorship" feature for its game streaming service YouTube Gaming.
It also has been experimenting with the Memberships with some creators on YouTube. Mohan detailed some of the early experiments with Channel Memberships on the site's main platform:
Creators who have already been experimenting with this feature on YouTube have seen encouraging results. Since launching in January, comedy creator Mike Falzone more than tripled his YouTube revenue. And travelling duo Simon and Martina have built a closer-knit community and revamped a miniseries exclusively for their members, in more than 30 countries from Finland to the Philippines.
Not all YouTubers will be eligible to use Channel Memberships and rake in the monthly subscriber fee. Per YouTube, only channels with more than 100,000 subscribers will be able to utilise the new revenue generating tool. YouTube also is rolling out a new feature for selling merchandise that US-based creators with over 10,000 subscribers can use.
Those new tools don't quite help out YouTube's smallest creators, who already got screwed over by the platform earlier this year when YouTube pulled the ability to generate ad revenue from any channel that has fewer than 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours of watch time within the last year.
Those less-active creators, who can cultivate a tight-knit community even if the audience is small, are still without a lot of options for generating even small amounts of ancillary income from YouTube.