YouTube Starts Paying Star Users

YouTube is going to start helping some of its indie video content creators make money, starting tomorrow. The company will launch a program that puts the creators of some of the more popular YouTube channels — including Lonelygirl15, LisaNova, HappySlip, renetto, Smosh, and valsartdiary — on the same playing field as large media partners like CBS.

“A select group of content creators will get promotion on the YouTube platform, and we will help them monetize their content,” said Jamie Byrne, head of product marketing, in an interview on Thursday. “This will help erase the the stigma around the user-created content, and, to be honest, these guys are media entities in their own right.”

While YouTube had previously said it might populate videos with pre-or-post roll ads as soon as this summer, the monies for the new program will come from the sales of banner ads.

“We want to ensure that these talented people can start making a living off their efforts,” said Byrne. “We hope this will inspire others to create their own original content.”

YouTube has to worry about its video hosting becoming a commodity. The site is now trying to reach out to some of its big traffic drivers and reward them with more than statuettes. Byrne said 20 to 40 star producers would be included in the initial rollout, with more potentially added in the future.

YouTube is the latest video site to start sharing revenue with its users; Revver and Metacafe are two companies that jump-started the share-the-green movement. The move shouldn’t be a surprise, though one has to wonder what took them so long. At one point, some YouTube stars up and left for promises of payment at competing site LiveVideo. And creators such as Lonelygirl15 and Ask a Ninja actively promote their Revver uploads as opposed to their YouTube ones because Revver viewings earn them money.

YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley had previously said that the absence of monetary reward was essential to creating a YouTube community that wasn’t motivated by the wrong reasons.

Now, nurturing its indie community base with rewards seems like a good idea for YouTube and its parent Google, who face hostility from large media companies.

When we asked YouTube executives how much can a typical content creator can expect, their responses were not specific. There is significant advertiser interest in advertising against some of the top shows, they say, and the money will certainly be enough to increase the quality of creators’ production.

Whichever way you look at it, this is a good development for content creators who are looking to turn a labor of love into a full time gig.

Co-written with Liz Gannes. More on YouTube blog.