Viva La Revolution Free9/10/2014
Since the turn of century, when the Internet began consuming our attention spans, we’ve all been champions of “Revolution Free.” Napster started the uprising with free music, content aggregators such as Google News and Huffington Post stoked the flames with free news, torrent services gave us entertainment, and social networks gave us communication. While paywalls are starting to cordon off online content, the pulse of the revolution still beats with YouTube as its heart.
The idea of free online is, for all intents and purposes, a lie. Whether it’s your local newspaper, CNN.com, Hulu, or even YouTube, all online content providers must pay delivery, storage and also the pesky matter of compensating producers. How are these bills satiated? Advertising. And while others have turned to premium, subscription-guarded content, YouTube has subsisted on advertising for nearly a decade.
Whether you’re uploading to or streaming from YouTube, almost all content on the streaming media giant is free — that is, as long as you don’t count the advertisements. Since 2007, YouTube has offered content producers the ability to monetize their videos with pre-roll and midstream rollover advertisements, a feature with the potential to create millions of dollars in revenue for producers — but only if their videos reach millions of eyeballs.
With ad sales and rate splits a well-guarded secret, reports are content producers receive 55 percent of ad revenue, with YouTube taking 45 percent. However, the cost for ads is dirt-cheap. So low, in fact, that, depending on the popularity of your channel, producers receive somewhere between $1 and $10 for every 1,000 views. That means when if your video goes viral, has an ad in place, and reaches 1 million views, producer ad revenue could be as low as $1,000.
While not abandoning the “free” model, YouTube has tried new revenue models to increase producer returns. Over the last year, YouTube unveiled paid channels for uber-popular channels and virtual tip jars for everyone else. The hope is that viewers might see the value in paying for quality content. Although YouTube should tread lightly: Revolution Free’s loyalty is fickle and won’t think twice of moving on to the next freeloader content haven. CV
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.