Can You Tube really make it Rain?: Why the average user creator matters

According to today’s New York Times article, YouTube Videos Pull In Real Money, we could be making the big bucks on You Tube:

One year after YouTube, the online video powerhouse, invited members to become “partners” and added advertising to their videos, the most successful users are earning six-figure incomes from the Web site.

But how many people or companies are making this much money?

YouTube declined to comment on how much money partners earned on average, partly because advertiser demand varies for different kinds of videos. But a spokesman, Aaron Zamost, said “hundreds of YouTube partners are making thousands of dollars a month.”

So it is possible for me to make a living on You Tube? But wait — “some of the partners are major media companies; the ones with the most video views include Universal Music Group, Sony, BMG, and Warner Brothers.” So those that are making the most money are media companies and individuals that make lots of money this way are outliers. In looking at a story like this it is important to remember a statistics joke — if Bill Gates enters a room, on average, everyone in the room now is at least a millionaire. Very few “everyday people” are likely becoming rich through becoming a partner of YouTube, through the placement of ads around the video for a cut of the revenue.

While the author of the article states that “Sites like YouTube allow anyone with a high-speed connection to find a fan following, simply by posting material and promoting it online,” those that are creating You Tube’s user-generated content discuss how difficult it is to create and sustain a fan following.

The article’s poster child states that

I was spending 40 hours a week on YouTube for over a year before I made a dime.

The well-known Lisa Nova (Lisa Donovan) states that making bucks this way isn’t going to work for most:

Everybody’s fighting to be seen online; you have to strategize and market yourself.

And these quotes say more than the rest of the article — it is possible for ye average person to make money from user-generated content — but it is difficult to get there and the average average person (not a typo) is not likely to make much.

So who does this arrangement benefit monetarily? Popular users, called by a YouTube exec, “unintentional media companies, ” allow You Tube to to profit from non-anonymous users. While You Tube helps people “to turn these hobbies into businesses,” it also allows You Tube to better manage their site from claims of copyright violations.

The article also includes a sad refrain about the state of big media,

In a time of media industry layoffs, the revenue source — and the prospect of a one-person media company — may be especially appealing to users.

But these video producers can’t rely on a steady stream of revenue, no matter how much this serves as “an example of the Internet’s democratizing effect on publishing”! You can put your videos up on You Tube — but it doesn’t mean anyone will watch.

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