January 31, 2007 10:00 AM PST
Paying YouTube content creators easier said than done
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YouTube would have to figure out a way to similarly screen videos, said Campa and Luckett. This will require a "total overhaul" of YouTube's operations, Luckett predicted. YouTube has for months been promising an audio fingerprinting technology that can identify copyright material but the technology hasn't yet been rolled out.
Of course, there's a very good reason for Campa and Luckett to point out potential hiccups: Hurley & Co. paying content creators could be the final nail in the coffin for their besieged competitors.
"I'd be a little bit worried if I was one of these YouTube competitors," said Josh Bernoff, an analyst with Forrester Research. "Everyone should get nervous anytime an 800-pound gorilla says that they like the way you look."
That said, Bernoff agrees that YouTube will need to make adjustments.
"For a plan like this it's difficult to make a profit unless you beef up the advertising model," Bernoff said. "You need banners or pre-roll advertisements (ads that appear prior to a video clip) and YouTube has resisted pre-rolls. It makes you wonder whether they are preparing to make a change."
Hurley said as much in an interview with the BBC last weekend. YouTube is considering whether to ask users to watch a three-second ad before watching a video, Hurley told the BBC.
Pinpointing exactly how much advertising and site censorship a video-sharing audience will tolerate is pivotal, said Luckett.
"The problem is that you can kill your traffic by instituting these policies," said Luckett, who left Revver in December and is now working on his own online video project. "You are asking an audience to accept more restrictions. Any time you do that or the second that you put in any form of censorship you drive some people away."
YouTube executives don't appear worried. They have clobbered their video-sharing opponents, many of whom hold less than 1 percent of the market while YouTube boasts nearly half.
Joe Eigo, an acrobat and stuntman, was surprised by the ability of his videos, which show him doing a series of flips, tumbles, and martial arts moves, to generate $26,000 on Metacafe. He thinks that when YouTube starts paying, his earning potential could skyrocket.
"My videos got a lot of exposure on YouTube," said Eigo, 26, who is from Toronto. "They were a lot more views and traffic."
YouTube, which was acquired by Google last year but is operating as an independent business unit, issued a statement on Monday that offered no details about how the company's payment program will work but did note a proven track record and Google's success at generating money for customers.
"In the same way that Google has worked with publishers and content creators to make money online, YouTube will begin to help our community to monetize the content they create," the statement read.
That's the kind of promise that whets the appetite of even YouTube critics such as Voltz.
"I kind of want to wait and see," he said. "I wasn't pleased with their old model, which made them over a billion dollars without paying creators a dime. There's no denying that they got the eyeballs. If YouTube splits the ad revenue in an equitable way there could be some real money involved."
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