Despite success stories about YouTube sensations such as Jenna Marbles, the vast majority of the site’s users probably don’t think of it as a place to earn money. The video giant wants to change that. It’s trying to build a bench of talent that can support its ambition of competing with traditional TV. In the past year it has opened swanky new studios in Los Angeles, London, and Tokyo, launched more than 100 new original content channels, and made advances totaling more than $300 million to some of its top video makers.
For folks who dream of earning a living as YouTubepreneurs, the biggest change took effect last April, when the video site launched a new revenue-sharing program. Whereas before, creators who wanted to pair sponsors’ ads with their videos had to get YouTube’s permission, now the video platform has automated the process with a “monetize” button, essentially opening the flood gates to anyone who posts an original video. Creators get about half the advertising proceeds, according to industry analysts and video makers. (YouTube typically finds the advertisers, although creators can approach sponsors directly.) “If they can generate an audience, they can start making money,” says Tom Pickett, YouTube’s vice president of global operations.