At last week's VidCon gathering of online video producers, YouTube unveiled a slew of tools for improving production. Yet a new funding system might be the biggest win of all -- for creators, fans, and Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) (NASDAQ: GOOG ) investors.
Letting fans give their due
YouTube's list of add-ons includes new tools for managing and tracking videos from a smartphone or tablet, new sound effects, playback support for video shot in 60 frames per second, fan-contributed subtitles for translating foreign language videos, new ways to create playlists, and more. Of them all, a simple "support" button for soliciting funds looks to me like the biggest win. Here's a closer look:
Click the button, and up pop options for the level of funding you want to commit. A few bucks is all most sites ask for, though fans can pay as much as they would like. Think of it as a low-effort Kickstarter campaign that never ends.
Feature (almost) complete
Remember when the popular YouTube show TableTop took to Indiegogo to raise funds for its next season? At the time, Google didn't have a cohesive strategy for backing ongoing series or their parent channels. Adding a "support" button gives YouTube's best fewer reasons to go elsewhere.
And make no mistake, they do have options. Not just for fundraising, but also production and distribution. Some of the biggest names in media are pouring millions into new Web shows. Meanwhile, Vimeo has established a $10 million fund to back select independent movies as big-name creators use the platform to distribute their pet projects. Joss Whedon recently did just that, releasing the new film In Your Eyes to Vimeo as a $5 download.
YouTube star search
Hollywood executives have taken note of the shift, scouring YouTube, Vimeo, and other services for new talent. In March, Walt Disney acquired Maker Studios and its lineup of popular YouTube shows for $950 million. Time Warner recently invested in gaming channel Machinima. YouTube wants the next big find to be on its platform, which puts pressure on the website to give creators more of what they want.
Plus, there are good financial reasons to do so. YouTube generates roughly $2 billion in annual revenue, after accounting for ad-sharing payouts to channel partners. Gross revenue spiked more than 50% last year alone. That's amazing growth which is dependent on getting the best creators to keep submitting their best work to YouTube, a stated priority for Susan Wojcicki, the business unit's new CEO.
"Anyone can create an audience, and it is really the community and the global audiences, which are saying here are the people that we are choosing to watch. Once they have reached that level, there's a lot more that we can be doing to support them and to be making other people aware of them," Wojcicki told Fortune in a recent interview.
Investors should hope she makes good on the promise to do more for creators. After all, more than any other segment of Google's business, it's YouTube that is most closely associated with TV and TV advertising -- a market that still generates hundreds of billions in revenue that the search star has barely tapped into.
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