Video-sharing website Revver marked its first anniversary yesterday by nailing a milestone. It announced that it has mailed out $1 million to the aspiring filmmakers, hobbyist Web loggers, and budding musicians who populate the website with content.

Yes, you can get paid by firing up that clunky webcam. It may seem hard to believe, since the most popular video sites like YouTube and News Corp.'s (NYSE:NWS) MySpace aren't cutting everyone in on the action. Times are changing, though. Revver is one of a handful of sites like Metacafe and Veoh that are sharing sponsor revenue with their contributors.

By most accounts, the sums aren't much. It isn't enough to give up one's non-virtual world job, save for perhaps the makers of the Lonelygirl15 series. However, dangling dollar bills like carrots are shaking up the industry. As long as the practice is financially feasible and difficult to game, it's here to stay.

Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) YouTube is late to the revenue-sharing game, but it's getting there. It finally rolled out its program in May, but is currently signing up only its largest producers. Even as it battles copyright-trampling allegations and the challenges of monetizing a bandwidth-hogging site, YouTube is smart enough to realize that loyalty can be bought. When some of YouTube's most popular members like comedy duo Smosh and Lonelygirl15 began to showcase their videos on other sites that were paying for the exposure, Google's giant video-sharing website worked quickly to win them back.

Google knows all about empowering through financial rewards. It beat Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) to the punch in offering websites of all sizes the ability to run its contextual marketing ads for a generous slice of the action. Yahoo! has been slow to get its AdSense clone off the ground, and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) MSN is even further behind.

So why is YouTube so slow to democratize video-sharing the way it did the rest of the Web? It's a good question. Obviously, it's afraid of what opening up the genie bottle may do. The last thing it would need is for folks to upload a zillion unwatchable clips, game the system with inaccurate tags and thumbnails, and risk sending out checks to folks who may be doing nothing more than capturing copyright-protected television show clips and putting them up on the site. The whiff of money can also do some pretty scary things within a combustible community.

However, that's not really happening at Revver, but it's because Revver personally screens every upload before it goes live on the site. If YouTube ever made that kind of manpower investment, profitability would be hard to come by even before the revenue-sharing checks get cut.

It has a choice, for now. It's making the sober decision. Just pay the top draws. However, there's no mistaking the allure of seeing pocket change accumulate in an otherwise dormant account. It can't afford to let a website with a wider rev-share net get too popular. Google didn't pay $1.65 billion for a website to be chasing anyone but itself.

Take a ride through the YouTube revenue-sharing museum:

  • Google launched its revenue-sharing platform in May.
  • It announced its intention back in January.
  • Still, it's the best way to keep its top content creators like Lonelygirl15happy.

Yahoo! is a Stock Advisor recommendation. Microsoft is an Inside Value stock pick. A free 30-day trial subscription to either service will run you less than a few pennies in a revenue-sharing arrangement.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is ready to officially classify himself as a clip culture junkie. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.