YouTube Influencers Confront Sponsorships, Partner Progam Issues
Several YouTube influencers have recently called out YouTube’s monetization problem (i.e. very low CPMs for partners), most prominently Jason Calacanis (we’ve written our own response to Jason’s post). Calacanis brings up several good points around channel monetization. Calacanis shares that with a mere $1.50 CPM rev share standard for most channels no one, save the few Jenna Marbles of the world, can make enough money getting paid directly by YouTube to sustain production costs and produce great content. Some YouTube influencers do get an unspecified higher CPM and large networks are able to sell some of their inventory directly to advertisers at a higher CPM (usually coupled with branded content ad buys or integrated YouTube sponsorships).
Paid Content in the meantime suggests that YouTube influencers may be able to sufficiently monetize via affiliate style tools (something bloggers have been doing for years). And for the top YouTubers, they’re able to easily monetize off of merchandising, affiliate commissions, and branded content deals. However, the overwhelming majority of YouTube influencers do not have brands approaching them on a regular basis for paid YouTube sponsorships, and don’t get enough views to monetize well from affiliate-style commissions. Affiliate-style deals work well only in specific categories like fashion and beauty when YouTube influencers has a sizable following and publishes frequently. They don’t work as well for general audiences.
Getting YouTube Influencers Paid: How YouTube Can Fix Their Partner Program Problem
- Build An Affiliate Network. YouTube builds their own affiliate network that allows YouTube influencers and channels to link out via in-video product links. Though it was shut down earlier this year, Google already has built their own Affiliate Network. They already know the space, have the framework, and have engineered the product. Google is missing out on millions of affiliate commissions when YouTuber channels post their own links in description boxes. This would all work much better if viewers could click on the video. Brands sell their products and services, Google takes a cut, and the YouTube influencers get paid.
- Allow Channel Advertiser Skins. These are commonly used by publishers all over the web. Google/YouTube would probably argue that it gives the site a more MySpace-y feel, but they’re everywhere already. Create a marketplace for channel/video skins that sets the specs, approves the advertisers and creatives, and let them have at it. YouTube channels would get bids from the advertisers (or put their own stats and price out in the market place). Running an advertiser would be as simple as clicking a button.
- Create Category Curation. Who really follows their news feed with all the likes and comments that goes on? This isn’t Facebook. Entertainment necessitates curation. YouTube can’t expect audiences to go and find The Best of YouTube via search and playlists. Create Pinterest-style curation pages and have category level pages where YouTube editors pick the best (yes, YouTube used to previously do this). With category curation, there would be a fashion homepage, a humor page, a tech homepage, etc. and no need for those pesky algorithms. And yes, with this model, influencers wouldn’t be paid directly, but it would enormously help discovery, and make new/upcoming channels easier to find.
How YouTube Influencers & Channels Will Benefit
- Creates an easier path to monetization for channels. YouTube influencers talk about how much money they’re now making. Jason Calacanis stops writing bad PR for YouTube.
- Google/YouTube makes more money. There are $10’s of millions of dollars or more on the table in affiliate commissions. It’s even better than the rest of the web because YouTube can dictate that they’re the only vendor/provider. It’s surprising that they haven’t done anything here yet.
- Advertisers are happy. Advertisers want high impact ads. We all skip the pre-roll. Or open another tab when it’s running. It’s not to say that audiences won’t avoid the site skins, but when they’re done right and coupled with instream, skins will be a great combination for advertisers.
- Smaller channels getting the exposure they need. With greater exposure, YouTube enjoys more breakthrough success stories. In turn, more clever, funny, interesting, attractive, and innovative influencers create content for YouTube = no more cable.