Until recently, the most popular videos on YouTube only really made Google any money. The authors got free sharing space and perhaps a platform on which to advertise their video-making prowess, but nothing in the way of advertising money.
That's set to change this week. In an extension of its Partnership Program, YouTube has announced that the makers of popular individual videos will be invited to start earning from them.
In a post titled "In the future, everyone will get paid for their 15 minutes (of fame)", YouTube has announced individual bloggers can earn revenue from their viral videos. They explain it like this:
We decided it was time to spread the wealth. Today we're excited to announce that we're extending the YouTube Partnership Program to include individual popular videos on our site. Now, when you upload a video to YouTube that accumulates lots of views, we may invite you to monetize that video and start earning revenue from it. To determine whether a particular video is eligible for monetization, we look at factors like the number of views, the video's virality and compliance with the YouTube Terms of Service. If your video is eligible for monetization, you will receive an email and see an "Enable Revenue Sharing" message next to your video on the watch page, as well as in other places in your account:
Once you've chosen to enable revenue sharing, YouTube will sell advertising against your video and pay you a revenue share into your Google AdSense account each month. (If you don't have an AdSense account, you'll have the opportunity to create one.) Individual video partnerships will not be eligible for many of the benefits of user partnerships, like enhanced channel features or the ability to monetize other videos in your account, so we encourage you to apply to be a member of the YPP. We'll consider your individual video partnerships when reviewing your YPP application. For now individual video partnerships are available only in the United States, but we hope to roll these out internationally soon.
This might actually earn those who get some interesting footage some money. I can see citizen journalists who upload pictures to YouTube getting a nice chunk of change. Whoever films the next Iranian shooting or defends Britney Spears might also make a good chunk of change along with the deal.