In December of 2008 a colleague of mine sent me a link to a story which appeared in the New York Times on 12/11/2008: YouTube Videos Pull In Real Money. At first glance the article would seem encouraging to all of those content creators out there. To be honest, I was encouraged... but before you go buying that HD camcorder and telling your boss where he can get off, take a long deep breath.
Michael Buckley, one of the subjects the article focused on, is an interesting case to study. You should take a look at a few of his videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/whatthebuckshow?ob=4. His program, "What the Buck" is basically a bargain basement rag fest. Like so much of the "most popular" content on YouTube, and traditional media for that matter, put downs and girlfriend gossip rule the roost. Michael may not be the "Queen of Mean" but he sure ain't the "King of Kindness". Mr. Buckley has one thing down pat: HE KNOWS HIS AUDIENCE AND NEVER DISAPPOINTS THEM!
As I watch Michael's videos it solidifies my contention that YouTube is High School, or to be more specific, a High School for the performing arts... because let's face it, most regular High Schools ostracize anyone who's different. Like High School, if you can't find a clique... you're invisible. Knowing that can be your ticket to the top at YouTube. Find your niche... your audience... and focus on them like a laser. Never shoot over their heads. Once you've captured them, don't ever let them go. Keep the content coming on a regular, scheduled basis.
If you get to the level where YouTube offers you a partner deal... well... that's certainly not the end of the struggle. Finding the money at YouTube can be a bit of a shell game. There's a reason why, as the NY Times article puts it, "YouTube declined to comment on how much money partners earned on average." They NEVER talk about money... even to partners. Trying to figure out what you can expect to earn, even in theory, is harder than hiking the Himalayas. It's nearly impossible to know if what you're being paid is indeed what you've earned and you do not want to get on their bad side. Remember, it's their game, their field, their ball and without their blessing success will be difficult to achieve. Still, if they let you play... who knows... you might just win.