Google Giving Away $500,000 to YouTube Stars

Google just dropped $1.8 billion on an office building in Manhattan. It has been giving out thousands of notebooks to users for free. It has spent millions on unlikely investments ranging from wind farms to self-driving cars. So it didn’t too much surprise us to learn that the company is giving away $500,000. The surprise is to whom: the stars of YouTube.

In a blog post today, Google-owned YouTube announced it was sending $1,000 to 500 of the video site’s most popular stars. The idea is to encourage higher quality media from recipients such as MysteryGuitarMan or EmilyNoel83. They can spend the grand at B&H Photo, where they might pick up a new camera, editing software or sound and lighting equipment.

The move is certainly a good-will gesture (after all, these users drive billions of views to YouTube), but it’s also another sign that Google is becoming more interested in content creation.

Last week, rumors started leaking that YouTube was in negotiations to acquire Web TV production house Next New Networks, the home of popular channels like Barely Political and The Key of Awesome. After NNN’s videos consistently racked up tens of millions of views, it seems Google saw opportunity in the network beyond syndication.

That lean toward original content surprised many. Unlike AOL and Yahoo, Google has never been interested in that game. But this $500,000 award, coupled with the rumored NNN acquisition talks, suggest Google is changing its adjusting its strategy and could be making content creation a part of its portfolio.

Follow Austin Carr on Twitter.AC