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YouTube offers creators new ways to make a buck (and do some good)

Up next: stickers, more physical goods, additional and subscription options, plus education-optimized playlists and charity drives.

YouTube offers creators new ways to make a buck (and do some good)
[Photo: Christian Wiediger/Unsplash; Colin Watts/Unsplash]

VidCon is going on in Anaheim, California. The conference is the most important event of the year for YouTube creators—and therefore the video hub’s annual launchpad for features to help them turn their channels into money.

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Creators “want us to continue to build new products, to find interesting ways to stay connected, to give back to their fans,” says YouTube chief product officer Neal Mohan, who delivered a VidCon keynote on Thursdsay. Here’s what he unveiled:

Super Stickers are animated sticker packs with themes—such as gaming, sports, and cooking—that fans can pay to use during live streams. They join Super Chat, which lets fans pay to highlight their messages during streams and which YouTube says is now in use on 90,000 channels.

The Merch feature, which lets creators sell physical goods such as T-shirts, started with one partner, Teespring. Now it’s getting additional ones, including Crowdmade and Rooster Teeth, and is opening up to more creators.

Multiple-tier paid Channel Memberships build on a major announcement at last year’s Vidcon. Instead of a single $4.99-a-month plan for fans, creators can now offer up to six different levels of membership. Mohan says that the Fine Brothers, whose React entertainment channel is nearing 20 million subscribers, increased their revenue sixfold by adding a second tier.

YouTube is also announcing two new features that are about doing good, not just doing well:

Learning Playlists are playlists optimized for educational material, which Mohan says YouTube is rolling out in “a cautious fashion” with high-profile channels such as CrashCourse and Khan Academy. They allow such creators to collect videos into course-like collections, and remove the “Watch Next” module that might otherwise divert a watcher’s attention. “You get a much more focused experience,” says Mohan.

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YouTube Giving allows creators to add a donation button to their channel, with 100% of funds going to charities selected by the creator from a list of approved organizations.

How many people are living the dream of making a living by making YouTube videos? Mohan told me that the number earning five to six figures a year from all monetization options, including advertising, grew 40% year-over-year. However, the company does not disclose hard numbers relating to the quantity of creators who make that much.

Many YouTube creators use alternative methods, such as Patreon, to get paid by folks who love their work. But according to Mohan, creators’ desire for new ways to make money right on YouTube runs high. “They know that their most passionate, most engaged fans are their YouTube followers and their YouYube audience,” he says. “And so that really is always the hub of everything that they do.”

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About the author

Harry McCracken is the technology editor for Fast Company, based in San Francisco. In past lives, he was editor at large for Time magazine, founder and editor of Technologizer, and editor of PC World.

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