YouTube expands merchandising, membership options amid creator frustrations
- Google's YouTube introduced several new tools to help creators better monetize their content and engage with fans, per announcements made at VidCon and in a company blog post.
- Those include expanding Channel Memberships to eligible channels with more than 100,000 subscribers. Channel Memberships, previously available to select creators as Sponsorships, allow viewers to pay $4.99 monthly to receive badges, emojis and exclusive content. YouTube also partnered with Teespring to help creators customize and sell merchandise, like T-shirts and phone cases, directly from their channels. The feature will be available to eligible U.S.-based channels with more than 10,000 subscribers, and YouTube said it plans to add more partners and creators.
- Another new feature, Premieres, lets creators upload pre-recorded content as a live moment. A public landing page will be created when a creator releases a premiere to promote the new content. When fans show up to watch the video, they can live chat with one another and the creator. Creators will be able to use Super Chat on traditional YouTube videos and Channel Memberships that had previously only been available to Live videos.
YouTube continues to be a powerful platform for video content creators, but it's also one that's grown to frustrate many of its users over the past year or so as parent company Google has introduced tougher ad eligibility requirements and frequent algorithm changes. These have been the technology giant's bid to allay marketers' concerns about a lack of brand safety on YouTube following several high-profile controversies where ads ran next to videos featuring hate speech and other questionable material.
While tougher brand safety restrictions have appeared to appease brands, they've also led to some widespread creator upheaval. In a report from December, Bloomberg found that some creators were losing up to 80% of their monthly revenue due to tougher monetization standards, raising speculations that YouTube talent would migrate to rival platforms like Amazon's Twitch or Facebook. YouTube expanding offerings for Channel Memberships, Merchandise and more now looks to be a bid to keep that talent happy and active on the platform.
Joshua Slice, the creator of the animated Lucas the Spider character, recently sold more than 60,000 plushie toys and generated more than $1 million in about 18 days by leveraging YouTube's merchandising tool, according to Teespring data cited in the blog post. The emphasis on merchandise underpins how YouTube is starting to think outside of traditional video ads when it comes to offering means to support creators. The Channel Memberships model also closely resembles how community building works on platforms like Twitch.
Twitch and other competitors like Facebook have additionally grown a larger presence at VidCon — a conference for connecting fans with their favorite influencers that YouTube used to dominate. Last week, ahead of the conference, Facebook announced a set of tools for content creators to make their videos more interactive, including through polling and gamification. Facebook at the same time officially unveiled its Brand Collabs Manager, where creators can connect with marketers for branded content collaborations.
Despite some headwinds, YouTube remains a lucrative platform for many. According to the YouTube blog post, the number of creators earning five figures annually is up by 35%, and those earning six figures is up 40%.