There is a cornucopia of options when it comes to online video hosting platforms. This guide offers a brief overview of the most notable alternatives from the perspective of those looking build careers as online entertainers. Quite a few platforms have been left out of this guide; we chose to only cover platforms within the video hosting space that have large, built-in audiences and enjoy widespread use.
YouTube is the king of online video hosting. As the second highest-trafficked site in the US, it pulls in around a billion users each month. It hosts a diverse range of video styles and types. While it originally did not allow for live streaming it, now supports the capacity.
Making Money through YouTube
There are two primary ways in which a content creator can partner with YouTube and thus earn a share of ad revenue associated with his or her work.
Earning Money as a YouTube Partner
One is to be a direct partner through YouTube. This is an opt-in system available to anyone hosting original content and allows one to make money through AdSense ads hosted on your video content.
YouTube typically takes a 45% cut of advertising revenue based on AdSense’s CPM (cost per thousand views) payment structure (the average is $2.50 per 1000 views, but goes up to $10 per 1000 views). There have been complaints that the CPM payment structure is only used because it makes AdSense sales easier and that it hurts content creators.
Earning Money through the YouTube Partner Network
The second monetization path one might take involves joining a YouTube Partner Network, which offers access to different features, but requires applying to and being accepted into one of YouTube's partner networks. These networks allow for more flexibility in the terms a content creator’s desires. For example, someone who hosts gameplay videos could be a YouTube Partner through one of these programs whereas they couldn’t make money off of their YouTube videos as a direct partner. In addition to a more flexible monetization contract, partner networks offer varying perks, which include things like access to royalty-free music and images and special promotion of your content.
Contracts with YouTube partner networks typically offer one of two compensation models: a flat CPM or a percentage-based amount. The flat CPM method is more reliable, but depending on how successful your network, is you may make more with a percentage model. Different networks also offer different contract lengths, which is well worth noting, as some contacts can be abusively long (some are even perpetual).
YouTube changes its monetization system and benefits more frequently than other video hosting platforms. This can add significant risk in working with YouTube as a partner. If you are researching YouTube’s monetization and partnership methods, be certain you are looking at up-to-date information. This review does not cover some of YouTube’s other features, such as analytics, due to frequent change.
Founded in 1995, Newgrounds is one of the oldest video and game publishing platforms. This website focuses on flash videos and games and divides them into “collections” based on the year in which they were created, their type, and a number of other factors, such as whether or not they came from a popular series.
How Videos and Games Rank on Newgrounds
Newgrounds utilizes a 5 star voting system to determine whether or not content is deleted, whether or not it makes the front page, and whether or not the creator receives a monetary award. A content will be deleted if it receives 100 votes averaging 1 star or less, 150 averaging 1.25 or less, or 200 and 1.6 less. If a piece of content is one of the top 5 during on any given day, it receives a place on the front page under the featured section. The same privilege is bestowed upon the top 5 videos over the course of a week. However, all ratings are not equal. The weight of a user’s vote is determined by vote frequency and accuracy (which is determined by an individual’s votes similarity to a video’s long-term average- specifically, whether or not their vote was under 1 or over 1).
File Requirements for Newgrounds
Files uploaded to Newgrounds must have the .swf extension and be under 20MB. When submitting a video, you will be asked to include an estimated maturity level (there are 4 choices). Monetization is not available for content rated within the two adult levels.
Making Money on Newgrounds
Newgrounds receives around 500,000 unique views per month. Videos posted on the site may earn money in a variety of ways. For example, videos that are in the top 5 in terms of ratings each month receive a $250 reward. There also exists a revenue sharing system, which combines revenues earned through CPM, CPC (cost per click), and CPA (cost per action- such as sale of a product). In this system, a user chooses to put ads in their video using CPMStar and receives the venue share associated with CPMStar: 15% to sponsors (up to 25% if exclusively use CPMStar) and 50% to the developer. Newgrounds pays out at the end of each month to those who have accumulated over $100 in revenue. If you have not reached the minimum payout level, your balance is added to next month’s revenue. Using Newgrounds’ multi-author system, you can split the revenue amongst the various contributors (artists, programmers, sponsors, etc.).
Ustream is one of the largest sites for streaming live broadcasts. On UStream, content can be streamed live or saved for later viewing. Content saved for later viewing can be run on demand, in a loop, or at certain times (creating something analogous to a TV channel with different content you produce). It is easy to search through content both by streamer and by category.
Content can be presented privately by removing it from your channel page and only showing it through a specific embedded site. Private viewing can be taken even further by creating a password required to view the content (one can also whitelist or blacklist domains from which your video can be watched).
UStream allows through direct watcher interaction through live chat rooms as well as Facebook and Twitter integration. Unfortunately, the platform offers limited resolution. Even with high end equipment and a fast connection the site’s footage can be grainy. This problem is amplified on Android and iPhone applications.
Analytics on Ustream
UStream offers a number of means by which you can track how your content is being consumed. However, most of its analytic features, such as those enabling you to segment views by geographical location, device and platform used, and embed location, can be quite pricy (between $100-$1000).
Paying for an account offers other benefits, such as a certain number of hours your audience can watch it without ads, as well as an increase in the amount of space you have available for videos.
Making Money on Ustream
UStream videos can be monetized through a pay-per-view system through which uploaders can set the price of their choosing. After selling access to your content you will receive money through PayPal. These videos may also be uploaded to either Blip.TV or YouTube.
Vimeo is the 31st most visited-website in the US as of 7/15/2013 with approximately 16,000,000 unique views per month. The platform is heavily-populated by high quality independent filmmakers and was the first site to allow for the upload of HD videos. Vimeo enables users to upload up to 500 MB of video per week and one HD video (videos beyond the first are uploaded in standard definition). If a user is willing to pay $120 a year in subscription fees for Vimeo Plus, he or she can upload up to 5GB per week and have no limit on the number of HD videos released. Without paying for a subscription, a user cannot embed videos and does not have access to viewer statistics. Gaming videos are banned by Vimeo at all subscriber levels.
Making Money on Vimeo
There are three ways to make money on Vimeo. The first and most difficult involves winning their annual competition, which offers $25,000 in prize money. The second is to use their tipping service, which enables those with Vimeo Plus or Vimeo PRO accounts to ask for tips on their videos (of which vimeo takes 15%). Tips can be up to $500. The third means by which uploaders can make money through the platform involves Vimeo’s Video on Demand service, a pay-per-view option accessible only to Vimeo PRO users (a subscription which costs $199 a year). Vimeo take 10% of the revenue generated by pay-on-demand videos In this service you create videos that users pay to watch. Such videos can be released in a staggered fashion, similar to that used with professional movies, through region locks.
While relatively new to the scene (it was founded in 2011), Twitch, which started as a subsidiary of Justin.tv, offers one of the easiest means by which you can make money streaming video gameplay. While it exclusively streams gameplay, Twitch offers a wide array of gaming options options from eSports to dating simulators. With approximately 23,500,000 unique monthly visitors (as of July 2013) specifically interested in watching gameplay, Twitch offers a steady source of viewers and has an easy-to-use and well-developed monetization system.
Twitch goes to great efforts to be versatile and easy to use. It allows you to directly link your Twitch account with Steam or Origin accounts accounts and is being directly incorporated into the hardware of Xbox One. Twitch also integrates with most broadcast software, though there are a few it specifically recommends. In addition to integration with third party broadcasting software, Twitch has a polished chat engine allowing broadcasters to interact with their fans.
Making Money on Twitch
To monetize using Twitch, you must enter its partner program. Of Twitch's 600,000 broadcasters, only 3500 of them were in the partner program as of March 2013. This is due to the site’s strict requirements for joining the program. If the broadcaster is currently a Twitch user, he or she must have a regular concurrent viewership of more than 400 individuals and release at least three new streams a week. Users looking at moving to Twitch from YouTube must have an average view count of 15,000 and 100,000 subscribers to become a partner.
Once you are a partner, you will receive earnings 45 days after the end of each month if you have accumulated at least $100 in revenue (should you not reach the threshold, your balance will be rolled over into your next month). Payments may be issued through Paypal or check. Twitch recommends that broadcasters run 2-3 ads every hour to maximize revenue. The revenue share used by Twitch is variable, though the exact specifications are not detailed in official sources (some blogs have suggested that it is 50%).
Twitch offers steller control of ads- the broadcaster can control the deployment of ads in real time with a hotkey to prevent ads from interrupting gameplay. The platform also allows broadcasters to block certain ads from showing on their accounts (very useful if the broadcaster has a sponsorship). What’s more, Twitch allows broadcasters to control whether the ads shown are pre-roll or regular ads (pre-roll ads begin before your stream loads).
Justin.tv is a generic video streaming and hosting site with around 5.2 million viewers a month as of 8/2013. While it began as site optimized for streaming videos, the proliferation of other streaming sites and its move to general video hosting has decreased its initial differentiation.
Making Money on Justin.tv
Justin.tv does not have an opt-in program for monetization, instead offering an invite-only “partnership program”. Given its comparatively small community and audience along with its lack of specialization when compared to YouTube (since the spin off of Twitch), Justin.tv is a poor source for monetizing as a content creator.
Vine (Twitter & Facebook)
Vine is a mobile app and not a platform in and of itself (it works on iOS, Android, and Windows phones). It enables its users to create short video clips, with the maximum length being only 6 seconds, which are easy to post on social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook.
Monetizing on Vine
Vine does not offer a built-in monetization system. There have however, been offers to monetize one’s Vine experience by participating in social media campaigns.
LiveLeak is a video sharing website that, in theory, revolves around citizen journalism. While LiveLeak does have a significantly higher portion of citizen journalism videos than other major video sharing sites, it is still populated with other types of videos. As of 8/2013 LiveLeak had approximately 17.3M unique views a month.
Unfortunately, LiveLeak offers no monetization infrastructure for uploaders.
Blip gets about 40 million viewers a month and specializes in serial programs that already have a viewership and thus is not ideal for online entertainers who have yet to build up audiences and reputations. It offers a 50% revenue share and is slightly less strict than YouTube.
With around 116 million monthly visitors, Daily Motion is the highest-trafficked video sharing site after YouTube. Despite its large number of users, it is not typically a good site for promoting English language content, but can be used effectively as a video hosting platform for content that sites like YouTube might take down. Daily Motion allows uploads as large as 4GB and as long as 60 minutes
Making Money on Daily Motion
While Daily Motion does not provide a detailed explanation of its monetization structure, it pays out at the end of each month if you have accumulated over $100 in revenue. If you have not reached the minimum payout threshold, your balance will be added to the next month’s revenue. Daily Motion’s MotionMaker program distributes 50,000 euros a month to help people in the program develop content.
Despite being one of the earliest video sharing sites still in mainstream use, Metacafe only garners around 20 million visitors a month. Currently it specializes in short-from video entertainment. While at one point MetaCafe had a “Producer Rewards Program” that allowed uploaders to monetize their posts, the program was shut down in 2009.