YouTube today introduced a new campaign that casts a “pro” as one of its users. Paris Hilton, famous for being famous, has a pop album. YouTube is giving her a “brand channel,” where Hilton appears in a choppy video welcoming visitors and asking them to leave a comment. It’s like real-time reality television; when I visited, she had logged on two minutes before. Hilton comes off as strikingly similar to the 20-something amateur YouTube ladies who primp and pontificate in front of their webcams (in some cases, for the benefit of large fanbases).
As part of the campaign, YouTube is selling ads for Fox’s Prison Break and sharing some of that revenue with Hilton’s label, Warner. Selling ads on ads — strong work! But instead of dealing with making money from amateur material (and potentially sharing ad dollars with the amateur creators), YouTube seems to be creating a new kind of amateur. Since Paris Hilton already blurs that line, by choosing her YouTube seems to reassure us it’s in on the joke. Who next — Puck from Real World or Survivor‘s Richard Hatch?
Everyone wants to know if YouTube can profit on its potential. This is an interesting tweak, but it’s not going to bring the revenue pouring in. As many are pointing out, the campaign doesn’t apply to the vast majority of YouTube’s videos. Still, it’s good to see YouTube try before cashing out. A similar new initiative, an ad for the movie Pulse that users can rate, share, and comment on just like any other YouTube content, has been viewed nearly a million times in four days, according to Reuters.
YouTube, it seems, is “charging [Fox and other advertisers] based on the number of users regardless of whether the consumers actually watch the videos,” according to the Wall Street Journal. I assume this means the number of visitors to a “brand channel’s” page, or the home page when the brand is featured, not YouTube’s total visitors (11 million per week and counting)…but it’s not clear. The WSJ also reports YouTube wants to turn this into an AdSense-like program, brokering video ads for other sites. That’s a good business, but Google would clearly have the edge on syndicated video ads if push came to shove.
Getting this many users for a free service was a mix of smarts and luck. Working out how to make money off them? That’s tough.