YouTube Extends Partner Program to Viral Videomakers

For the last two years, YouTube (s GOOG) has carefully added users to the revenue-sharing program it offers to media companies. The site has called its Partner Program “our way of enabling some of the most popular and prolific original content creators within the YouTube community to earn money from their videos.”

Advertising next to content could make YouTube more liable for copyright infringement claims, so the site vigilantly screens partners and doesn’t show ads next to non-partner videos. We’ve long suggested that YouTube’s caution makes it miss out on profits from enormously popular one-hit wonders like stupid cat videos. Now it seems from at least one recent example that YouTube is loosening those standards.

David After Dentist is the ultimate one-hit wonder. Dad David DeVore filmed his drugged-up 8-year-old (who shares the same name) on the way home from junior’s dental surgery. Filmed back in May, DeVore only posted the 2-minute clip on YouTube at the end of last month in order to share it with friends. It now has more than 11 million views, some great remixes and mashups, and DeVore (under the account name booba1234) is already a YouTube partner.

“I’m a real estate agent,” DeVore told us today. “I had never been on YouTube other than to see a few funny things.” DeVore said that YouTube encouraged him to complete an application to the partnership program, and he hesitated out of fear that he was signing away control. But ultimately he decided to take YouTube up on the shared ad revenue (which hasn’t come in yet as this was only a week ago). He explained, “We’re not looking to exploit David, but at the same time if there’s a tasteful opportunity…”

DeVore, who has posted two other videos of David that both have more than 100,000 views (though, let’s be honest, they’re purely riding on the coattails of the monster hit), said he and his wife have some ideas for further videos, but also admitted, “We’re probably in about minute 10 of our 15 minutes here; we know it’s going to have a shelf life.” Next time money is tight DeVore’s clearly not going to reach for the Novacaine to rustle up another million views.

So is YouTube loosening its standards? YouTube spokesperson Victoria Katsarou wouldn’t exactly cop to a change in policy. “We take into account a variety of factors in deciding who to bring in to our YouTube partner program. Viral videos are one of them and in few cases might be enough,” she said.

As for the bigger picture, Katsarou would only say that the site has more than 1 million partner videos. The site has continually declined comment on what percent of videos or video views come from partners, but some have estimated the former number at 4 percent. The other data point we have is that YouTube said way back in May 2008 it had paid more than $1 million to user partners.

Ultimately, DeVore is low-hanging fruit, and there’s no reason YouTube shouldn’t expand beyond its stated partner guidelines of “regular” uploads. Unlike many viral vids, David After Dentist has no rights or permissions complications (except perhaps for the people who think DeVore is an irresponsible father). Though the speed of new views for the video has slowed, DeVore said the talk show circuit is showing interest, so there may be a few weeks left in this one.