In a growing market of video on demand platform, YouTube has been working to keep up.
It’s still a good option for those just starting to build an audience, but issues with consistent monetization have caused bigger creators to view it as more of a marketing strategy than a primary income source.
That’s not to say creators can’t make money on YouTube. The company has developed a decent set of tools to help creators make money while building an audience.
One option which is gaining popularity is using channel memberships.
Channel memberships were created as a sponsorship program. Fans set up a recurring donation to their favorite creators, and in return they get more access.
Although it’s not the original purpose, using channel memberships wisely can be a low-stress path to creating a lightweight VOD platform.
Who can use YouTube channel memberships?
YouTube set up stricter requirements for channel memberships than for basic monetization.
In order to launch channel memberships, a channel must:
- Have more than 30,000 subscribers (although gaming channels only need 1,000 subscribers)
- Be enrolled in the YouTube Partner Program
- Be owned by a creator who is over 18 years old and based in one of the available locations
- Not be set as made for kids
- Have a low percentage of ineligible videos (videos made for kids or those that don’t violate copyright policies, for example)
How do YouTube channel memberships work?
Channel memberships have a similar structure to those found on custom VOD platforms.
Channel owners define different membership levels, each of which have access to a separate set of content.
Right now there are 5 tiers available, though most creators only use 2 (a “members only” level and a “premium” level). As far as content goes, there are several perks creators can offer to tempt subscribers into buying a membership.
Exclusive videos and live streams
Once a creator has launched a channel membership program, they have the option to any of their content viewable to members only.
Even old videos can be restricted (though this can upset basic channel subscribers, so it should only be done sparingly).
“Members only” community posts
If there’s one thing fans love, it’s being “in the know”. Use these community posts to break exciting news, or just share a little more with dedicated channel fans.
As a side benefit, the comments and engagement on these posts can help creators judge what resonates most strongly with their premium audiences.
Channel badges and emoji
This is an often overlooked benefit, and it shouldn’t be.
Fans like to be recognized for their loyalty, and they enjoy having a way to casually share that. Custom emoji sets can also be used to play off fandom “in jokes”, which builds a deeper sense of community.
Channel owners don’t get the entire membership fee, but the share isn’t too bad. YouTube takes 30% of each membership.
The platform is also offering their YouTube Premium subscribers a free channel membership every month (which creators get paid for!).
That gives potential subscribers a way to try out the premium features. Subscribers do have to re-select their channel membership every month which makes it hard for creators to rely on that income.
Still, having a month to win new members is a nice side benefit.
Is there a downside to using channel memberships?
As simple as YouTube channel memberships are to set up, they do come with some significant limitations.
For one thing, YouTube isn’t set up to prioritize any one creator. It does drop videos from a channel membership into the viewer’s feed, but those videos can get lost in a flood of other subscriptions.
Plus, the YouTube algorithm is designed to encourage viewers to skip between channels and explore different content. That’s a problem for creators whose audience is constantly being pulled off their channel by suggested videos.
Possibly the biggest problem is a lack of available data.
YouTube shares some metrics with channel owners, but they pick and choose which and often keep the most valuable data for themselves.
Creators need that data. It helps them segment their audience to get better sponsors and find the content that resonates with their fans.
What options are out there if YouTube isn’t enough?
Turning your YouTube channel into a video on demand platform is a good intermediate step for growing creators. It’s even a nice side revenue stream.
At some point, though, creators outgrow that option.
Dealing with the structural and financial limitations of YouTube becomes frustrating, and they find that trying to work with a one-size-fits-all solution like YouTube is limiting their growth.
That’s the point where creators start to look at launching a dedicated video on demand platform.
Evolving technology has brought startup costs to a practical level, and owning the platform provides full data transparency while holding the audience’s attention.
In short, cutting out the middleman puts creators in the driver’s seat – and it’s much easier to get where you’re going when you’re the one behind the wheel.
If you’re ready to grow into your own video on demand platform, FanHero can help. Let us build a custom VOD platform with you and your audience in mind!