Launching today as we speak, Vimeo is introducing “Tip Jar” for creators looking to monetize their videos. Sparked in part by the success of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, viewers can decide to pay whatever they like before, during, or after the video. And, that’s not all. Rolling out over the next few months with a 2013 launch is a “pay-to-view” service which will allow creators to put their videos behind a paywall. The good people at Vimeo allowed me to come to their offices in New York City and I was able to talk to Dae Mellencamp, the President of Vimeo, and Deborah Szajngarten, Marketing Communications Director, about the new service.
Update 07/24/2015: Vimeo announced today that they are shutting down Tip Jar after the unsatisfactory performance of the feature.
ReelSEO Visits Vimeo’s Dae Mellencamp and Deb Szajngarten to Talk Tip Jar, Pay-To-View
Vimeo’s offices are located in the awesome IAC building (pictured below) in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, and my gracious hosts filled me up with candy and soda before we talked Tip Jar and Pay-To-View.
Dae Mellencamp, President of Vimeo:
We’ve seen the success of crowdfunding. We’ve seen people online and all over the world want to support good work. I think there’s more and more willingness to pay for unique, creative, high-quality work and for people to want to support that. And we think this is the time to offer it to creators who have great work and who want to put that on there and believe people will support them for it or support the work itself.
Here’s the new Tip Jar tab for those who want to start taking advantage of this new feature:
It’s part and parcel of what we think of as the whole picture of creator monetization for us, when it’s not about advertising. The other side of that coin is something we’re talking about but not releasing yet, and we’re calling it “Pay-To-View” service. That’s going to launch in early 2013, but over the next several months we’re going to be releasing a set of curated films that will preview the service in a beta form, so people can get a sense [of it].
There will also be an open platform. The idea that the person who made the video has the control to choose how much they charge and have options as to when they monetize. They can choose how they want to put it out there: do they want to put Tip Jar on it by early next year, do they want to put a paywall on it? How do they want to do that? What price do they want to charge? When do they want to do it? We think that’s a big change. It’s not about doing a deal, it’s about coming in and saying, ‘OK, I want to do this, I think I can do this. It’s my audience, I want to get to my audience, I want to give this to my audience, or I want the audience that’s seeing my work to have the opportunity to support me because I need it,’ however it might be.
And we’ve seen tremendous work. Super high-quality work. We’ve seen it from the highest creators that have huge deals that post directly to their audiences through Vimeo, or post work that is now available to everybody through Vimeo. Or we’ve seen it through up-and-comers that are not known yet, the emerging artists that produce this amazing work that people see and they say, “Oh my God how did they do that?” We’re trying to offer everyone from the big names to unknowns the ability to get out there in the way they want.
And we think the combo of these two things is really unique, and we think it really provides something new to the space, and the market in general for video. We think it has the potential to really expand it and to create new options for how people want to do their distribution and how they want to earn their revenue that they haven’t seen before.
The advertising solution can be great for some, and can also be really challenging unless you’re getting a mass amount of volume. What we like about this and think is powerful about this is that you maybe don’t need to have a mass amount of volume to do well, or the potential to do well.
Vimeo saw the success of Amazon E-Books, a service in which authors are able to self-publish their work, which has proven so popular that even publishers are using it. They found that really strong work was coming through, not just the “stuff that was passed over.” Vimeo, with over 13 million members and over 75 million unique visitors, saw a golden opportunity for creators to monetize their work.
What video destination sites like Vimeo have are videos that don’t fit in a certain box: they aren’t TV episodes or a feature-length movie, but there is still a large audience demanding different content. People are looking for new, creative work all the time and are willing to pay for it. Also, the success of Louis C.K.’s online stand-up routine, “Live at the Beacon Theater,” showed how much interest was out there for quality, self-published work. I mean, the guy made over a million dollars on that thing.
Deborah Szajngarten, Marketing Communications Director:
Just going off on a tangent, here. Felicia Day has completely re-invented herself as the poster girl for geek girls everywhere that game. She went out and created this show, “The Guild,” and it’s these 5-6 minute episodes. It has more success and more fanbase and more viewers than some major network television shows. It shows that there is demand for non-traditional content.
What I think we’re going to find with this is that people will use it in ways we didn’t even think of, for types of content that never occurred to us that just needs a home or a new place to go.
And also people will use it in combinations that could really be an interesting thing to see. Let’s say I’m a filmmaker and I just created a feature film and I want to put it out for free for three weeks just to get some buzz and publicity around it. Then put up a tip jar, and then a paywall. Or conversely, let’s say I’m doing a web series and I release my first episode behind a paywall, and it lives behind a paywall for a certain period of time and then if you want to get it for free, you’ve got to wait until that time is over. My fans who are like, “Oh God I’ve gotta see what they did next, I can’t wait” will come pay up front, and the rest can get it for free later.
Our creators have asked for ways to monetize for a very long time. We’ve sort of had a combo of these two in plan for almost two years. Last year we were rebuilding our site from scratch, so adding this kind of deep functionality would have been really challenging to do.
Tip Jar is going to be an 85% gross revenue share to the creator. When we launch all these services, we always try to make it simple, straightforward, and easy. You can pay with credit card or PayPal. Creators who want to turn on Tip Jar for their videos, they need to be subscribers to our Plus or Pro service. And they need to have a PayPal account, because we’ll be paying creators with PayPal.
Vimeo’s Tip Jar to Challenge the Standard Pay Model for Video
YouTube’s advertising model has worked out for quite a few people, but to make real money you have to depend on a large amount of views. Vimeo is making it where people can actually donate money, and if the creator has fans, that can translate into some good money provided, as always, that creator comes out with great content. But if you’ve seen a lot of the stuff that plays on Vimeo, quality content is everywhere, and now, it’s able to be crowd-funded.
As we’ve seen with Kickstarter projects, if you’ve got a particular talent, or idea, something that people really want to see, they’ll pay you for it. Now, fans will have a direct way of showing their appreciation for the content. Also, it’s open to everybody with a Premium/Plus account, not just who is “deemed worthy.” I like the idea of Tip Jar a lot, and when Pay-To-View starts rolling out, creators will have a lot more options on monetizing their content on Vimeo. It’s a great alternative to being dependent on ad revenue.
We’d like to thank Dae Mellencamp and Deb Szajngarten for their time and tour around the Vimeo offices! Also, we’d like to thank Mallory Goldberg at MWW for her help with this article.