YouTube has a lot to say this week. First they announced a new mobile version of their site—and it rocks. Then they officially released Leanback into the wild—it's also very cool. Now they've announced a new grant program designed to help members of the Partner program make better and better videos.
It's called YouTube Partner Grants, and it's essentially a $5 Million grant fund. And it's intended to help level the playing field between the major brands, who often have near limitless resources for creating great videos, and the lesser-known partners who often create videos on a shoestring budget.
The thinking seems to be this: There are a ton of great videos created with small budgets by relatively unknown resourceful filmmakers… how much better could their films be if they had the kind of monetary and equipment resources that the big boys have?
And I'm sure there are some cynics out there who will scoff at a multi-billion-dollar company like YouTube/Google "donating" a sum of $5 Million. But $5 Million isn't chump change. That's a sizable allotment, and I think it shows a true commitment to helping the YouTube community gain access to the kinds of resources they've long been denied.
While numerous popular videos have come from major production houses, the truth is that there are far more "little guys" creating videos on YouTube than professionals. Some use a camera that is less than cutting edge. Some have to coerce friends to assist in the video production, or spend countless hours perfecting their content. The end result is that a lot of really talented people struggle to find the audience the big brands have. And YouTube wants to even things up a bit.
You can use the funds from the Partner Grants program for equipment, software, marketing and advertising expenses, talent, and more.
The only real bad news in this whole announcement is this: It's not open to everyone. YouTube is going to pick Partners based on views, subscribers, growth rate, engagement, and expertise. Then, that chosen group will be contacted and invited to submit a Grand proposal. The proposals deemed the best—based on things like marketing plans, project appeal, cost projections, etc.—will be awarded grants.
Cue the YouTube users whining about not getting an invitation. Which is understandable. Not every aspiring and talented filmmaker will find themselves among the chosen few to be invited. But the program has to start somewhere. What begins as a $5Million invite-only grant fund might well turn into a $50 Million open-application grant fund. You never know. And the tone of YouTube's announcement suggests that they're quite serious about pumping some funds back into the community in order to improve the overall quality of the videos on the site. Expect this program, if it's even mildly successful, to grow moving forward.
I think it's a great idea. It's a shame that people who aren't currently Partners will have no shot at this, but you can't begrudge YouTube opening this first to the users that have shown the most commitment to the site… the Partners. Aside from the invite-only submission process, I'm struggling to find any problem with this program. Will we see better videos as a result? It's hard to imagine that we won't.