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YouTube Monetization in a Nutshell

Jan 27, 2020

Ah, YouTube monetization — the dream of every aspiring content creator.

Most artists would happily quit their day jobs and invest all of their time, energy, and resources into the thing they’re most passionate about. 

Hand-drawn animation, short-form documentaries, sourdough bread-baking — whatever it is, we all want to get paid to do the thing we love.

Social media makes that dream seem tantalizingly close. We all follow people who found their golden ticket to internet stardom by doing the exact things that we’re passionate about.

For most creatives (or at least most filmmakers), this happens most often on YouTube.

The idea of generating income on YouTube has become an unspoken goal for most vloggers, filmmakers, and humans born during the ‘90s and ‘00s.

And while YouTube is an enormous platform (with a 2019 average of 2.2 billion logged-in viewers each month), there’s also a lot of competition for attention. Anyone who’s started a channel knows how hard it is to build and hold onto viewers.

It’s not about thinking of clever ideas, finding great background music, or even getting opportunities to promote the channel.

 If you want to master YouTube monetization, you’ll have to join the Partner Program. 

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YouTube’s Partner Program 101

People have a lot of opinions on the Partner Program. For some, it’s a mystical Promised Land — a reward for months or even years of hard work. But others see it as a walled garden built to keep out anyone but YouTube’s 1%, like some sort of exclusive VIP club.

The truth is that the Partner Program (and YouTube monetization in general) falls somewhere in between those two things. 

It’s true that anyone can put in the time and effort to work their way into the “club.”

But it’s also true that YouTube wants to reward the people who generate the most ad revenue for them. That transforms the relationship into a business partnership where both parties — the user and YouTube — walk away with something of value.

Google (and YouTube by association) is mostly maintained and regulated by automated processes. Algorithms patrol YouTube to manage content and uncover trends, so it’s hard to imagine some scheming council voting on every new Partner Program member.

However, real live human beings do actually check Partner Program applications. New entries go into a queue and get reviewed by YouTube employees. That process typically takes around a month (because unlike YouTube’s AI bots these people can’t work at the speed of light).

The good news is that these people are checking your channel for five specific things. And as long as you meet those criteria, you should be well on your way to joining the Partner Program.

Here are the prerequisites you need to hit before you can get accepted:

  1. Follow YouTube’s monetization policies, which should be easy if that’s your goal. 
  2. Live in a country where the Partner Program is available. That's a pretty long list, so we doubt you’ll have anything to worry about.
  3. Have more than 4,000 public watch hours in the last 12 months. It might seem like a lot, but remember: Users watch a combined 5 billion videos every day. You just need to find the right audience for your content.
  4. Having more than 1,000 subscribers can seem like an impossible goal for new channels. Just remind yourself that people always end up finding great content, so you’ll need to keep creating awesome videos that attract people.
  5. Set up an AdSense account, which gives Google permission to manage ad content, track statistics, and pay you for it.

Overall, YouTube has tried to find a good balance on these requirements. The requirements for watch hours and subscribers may seem intimidating at first, but those are numbers that any channel could reach with enough patience, hard work, and a little bit of luck.

And once you get into the Partner Program, you’ll be able to tap into even more exciting perks.

How To Benefit From YouTube Monetization

The Partner Program offers a variety of ways to generate revenue. These features have a few additional requirements (on top of the Partner Program prerequisites) so let’s break them down:

  • Advertising revenue: Yup, you can finally start making money from the ads on your channel and videos. For this, you’ll need to be 18 (or have a legal guardian help) to set up AdSense. You’ll also have to follow YouTube’s ad-friendly content guidelines.
  • Channel memberships: You can offer special perks or rewards that people can pay to access (via monthly “memberships”). To access this perk, you’ll need to be 18 and have at least 30,000 subscribers.
  • Merchandise shelf: Once you’ve built a personal brand, you can sell merch that is featured in your videos or promoted on your channel. But you’ll need to be 18 and have 10,000 subscribers to start selling products.
  • Super Chat and Super Stickers: This is a way for fans and subscribers to have their input highlighted during chat streams. For this one, you just need to be 18 and live in a country/region where Super Chat is available.
  • YouTube Premium Revenue: With this perk, you’ll get a cut of a YouTube Premium user’s subscription fee when they watch your videos. There’s no other requirements except for creating good content that attracts Premium users.

And this is all in addition to the ad-based revenue. Once you get into the Partner Program and continue to grow your subscription base, your channel can become profitable even more quickly than you thought. But remember, it’ll take a lot of work and research on your part.

Luckily for you, YouTube also provides data to help you know what’s working (and what’s not) with your content and channel. 

That’s right — it’s time to talk analytics.

Make The Most Of YouTube’s Reporting

Being owned by Google means YouTube can take full advantage of the parent company’s user data. To help you grow your channel, you literally can’t afford to overlook YouTube’s Analytics and Reporting APIs

You can generate custom reports on your channel and your subscribers’ viewing trends. You can even track the numbers for specific playlists on your channel, or for other channels linked to your account. 

Then the reporting gets into the nitty-gritty details to help you get to know your audience. How long does the average viewer watch a certain video? What’s the average age of viewers who find your channel? Do your viewers really interact with the ads on your channel?

These questions are just the start of what YouTube’s reporting can do for you. It’s a way for you to visibly track the growth of your channel. More importantly, it’s a resource that can help you get to know your viewers and what you can do to give them more content they’ll enjoy.

At the end of the day, that is the heart of YouTube monetization. Creating content isn’t really just about getting famous or making money — it’s about telling stories and sharing the things you love with people who will appreciate it, or be inspired by it, or want to try it themselves.

That kind of connectedness — the “shared dream,” if you will — is what makes YouTube such an effective platform. And it’s why viewers love content creators enough to support them.

Your road to being supported by your audience might be a long one. Everyone’s journey is different, especially when it comes to creative endeavors. But YouTube monetization can help you get there sooner.

And now that you know how the system works, it’s time to get back to work.

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