Just one day after Instagram revealed its new, YouTube-like service, YouTube is announcing new features meant to entice its most influential users.
The Google-owned platform announced two new features that will help video creators make more money from their channels: the ability to sell merchandise alongside their videos, and the ability to sell paid memberships.
For creators, these updates represent two potentially significant forms of additional revenue that aren’t advertising.
Until now, merchandising has been available to a handful of beta testers but hasn’t been widely available. Beginning tomorrow, it will be available to any U.S.-based channel with at least 10,000 subscribers. The result of a partnership with e-commerce platform Teespring, the feature lets channel-owners sell branded T-shirts, phone cases, mugs, and other items.
YouTube won’t take a cut of merchandise revenue, but Teespring does charge a flat fee per product. Still, YouTube says it can be a lucrative opportunity for its creators. One early beta tester, YouTuber Joshua Slice, pulled in more than $1 million in 18 days, according to the company.
Additionally, YouTube announced that it will be opening up the ability for creators to sell paid memberships to their channels. Open to anyone with at least 100,000 subscribers, Channel Memberships lets subscribers pay $4.99 a month for extra perks.
The perks themselves are up to the creator, but could include custom emoji and badges, special access to live streams and videos, or shouts in a video. Like with Merchandising, YouTube has been testing the feature out for some time with a small group (the feature was previously known as Sponsorships) but will open more widely “in the coming months.”
Finally, YouTube also revealed a new feature called “Premieres,” which will let YouTubers build up hype for pre-recorded videos in the same way many do for live streams. With Premieres, YouTubers can opt to schedule a pre-recorded video in much the same way a live stream is scheduled.
Scheduling a premiere will create a landing page viewers can be directed to ahead of time; they can join in to watch the video simultaneously at the scheduled time. And, like a live stream, everyone can participate in a real-time chat during the video.
For creators, this also has the advantage of opening up additional revenue opportunities, like Super Chat, that were previously only available to live streams.
For YouTube, these updates send an important message: that the company cares about making sure users can make money off their channels. However, the new features will be little consolation to smaller creators who’ve been frustrated with changes the company has made to its advertising policies.
Earlier this year, YouTube made a change that prevents advertising on channels with fewer than 1,000 subscribers.
For its bigger stars, features like premieres and merchandising and channel memberships could be a major windfall and, importantly for YouTube, give them a good reason to stick around. The company’s announcement comes just one day after Instagram revealed IGTV, its dedicated service for YouTube-like video channels.
Right now, IGTV doesn’t offer influencers many opportunities to make money for their efforts. That will likely change in the future, as Instagram has said it wants to help creators monetize.
For YouTube, these new features send a pretty clear message to its biggest stars: We’re still the best way to actually make money.