If YouTube is Hollywood, then Vimeo is the NYU Film School – a smaller, cozier collection of artsy creators living off microwaveable meals and shoestring budgets. Despite a fairly large audience of 41 million unique viewers, Vimeo has shied away from YouTube’s money-making strategies, offering much less branded content (though that could be starting to change) and no ads before videos. In fact, advertising is so discouraged on Vimeo that some users even get offended if the site puts banner ads around their videos.
But Vimeo is ready to introduce its own money-making strategies. The company recently announced that it will start allowing viewers to ‘tip’ videos they’ve enjoyed, and they will also implement optional paywalls in the near future, allowing creators to charge a viewing fee. These changes will allow Vimeo and its users to increase their profits without compromising the platform’s ‘indie’ sensibilities.
Vimeo will make a 15% commission on all tips, a pretty sizeable cut when you consider that donators can get a much better rate by seeking out the PayPal accounts of their favorite producers. Take Myriapod Productions, whose Mysteries of Vernacular series we wrote about yesterday; they have set up a clear PayPal link on the series’ website, where fans can donate any amount with just a small service fee added on. Clearly, tipping is all about convenience; Vimeo gives viewers a way to give quick and easy support, while creators gain a more visible way to earn extra income.
Pay-to-view will be available a little further down the road, but all signs indicate that it will be the producers, not Vimeo themselves, who will control whether to charge for a video and, if so, how much. Making people pay for Internet video isn’t exactly a universally applauded approach, but if it could work anywhere, it could work on Vimeo.
Which brings me to my final point: With all these changes, Vimeo has positioned itself in a unique place. It has a chance to do for online video what Bandcamp has done for music and Steam (and the Humble Indie Bundle, specifically) has done for gaming, creating a Pay-What-You-Want service for the industry. This type of system could very much become the future of online media (or, at least, part of the future), so it’s smart for Vimeo to open a door for this model and light the way forward.