NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- YouTube is looking to turn those bolts-from-the-blue viral videos from cash drain into advertising gold.
The video-sharing site, under pressure from parent Google to start turning a profit, today began placing ads on the kind of one-off viral hits -- mostly uploaded by the amateurs that made the site famous -- that, until now, haven't had advertising.
They include viral successes such as "Battle at Kruger," which has accumulated 45 million views on YouTube since it was uploaded in 2007; the drugged-out 7-year-old in "David After Dentist," with 28 million views; and "Otters Holding Hands," with 13 million views.
YouTube's audience size far outweighs its ad presence, mostly because until now YouTube has limited selling ads in videos to members of its "partner program": prolific producers that meet certain criteria, such as Fred or Nigahiga; studios with which it has deals, such as Time Warner and CBS; or studios participating in its Content ID program, which identifies the owner of user-uploaded videos and places adjacent advertising.
Now YouTube is offering the option to just about anyone who uploads a video that meets certain YouTube standards and becomes popular. When an uploaded video's popularity starts to accelerate, YouTube will send the user an e-mail and add an "Enable Revenue Sharing" button, which will allow the owner to permit YouTube to sell the video's ad space to advertisers.
Basically, it's a prompt to enroll in YouTube's partner program, whose size YouTube hopes to greatly expand.
Goal to grow partners
YouTube Director-Sales and Operations Tom Pickett said it hopes to grow the number of YouTube partners from the thousands to tens of thousands. "This opens up the door for more people to participate in this program," he said, as well as to "increase the number of views on a daily basis that will be available for monetization."
Key to making the program more effective is an algorithm to discern what videos are about to go viral, based on the pace of new additional views. "We will continue to put engineering effort into identifying as many of those 'shooting stars' as possible," Mr. Pickett said.
Prior to this, YouTube was only able to sell ads against these one-off hits if were claimed by, say, a record label, studio or other partner, such as this version of the "JK Wedding Entrance Dance," which was claimed by Sony Music. In some cases, the new system will allow advertisers to jump on relevant videos as they go viral, rather than just choosing from videos produced by existing YouTube partners.
YouTube keeps a tight lid on the number of views it can sell to advertisers. According to an analysis by TubeMogul, 63% of YouTube's top 100 videos over the past month carried no ads at all. YouTube will only say that it sells ads against "hundreds of millions of views" per month in the U.S. alone.
YouTube served 7 billion video streams in the U.S. in July, about 60% of the 11.2 billion videos viewed on all websites that month, according to Nielsen VideoCensus.