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Vimeo turns to ‘tip jars’ and pay-to-view models to generate revenue for content creators

Vimeo is taking notes from Kickstarter and YouTube with today’s introduction of new tools to help its content creators earn extra cash, called Vimeo Creator Services. Content creators can now implement a tip jar and pay-to-view pay wall for Vimeo viewers.

Vimeo has been a creative outlet for artists, and that indie vision means the platform hasn’t supported advertising and forbids the commercialization of uploaded content. In fact, for a Vimeo content creator to include pre-roll advertising, they’re required to upgrade to its premium subscription service Vimeo PRO, and use a third-party player that supports advertising.

Vimeo began as a side venture for its founders, who are also the creators of CollegeHumor and Busted Tees. In its early days, Vimeo had restrictions that prevented copyrighted content from making its way onto the platform as a result of a Viacom lawsuit, but this left the door open for YouTube to easily pass Vimeo in popularity. Since then, Vimeo has been focused on fostering an artistic community and pursuing a business model that’s contrary to the advertising intensive one that YouTube thrives on. But while Vimeo is an independent, artist-friendly destination, at the end of the day those independent content creators are also looking to make money.

The tip jar can be implemented easily by activating the feature on a video. Video viewers will be able to see the “Tip this video” button where they can donate to the artist for the work. Behind the scenes, Vimeo takes a 15 percent service fee, and the tips won’t be sent to the artist’s Paypal account automatically. Instead the payment will be distributed to content creators in a lump sum payment up to 30 days after the end of the month. If you’ve received a payment on September 15 for example, you’ll be receiving the payment sometime toward the end of October. This strategy definitely takes cues from Kickstarter and the flood of other crowdsourcing services that have taken the Internet by storm, and for similar reasons: Vimeo wants to do what it can to keep high quality content without resorting to advertising.

The second feature that has not yet been launched but should make its way to Vimeo in the coming months is a pay-to-view “paywall” option where creators can charge viewers to view their content. It’s not a new concept at all and something YouTube has already implemented with its own pay-per-view model for live streaming events, but it’s interesting to see such an indie-focused platform give its users the option. Part of using Vimeo is to gain exposure and eyeballs, and a paywall certainly won’t help with that. Still, there are plenty of professional and popular releases on Vimeo that creators would be able to cash in on. 

With competition in the online video space heating up and Vimeo’s reluctance to adapt to the changing landscape of online video content, it’s a wonder that the company has not only survived by remained as popular as it is. Whether these tools are sufficient for both content creators and Vimeo to generate revenue despite YouTube’s attractive advertising revenue share program remains to be seen.