When it comes to monetizing YouTube videos (or online video in general) advertising is king. While advertising can be a great business model for those with a large number of views and a mass appeal, it’s less useful for creators that have smaller audiences, regardless of how passionate their audience is.
Subbable is an approach to monetizing online video that attempts to address that weakness. Created by brothers Hank and John Green, known on YouTube for their Vlogborthers and Crash Course YouTube channels as well as a slew of other things off the site, Subbable attempts to help audiences pay for the shows they love through recurring subscriptions that can also be redeemed for perks.
Though early in its testing with only three channels available for a subscription, Subbable hopes, eventually, to help revolutionize the way many YouTube channels are funded and may make a good fit for many of YouTube’s niche channels that have a strong audience but are too niche or too small to be self-sustaining through advertising alone.
So is Subbable or its model the answer for you and your channel? It depends on the type of channel you run.
How Subbable Works
Subbable, at it’s core, is something of a twist on the Kickstarter system for funding a project. However, rather than contributing money to a project that is hoping to get started, you’re making contribution(s) to a project that is already ongoing.
Those contributions can take one of two forms. The first is a one-time payment and the other is a monthly subscription. In both cases, you choose how much to pay and, no matter how you contribute, the money goes to your “Perk Bank”, which you can use to claim perks that are offered by the channel admins.
These perks, much like Kickstarter perks, can include anything from signed merchandise, your name mentioned in the credits and even items used in the videos.
What’s interesting about this is that you do not have to earn a perk all at once. If you want a perk valued at $50, you don’t have to make a one-time donation of $50. Instead, you can subscribe monthly for $10 and, at the end of five months, you’ll have enough saved up to claim your perk.
This gives viewers an interesting new way to support content they love, while at the same time earning some interesting perks. For providers of content, it provides a relatively stable source of income that, in general, is more dependable month-to-month than advertising or merchandise sales.
Who Subbable is For
Ideally, Subbable is best for people who have smaller (by YouTube standards) but passionate audiences. Those who are getting millions of views per month likely will earn more through advertising. However, those who have an audience too small for advertising, but still large enough and passionate enough to support the channel, Subbable could be a powerful approach.
Subbable is currently only available on three channels. The Green Brothers’ Crash Course channel, C.G.P Grey and MinuteEarth. Of the three, MinuteEarth is the only channel a significant amount off from its funding goal with Crash Course coming right at the desired amount and C.G.P. Grey nearly doubling its goal.
However, these channels were custom chosen because they were a good fit for Subbable. They are all educational and niche channels with decent-sized, passionate audiences that don’t produce a great deal of viral or mainstream content. In short, poor matches for advertising-related models but potentially great matches for a user-supported model.
If you fit this scenario, there’s a good chance that Subbable, or a similar approach, may be a good pitch for you.
If you want to join Subbable, the site has an application process that you can go through. However, Subbable is severely limiting the number of accounts it accepts right now as it tests out the system and gauges the response.
The fees for using Subbable are a 5% fee paid to Subbable itself and the standard transaction fees for Amazon Payments, which is currently 2.9% plus a small transaction charge. There are also many restrictions on the types of content that can be promoted through Subbable and limits to the types of perks that one can give out.
All in all, it’s a pretty good deal, especially considering many intermediaries take 15% or more. If your channel meets the criteria and is a good fit for this model, it may well be something to explore.
Is Subbable the answer to online video? Is it the silver bullet that can cure all the financial and business model woes of videographers online? Of course not. However, what it is is an interesting new possible business model for YouTube creators that, previously, fell through something of a crack.
It catches whose who are not hobbyists and upstarts, meaning they have an audience (and a passionated one), but need more funding than what advertising alone could provide. For those creators, Subbable, and crowdfunding in general, may be a viable and legitimate option.
What Subbable does show is that there is no one-size-fits all model for financial success online and that creatives are going to have to be constantly on the lookout for new approaches and new ideas that can serve them.
Subbable may not be right for you, but it’s likely right for many creatives and those people, despite their audience, may have had to shut down otherwise.
In short, it might be able to enable and bring stability to a whole slew content that was anything but before.