Vimeo-tip-jarA year ago I called monetization the elephant in the room for Vimeo, writing, "if you really want to empower independent content creators, you must give them a way to make a living." I've been wondering for quite some time if and how Vimeo was going to enable independent filmmakers to make money from their videos, since Vimeo is really the elephant in the independent filmmaking room: with 13 million registered users and 75 million monthly unique visitors, they're almost certainly the largest community of independent filmmakers in the world. Today Vimeo is launching a donation feature called Tip Jar, and coming down the line is a much bigger deal: direct-to-audience video sales.

Tip Jar is a nice feature, similar to a non torrent-based version of VODO. If you watch a video and you like it, you can voluntarily donate a few bucks directly to the video's creator using a credit card or Paypal. The official blurb:

Vimeo’s Tip Jar enables video creators to crowdsource funds to support works directly from their viewers. Tip Jar will allow anyone to give tips before, during or after watching a video; Vimeo will pay 85 percent of the gross revenue to the creator. Starting today, Vimeo Plus or Pro members can choose to activate Tip Jar.

Here's what the Tip Jar interface looks like:


Tip Jar fits in nicely with Vimeo's sunny attitude and community vibe. However, what I'm most interested in and what could potentially have a much larger impact is the pay-to-view service they'll be rolling out next year. This will be a self-service platform allowing filmmakers to sell direct-to-audience:

Vimeo’s pay-to-view service will be an open platform for video creators to sell access to their films and videos. Expanding on traditional rental and Video On Demand models, Vimeo’s pay-to-view service gives creators customizable options to sell their films and video content directly to their audiences and provide control over pricing, rental duration distribution location and other settings. Vimeo will begin rolling out its pay-to-view service in beta preview this fall with a curated series of films. Vimeo will make the pay-to-view service available to all Vimeo PRO subscribers in early 2013.

I spoke to Vimeo on the phone about these initiatives and at the time they weren't 100% sure that pay-to-view would be restricted to Pro accounts, but from the press release that does appear to be the case. Which makes sense: it's another way to differentiate the Pro accounts from Plus accounts. Vimeo Plus is $60/year (if paid annually, or $120 if paid monthly), and Vimeo Pro is $200/year (with the option to pay more for extra bandwidth). The biggest difference is the Pro account allows commercial applications, which is to say: you can sell stuff using the Pro account. So it certainly makes sense that their pay-to-view service would require the Pro account.

Other players that allow users to sell their video directly to the audience include Distrify, FilmDIY, and Dynamo Player, with a few other options coming down the pipe (Redux, and some others we'll also be covering in the future).

There's no official word on revenue split between Vimeo and the creator, but you can bet Vimeo will be bringing intrinsic value to the table as a trusted brand, not to mention they have a reliable player that works in a variety of browsers and on mobile devices. In fact, at some point they fixed my main complaint with their player, which was that you couldn't forward to any place in a Vimeo video unless it had pre-buffered. That is no longer the case and it works great in both HTML5 and Flash players. If someone is paying to watch, say, a full feature film of yours, you can bet being able to skip forward is a crucial feature. I still miss that desktop uploader, though!

Once Vimeo enables the pay-to-view service, will you consider upgrading to Pro? Do you see this as a good sign for the future of self-distribution?

Link: Introducing Vimeo Creator Services: Helping Creators Make Money