Cleeng-thumbnailContent creators have a few ways they can choose to monetize their media. And while some manner of high profile and hype are needed to make a true self-distribution success story (the major caveat inherent to self-distro), the possibility is there for any of us. After about 20,000 years, Vimeo is finally putting the power to get paid into the hands of Plus/Pro subscribers (just kidding Vimeo, we love you), though it isn't entirely clear whether their upcoming Direct-to-Audience system will be available for Vimeo Pro users only. This is a likelihood, because it adds considerable incentive to opt for Pro's $200 annual plan over Plus's $60/year subscription. Until recently, we were under the impression we would have to wait for the "early 2013" release of their native services to sell/rent on Vimeo -- as it turns out, the ability to monetize content beyond discretionary donations (tip-jar) is not only available to us at this very moment, but actually has been for several months. It's called Cleeng PLAY and the details are below.

Cleeng is a service that's available as a free plug-in with some limitations (paid subscription expands options quite a bit, more on that below) and that essentially allows users to lock off certain portions of their site. The freely available areas act as a sort of demo, allowing visitors to sample the quality of and take interest in your content -- they are then able to purchase access to the rest if they'd like. Here's a video demonstrating the service's operating principles:

Cleeng's system is comprised of four "inter-dependent modules," all handled internally by the company to deliver you a smooth and straight-forward experience:

  1. Content protection
  2. In-context monetization
  3. Multi-device, dynamic shopping cart
  4. Social commission system

80% "you sell and keep" monetization options and direct integration with CMSs (including Brightcove and Wordpress) are available straight-away through the base-level Cleeng Plug & Go subscription. Access to transaction data, comprehensive dashboard controls, and co-branded environment design is enabled with Cleeng Pro, which comes at a $99 monthly access fee but offers a 92% in-pocket rate. Cleeng Enterprise brings full co-branding, custom design from the ground up by Cleeng, individual consultancy, and an undisclosed percent-profit figure (while costs, also undisclosed, likely vary design to design). Each option comes with zero flat-fee per exchange (the percentage withheld by Cleeng for each respective level of the service can basically be looked at as operating cost) and support for 150 payment methods including Paypal, credit card, and even SMS, all with industry standard-compliant security. Cleeng PLAY is the Vimeo-specific implementation of the service.

To address what seems like a rather steep investment in Cleeng Pro's $99 a month -- this level definitely seems to be in place for content providers pushing some major traffic through their sites or communities. I'd say the thing to take away from all this is the plug-in service, which enables you to distribute your media in a Pay-Per-View ((It may important to note that "Pay-Per-View" doesn't mean pay-per-every-single view, like you would at a movie theater -- the tutorial above shows some of the rental/sales options Cleeng provides for each video.)) packaging for all the overhead costs it takes to maintain a Vimeo Plus account -- $60 a year. Contrast this with Vimeo's native Direct-to-Audience service requiring a paid subscription likely to Vimeo Pro (though again, this isn't 100% certain, but very likely) -- and the potential road bumps in providing support for multiple currencies and various mobile environments, things which Cleeng is anticipating may need ironing-out in Vimeo but that are already established in Cleeng -- and you have a pretty well made "Why wait?"-sort of case here.

To be fair, the more advanced control over videos (i.e., embedding and privacy options) and greater flexibility that a Vimeo Pro should be bringing would likely be even more advantageous to a Vimeo/Cleeng creator, so you might be thinking, "I'll just hold off and go with Vimeo Pro, only!" -- also keep in mind, though, that we don't yet have the revenue-split details on Vimeo's upcoming native service. I think the pros and cons of each combination of Cleeng and Vimeo should be carefully weighed (including big factors like expected viewership figures) before deciding which route to take.

Here's a tutorial which demonstrates the ease and functionality of Cleeng PLAY:

As we've discussed before, to get the most out of an option like Cleeng (or Vimeo Pro alone, for that matter) a content creator must establish and deliver to an audience. Having both a viewer-base willing to pay and a platform from which to sell (or some way to turn views into profit) are inextricably necessary here -- one is useless without the other. Of course, we're witnessing the rapid transformation of the still-young online distribution landscape. Things will be very dynamic (even unpredictable to an extent) and it could take a while to see which models prove to be the most successful -- both for turning profit for producers, and also sustainable in terms of audiences' willingness to shell out the dough.

One more feature of Cleeng I shouldn't forget to explain a bit is the social commission system briefly mentioned above. While not specific to Cleeng PLAY, it's interesting because it allows users who have purchased content to share with friends and make a percentage back of the resultant sales, if any. If this feature or any of the others interests you, I highly recommend you check out Cleeng's website for the full details.

What do you guys think? Do you think Cleeng is a viable alternative to existing monetization options, or preferable to Vimeo's upcoming Direct-to-Audience (details are short as of yet, I know) options? How do you think it compares to something like Distrify? Do you think this service will affect any distribution plans you may have?