Quit Clinging to the Past and Just Cleeng Already! Or, How You Could Already Be Making Money on Vimeo

Content 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:

Video is no longer available: vimeo.com/17094725

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:

Video is no longer available: vimeo.com/46277487

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?


Your Comment


Can someone explain to me in French? Please, please, please. Thanks.

October 31, 2012 at 11:40AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Michel, nous sommes en parti francais, donc n'hesite pas a nous contacter. Cordialement.

November 1, 2012 at 6:40AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


LOL, I can't help but feel that this service was mastered over several years in the world of porn...

Still, it's a fantastic resource (the service, not the porn), and well worth looking into. The most deciding factor would be whether or not the general public would trust handing their credit card details over to a website like this. That's often where dealing with iTunes/Amazon is worth it - they have a massive consumer database and a very sturdy reputation. (not saying they're an alternative, just drawing a comparison)

October 31, 2012 at 1:16PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


pretty sure paypal works

October 31, 2012 at 9:47PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Hahahahaaha...yup, PORN has done this long time before anyone even think of it I guess...

November 1, 2012 at 1:41AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


@Dave, great article, very complete and detailed. Indeed, as you rightly point, for any ecommerce system to be worthwhile, you need to propose valuable product to sell to your clients. There is a significant step to be made between proposing free vs paid products. (we cover some aspects on our blog btw)
Once you figured this out, often people concentrate on what it costs, vs what it brings. Anyone who works in ecommerce would tell you 2 main factors are critical: your average price points, and your conversion rate. That's what ultimately will make your business profitable. It is very difficult to make a living selling items <$1, or if you convert less than 0.5%. Having a great user experience, setup flexibility, coupons, multiple currencies and payment methods automatically adapted to users and price points, can help a lot to boost your profitability. That's why the main KPI we focus on with our publishers is ultimately how to generate the highest possible $ per 1000 visitors (currently, $24/1000)
Worth mentioning, some very large corporations use Cleeng, like CondeNast/Epicurious, Dailymotion, conference organizer GDS International, along with 100's of smaller sites.

@Ben, fair point, always many things to learn from porn! (we don't address this market). We've learned a lot while we worked at Apple too :-) One of the benefit of Cleeng is that the purchase process happens within the publisher page, and co-branding is possible. So users feel the experience is very much part of the publisher's activities. See for example with http://cookingschool.epicurious.com/c2-class3.php

@shakezoolah: yes, PayPal works, along with all leading international and local credit cards.

November 1, 2012 at 6:37AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


This looks excellent. Just what I've been looking for. But, I have to wonder if Vimeo offers a competing service, what will prevent Vimeo from disallowing Cleeng access to the videos they host?

November 1, 2012 at 6:01PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Hi Dave, thanks for this positive feedback :-) For Vimeo possible restriction, note we don't host any videos. The videos stay hosted on Vimeo. Like we do with different video providers (Brightcove, Dailymotion, Livestream, Twistage to name a few) we only make it easier to setup elements by accessing few very basic functions of their API. A publishers could use too our CMS plugins to protect a video embed (see for example with WordPress: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/cleeng/).
Ultimately, publishers will decide what's best for them, what converts the most, what's easiest to use, etc. We or Vimeo will surely do what is best to support you grow your business, and so far the relationship is great :-)

November 2, 2012 at 10:57AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I have to think that the subscription ($99 per month) is going to be a deterrent. It will be for me.

November 4, 2012 at 11:20AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I would be interested in this if it was available to Vimeo Plus accounts... Appears it's only for Vimeo Pro, and the $99 a month is too steep for me as an independent filmmaker. I have a doumentary ready to debut that could easily garnish 1000+ views at $2 per view. But Vimeo's Pro cost would offset the profit so much that I'm not sure it would be worth it. I'd be better off duplicating DVDs and mailing them at $10 a piece. More profitable for me, and my audience would be fine paying more for something they would then own. Too bad though, because I love the video on demand pay per view model, and I think my audience would too.

November 21, 2012 at 3:22PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Mike Hough

Correction. Not sure why I thought Vimeo Pro was $99 a month... It's $199 a year!!! That sounds a lot better. Sorry!!!

November 21, 2012 at 3:25PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Mike Hough