Google Raises the Stakes for Amateur Videos
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It's getting easier for amateur videomakers to make some money by releasing their work on the Internet. This week, Google announced that it would share ad revenue with the popular amateur video creator EepyBird, which makes the explosive Diet Coke and Mentos videos.
As NPR's Laura Sydell reports, Google is the most high profile site to pay, but it's not the first.
(Soundbite EepyBird.com video)
LAURA SYDELL: You may have seen the first EepyBird.com video. Two guys from Maine in white lab coats, protective goggles, 101 bottles of Diet Coke, 521 Mentos, and too much free time. Set to the music of a local musician called AudioBody, Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz display how Mentos, dropped in two-liter bottles of Diet Coke explode and set off a wonderful fountain of spray.
Grobe and Voltz are part-time actors in a small theater troupe in Buckfield, Maine. When they made the first video, they were just doing it for fun. Fritz Grobe...
Mr. FRITZ GROBE (Video Maker): This started off as us exploring what happens with Diet Coke and Mentos on weekends and quickly became something that we're doing 24 hours a day, seven days weeks.
SYDELL: The popularity of their first video exploded a bit like those bottles of Diet Coke. The video was reportedly viewed over six million times. Grobe and Voltz are now the first amateur videomakers to sign a contract with Google to share ad revenue for their latest video, The Domino Effect.
(Soundbite of "The Domino Effect")
SYDELL: This time, it's 251 bottles of Coke, 1,506 Mentos, all set off in a chain reaction. This video will be hosted exclusively by Google Video for the next three months. Every time someone watches The Domino Effect, they'll see an ad for Coke at the end. Every view generates more revenue to be shared by Google and the video producers. Google's Peter Chane says this is just the beginning for them.
Mr. PETER CHANE (Senior Product Manager, Google): And we that in the future, more and more of these arrangements will come online, and it will actually cause more and more content to come online, and actually more and more content providers to get paid for their work, which in general we think is a good thing for the Internet.
SYDELL: The timing of the deal with Voltz and Grobe makes sense, given Google's recent acquisition of youtube.com, the most popular site for video sharing. Google purchased startup YouTube last month for $1.6 billion. The companies are still working out the details. Since the purchase, analysts have been wondering how Google plans to make money off the site, which is more popular than it is profitable.
Technology analyst Paul Sappho(ph) thinks this deal is pointing the way to the future.
Mr. PAUL SAPPHO (Technology Analyst): This could be part of Google's overall monetization strategy of YouTube. It could also be the way that YouTube users, or successors to YouTube's users, get paid for their videos.
SYDELL: Sappho mentions successors to YouTube because they are not the only hat in the amateur video ring. Voltz and Grobe make money off the original version of their Mentos and Diet Coke experiment through another site called revver.com, one of several companies experimenting with ad-driven amateur video. Revver uses a slightly different model from the one Google is using now. The company's founder and CEO, Steven Starr, says Revver is able to track its videos.
Mr. STEVEN STARR (Founder and CEO, Revver.com): And if it goes into a social network or an e-mail or a browser or an IM or any connected device, we're tracking the video itself and it's telling us, hey, I'm being watched; then we send it a little small advertisement.
SYDELL: And those advertisements can be defined by the creator's preference or politics. If a producer says no cigarette ads, none will ever show up on that video.
Voltz and Grobe made more than $35,000 from their first video on Revver, but they decided to make a deal with Google because Google had a guaranteed contract with Coke and they were excited about working with the Internet giant.
Technology analyst Paul Sappho sees the beginning of a new age for video online, one in which the money to be made will attract better quality creators who may ultimately compete with the big television giants.
Mr. SAPPHO: This stuff will professionalize and professionalize mainly because the audiences will become much more discerning, and what they're willing to look at, the bar is going to rise very, very quickly.
SYDELL: But the new talents are still looking to old media for promotional help. The Mentos and Diet Coke guys, Voltz and Grobe, have appeared on David Letterman, Inside Edition, MSNBC and VH1. Their latest video has already been viewed more than 620,000 times. Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco.
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