The winning numbers for social media riches are 300 and 2,000.
If you’ve got 2,000 Facebook followers and you can hold the attention of 300 of them during a live stream, the social media giant will cut you in on its advertising revenue.
So, have you got what it takes to entertain the masses online? Are you funny and news savvy? Have you got a unique voice that’ll bring insight to anything from Taylor Swift’s latest symbol-drenched music video to Kim Jong-Un’s next move?
It doesn’t matter what you do, it only matters–if you want to get paid for live streaming–that 300 people would be willing to sit through a series of online advertisements to watch you do it.
Getting Paid to Live Stream on Facebook
Facebook introduced its paid live streaming initiative earlier this year, naming it Ad Breaks presumably to make it obvious just where the money was coming from (it certainly isn’t a name that screams live entertainment). Facebook had previously tried to enter the live streaming market by paying out around $50 million to professional content producers, like BuzzFeed and The New York Times, to make short broadcasts. That project fell flat, with providers claiming the payment wasn’t worth the effort of production, so Facebook turned to the public.
So, now it’s our turn. A couple caveats first: Ad Breaks is still in the testing phase so you have to be invited to try the money-making program. It’s also unclear how much money you stand to make by getting a 55% share of the ad revenue in your stream, although the top YouTube pre-recorded content providers get around $7 per 1,000 ad views. We do know you won’t see any cash until you earn at least $100. Of course, advertising makes up the bulk of Facebook’s $9 billion quarterly revenue, so there’s reason to hope they’ll pass some of that on to amateur content creators.
If you do get the golden ticket to join Ad Breaks, it’s easy to start monetizing your live stream. Once you’re chosen you’ll be given the option to run 15-second ads every four or five minutes during your stream by clicking a $ icon. Your camera will turn off while the ad runs, and your audience will see a countdown timer in the corner of their screen during the ad so they know how long they’ll have to wait to see you live again.
The concept is simple enough, but it does ask your audience to start treating your casual show more like broadcast television.
YouNow Doesn’t Make You Sit Through Ads
Facebook isn’t the first live streaming site to offer content producers a financial reward. YouTube Live has been at it for a few years. At first, YouTube only allowed those channels with more than 10,000 followers to live stream, but that number was recently lowered to 1000–that’s half of what Facebook requires.
Both services seem to push against the anything-goes philosophy of live streaming, however, and have the potential to turn original voices into TV chat show imitators. For example, there’s concern that live streamers will manipulate their audiences to watch for longer by moving the prime content after the ad breaks…just like television stations.
Performers on alternative live streaming site YouNow, by contrast, earn their money through digital tips from their viewers. Their live streams are uninterrupted, save for the occasional thank you from the host as donations are displayed live on screen.
That seems like a more pleasant viewing experience, and a better way for up-and-comers to make money than by forcing live streaming to fit the traditional television model. YouNow stars have cultivated loyal audiences by the hundreds of thousands by indulging their unique personalities and pushing the boundaries of a live broadcast–and they still generate millions of dollars in revenue every month.
If you’re going to try to achieve social media stardom through Facebook, YouTube, YouNow, or another platform like Instagram Go Live video, I suggest you follow that anarchic formula and be yourself, as loud as you can.
How to Get Paid for Live Streaming
Each new method of broadcasting has pushed into new entertainment territory. Cable television broke the dependence on advertiser approval and so was free to try more risky content, like HBO’s Sopranos and The Wire. Then came on-demand sites, like Netflix, which create their own movies and TV shows without the need for major studio funding or box office approval.
Live streaming is the next in line to take us somewhere new. Despite the big viewer numbers for its major stars, it is still focused around emerging markets like live video gaming and has a mostly young audience. But the technology is affordable and widely available–you just need a webcam, an internet connection, and maybe a few cheap accessories like a green screen and a way to replace your background–and it is free to broadcast.
So do something original to earn the revenue on offer by making use of the platform’s unique live quality.
- Rather than review a movie, stage a live drama in your home, in the open air, on the street of a major city.
- Rather than indulge in celebrity gossip, take your audience to the many film locations in and around the major studios and report live.
- Rather than show people how to bake a cake, stage a live dinner with real, interesting people in a park Alice in Wonderland-style.
- Broadcast a real support group to show people what it’s really like; stream a free concert by a promising band; put yourself in a boat off the coast and show us some real pirate broadcasting.
Viewers can already sit through ads while watching mainstream television. Our take on how to get paid for live streaming? Give your audience something so unique they can’t find it anywhere else.