Peter Kafka

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Vimeo Lets Video Makers Hold Out a Tip Jar

Vimeo is a great place to see stunning videos. It’s not a great place for the people who make those videos to make money.

So, here’s an attempt to change that: Barry Diller’s video site is rolling out a “tip jar” feature, which is exactly what it sounds like: Video makers will have the chance to ask for donations, payable via credit cards and PayPal, after their clips have run.

And next year, the IAC-owned site will offer a feature that takes the opposite strategy: Content owners will be able to put up a pay wall and charge viewers before they see the clips.

Vimeo will take a 15 percent cut of all the tip jar donations; it hasn’t figured out what its revenue split will be for pre-video payments. But it’s going to have to be no more than the now-standard 30 percent that Apple gets from its partners.

This isn’t revolutionary stuff, by any means — you can find tip jars and pay walls all over the Web. But it is part of Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor’s plan to build up the company’s revenue, which is primarily limited to subscription services it sells to pro-am video makers. Those customers make up a very small segment of the 75 million users that visit Vimeo each month.

How about ads? That works, to some degree, for nearly every other video site on the Web. But other than a few discrete banners, and one-offs like this awesome, interactive Old Spice thingy that ran last month, Vimeo doesn’t do ads — no pre-rolls, no mid-rolls, no overlays.

That’s nice for users, but it means that Trainor can’t do what YouTube, Hulu, et al, do, and share ad revenue with content makers. That might change one day: Trainor’s background is in advertising (at Yahoo, a digital magazine start-up, and AOL), and he says he’s open to ads if he can figure out how to make them work without wrecking the site. But it doesn’t seem to be a focus right now.

cheech color2 1280×720 from Vimeo Staff on Vimeo.

(Shutterstock/Robyn Mackenzie)

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