Vimeo Launches Virtual Tip Jar, Allowing Creators to Earn Revenue from Their Videos

"In a way, Vimeo is kind of like the Mac to YouTube's PC."

Mr. Trainor (Photo:

Vimeo, the New York-based video platform known for being the buttoned-up, besuited step-brother to the behemoth YouTube, announced two new features today aimed at empowering video creators to earn money for their work. The first is a virtual Tip Jar, which can be implemented across all Vimeo Plus and Vimeo Pro accounts beginning today, that allows viewers to reward creators for their hard work with cash donations via credit card or PayPal. Vimeo will retain a 15 percent cut of all tips.

“This is a feature that the product team has had in their minds for quite a while,” Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor told us recently on a visit to the company’s headquarters, nestled in a spacious office stocked with lots of candy in the IAC building.

We pointed out that the success of platforms like Kickstarter helped establish the concept of crowdfunding as an alternative way to show support for someone’s work. Kickstarter is different, Mr. Trainor said, as it’s about funding work that hasn’t been created yet, whereas Tip Jar serves as a way to reward people for work they’ve already created.

“What I think Kickstarter really points out is the excitement on the part of consumers to connect with people who are directly creating things,” he explained. “I think that that core connection absolutely remains with this approach we’re taking with Tip Jar.”

The second feature Vimeo announced today–which will roll out for Vimeo Pro subscribers beginning in the first quarter of 2013–is a pay-to-view model that allows creators to erect a flexible paywall around chosen content. Creators could, for instance, offer access to videos early if users pay $1 to get past the paywall. They could also create content that’s exclusive to paid viewers.

The new tip jar button can be seen in green. (Photo: Vimeo)

“The paywall is not something that’s been perfected, but we know from the success of VOD, Pay Per View and cable that it’s an idea that people have shown that they have a desire for that content,” Mr. Trainor said. “We’re going to try to make it as easy as possible for creators who might not have necessarily access to more familiar platforms like Netflix. We want to make it easier to use and much more flexible.”

Mr. Trainor gave the example of a director like Alan Ball, he of Six Feed Under fame. If Mr. Ball wanted to create a video or series that didn’t fit with HBO’s vision, he could instead host it on Vimeo, and make money by enabling the pay-to-view option.

Now a top 10 U.S. video property, Vimeo has established itself not as a competitor to YouTube, but instead as a much-needed alternative for professional and niche directors and filmmakers.

“YouTube is incredibly mass, and Vimeo has always set out to do something different,” Mr. Trainor. “As the space has grown, Vimeo has been rewarded with being able to be this other place that is focused on quality, creativity and control. Vimeo is freestanding from a traffic perspective–it’s not attached to Yahoo or a big portal.”

“In a way, Vimeo is kind of like the Mac to YouTube’s PC,” he added.

Vimeo Launches Virtual Tip Jar, Allowing Creators to Earn Revenue from Their Videos