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When you pair that number with the 4 billion hours of video we watch per month, it's clear that entertaining and valuable content is in high demand. And now that the YouTube Partner Program is open to everyone, monetization is actually more feasible than ever.
Even if you never reach Justin Bieber status on YouTube, you can join the plenty of people who successfully make a living off the platform. Just know that it requires the right preparation, execution and equipment -- but most importantly, patience.
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First, you must set up an account. If you already have a Gmail account, you can log in using the same name and password. However, it's helpful to keep your email separate, so consider creating a new account strictly dedicated to your channel. (You can always sync your email so YouTube-related messages forward to one address, if you prefer.)
When creating an account, think carefully about your username -- the handle will essentially become your brand name, so make sure it's something you're really comfortable with.
Content Is King
Each of the YouTube stars in the above video mention that producing quality content is most important -- now, more than ever. YouTube recently updated its video discovery features to focus on watch time versus number views, effectively filtering out videos that get clicked and abandoned.
Before you register an account, outline a plan. Think about the type of content you wish to create. Is it going to be a video blog? Tutorial? Talk show? Sketch comedy?
Or it could be a combination of things. Chris Thompson marries music and comedy, producing a variety of a cappella songs, covers, original sketches and parodies.
Secondly, YouTube requires that you select a category (among many) that describes your topic of interest. Some of the categories include beauty, education, entertainment, cooking, comedy and music. You can browse more categories here.
The big difference between creating recreational YouTube videos and hosting a channel in the Partner Program is original content. We all know that YouTube is a melting pot of cat videos, remixes, autotunes, etc., but it's much more of an investment to put a personal stamp on video content.
YouTube states that to be eligible for monetization, "you must own all the necessary rights to commercially use all visuals and audio, whether they belong to you or a third party."
Copyrighted videos and playlists of another YouTube user's videos does not qualify for monetization.
Before opting your content into monetization (by clicking the labeled tab when uploading a video), make sure you have all of the necessary rights to use the content commercially -- and that includes the background music. You can clear rights to use third-party content on YouTube by submitting written permission from the rights holders.
Patience and Consistency
Don't expect thousands of views right off the bat. To begin earning those precious views, you must be a reliable and professional content creator. Most YouTube filmmakers have plenty of days or weeks where they don't feel like making a video, but subscribers crave dependability. They expect a video on a fairly regular basis, so don't expect success if you only post when you feel like it.
Benzine started uploading videos in 2007, but it took two years of delivering regular content to a small audience to get noticed by the YouTube community. He began producing even more consistent content, and in 2010, was able to quit his waiting job and make videos full-time. Today, Benzine has nearly 400,000 subscribers.
In short, this had better be something you're passionate about, because soon you'll be talking and thinking about it -- all the time.
Tyler Oakley is known for his comical observations, opinions and how-tos. In his most popular video to-date, Oakley lip-syncs to Nicki Minaj. But in one of his first big moments, he was recognized by YouTube for his social commentary on derogatory views of the homosexual community.
Oakley started on YouTube to keep up with his hometown friends while in college. To his surprise, his charismatic videos garnered the attention of nearly 100,000 subscribers within a couple months. Today, his channel has earned more than 26 million views.
Every 24 hours, YouTube's algorithms rank videos and channels, according to highest views, ratings, comments, favorites and video responses. In other words, even the best content needs some promoting to get featured in the "most popular" category lists.
Viewers want to feel engaged with the content you are producing. Use these platforms to engage with your viewers or to ask for future video suggestions. These are the people you want to want to entertain, so why not determine what they like throughout the process?
You don't need a studio budget to maintain a successful YouTube channel. Quality cameras are now advanced and affordable -- many YouTube users have created compelling content simply by filming with a phone.
Filmmaker Jeremiah Warren suggests flip cameras, webcams or cameraphones for basic videos, like vlogs. You can also purchase adapters to hook mics into an iPhone.
For more professional videos, Warren recommends a DSLR camera. You can attach a microphone directly, or if you really want to invest, purchase external recorders, such as the Zoom H4N ($300) to manually adjust and monitor audio.
Lighting is equally important. You can do basic shooting with natural light, but halogen lights and reflectors run around $14-$20.
Lastly, computer and editing software is important. YouTube has a one-click editing feature, but reserve the tool for quick and simple fixes. Macs and PCs come with default editing programs for basic editing. Otherwise, for professional editing, you'll need software like Adobe Premiere, Final Cut X or Sony Vegas, depending on your budget.
Any current Mac or PC laptop with an Internet connection is adequate for editing and uploading content to YouTube. Warren suggests one with at least 2GB RAM and, for bigger projects, $250-worth of HDD space.
Once you've developed a production routine, experiment with content, style and marketing. The advantage of having a new channel is being able to test what works and what doesn't.
Eventually, you'll gain subscribers and begin to ponder why you sold yourself short of Justin Bieber.
Image courtesy of Flickr, rbbaird
This story originally published on Mashable here.