YouTube announced several new features out of VidCon today that will shake up the way midsized creators monetize. In particular, it announced a Premieres feature, which will let creators prerecord videos for their live streams. This allows creators to focus on things like answering live chat questions while the prerecorded video is playing.
The platform is also expanding its YouTube Sponsorships and rebranding it as Channel Memberships. Creators can name their fan clubs and charge $4.99 for membership, so long as they have at least 100,000 subscribers. They can design custom emoji for their live streams and designate special perks for paying members, similar to how Patreon works. The feature will roll out over the next few weeks.
The addition of Premieres also means that features that were once limited to live only can now be used on prerecorded content, including for example, Super Chat, where users pay donations to have their comment highlighted and linger longer in a live chat. Premieres is set to roll out over the next two weeks and will first come to select YouTubers who were beta test partners.
“Audience engagement is how you survive on YouTube,” says Amy Shira Teitel, a YouTuber who runs the Vintage Space channel who had been testing Channel Memberships. “Now instead of being in your separate live stream, you’re in the chat.”
There’s a new Merchandise integration that has gone live today, which also lets creators make shirts, mugs, and other items from Teespring and have their items advertised on a shelf below their video. YouTubers with 100,000 subscribers or more can design up to 20 items and make custom products not offered directly on the site.
Another new feature that is coming soon is an expansion of a Famebit integration, which helped brands hire YouTubers to make branded content. Now, underneath a branded video, there can be a shelf advertising branded products. This feature doesn’t have a set roll out date yet.
The news today comes after months of frustration from the creators community who claim YouTube’s new algorithms have been demonetizing their content by making it harder to earn ad revenue. These updates may not fix algorithmic issues, but they appear focused on improving community engagement and fan loyalty for those with established channels.