Would you pay YouTube $500 to leave a comment?

Angus Kidman 13 January 2017 NEWS


The video giant's Super Chat money-making scheme is, er, unusual.

Most people who run YouTube channels make their money from advertising and sponsorships. But now there's another strange option for them: having viewers pay money so that the comments they leave during live YouTube events are more visible.

YouTube today announced that it has begun beta testing Super Chat, which is essentially a cash-for-comment service. "Anybody watching a YouTube live stream can purchase a Super Chat: a highlighted message in the chat stream that stands out from the crowd to get even more of your favorite creator’s attention," YouTube's announcement explains. In some ways it's a version of paying for a meet-and-greet session after a concert.

But there's a twist: the more money you pay, the longer your comment remains prominent. $9.99 gets you 2 minutes of prominence. If you're certifiably insane, you can pay $500 to have your comment visible to everyone for 5 hours. Here's the full pricing table for Australia. No, I don't know why anyone would want to pay for the "0 seconds" versions either.

Purchase amount (AUD) Colour Max. message length Max. time in the ticker
$ 1.00 - 1.99 Blue 0 characters 0 seconds
$ 2.00 - 4.99 Light blue 50 characters 0 seconds
$ 5.00 - 9.99 Green 150 characters 2 minutes
$ 10.00 - 19.99 Yellow 200 characters 5 minutes
$ 20.00 - 49.99 Orange 225 characters 10 minutes
$ 50.00 - 99.99 Magenta 250 characters 30 minutes
$ 100.00 - 199.99 Red 270 characters 1 hour
$ 200.00 - 299.99 Red 290 characters 2 hours
$ 300.00 - 399.99 Red 310 characters 3 hours
$ 400.00 - 499.99 Red 330 characters 4 hours
$500.00 Red 350 characters 5 hours

YouTube is beta testing the concept with a handful of popular YouTube creators. A broader launch is planned on 31 January, when Super Chat will be available for creators in 20 countries (including Australia). Initially, you'll be able to buy Super Chat comments on computers or in the Android app. iOS is not currently supported, and I'd guess the reason is that Google (YouTube's owner) doesn't want to have to give 30% of purchase revenue to Apple.

I'm an angry and bitter old man, so I can't imagine coughing up $5 just to leave a comment as tedious as "Love your live-streams! Thanks for streaming", which is the example YouTube is showing off. But that doesn't mean the concept might not catch on amongst "YouTube natives".

One concept that apparently didn't catch on was Fan Funding, YouTube's take on crowd funding which let viewers give money directly to their favourite creators. That is being killed off from 28 February, and sign-ups have already stopped.

The most popular content on YouTube isn't live streams; given the choice, we prefer professionally produced comedy. But I'm not going to begrudge anyone the chance to try and make money, however weird the concept.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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