Should You Pay Your Community’s Contributors?

From The World Economic Forum comes the news that YouTube will start paying those who upload videos.

First of all… at the World Economic Forum… a YouTube announcement? Shouldn’t the folks there be talking about, I don’t know, currency trading or real estate speculation or climate change?

But more to the point: If you’ve run an online community, you’ve definitely asked yourself, “How can I attract more people, and give them an incentive to participate more? And how can I reward those who are helping to make the site a success?”

Offering money seems like an easy answer, but it’s an extremely perilous way to build community, for several reasons. One, it tends to attract the kind of person who is motivated by greed, which is often the opposite of the altruistic personality type that are important in forming a support network in your community.

Secondly, any type of reward system is prone to gaming, and if money is involved, the stakes are much higher and the effort involved in monitoring will need to be that much higher, too.

Lastly, while all community sites can, knock on wood, be victims of their own success, this is even more true when a community is supported by payments to the most active members. It’s doubtful that Google’s going to run out of $2 bills for its YouTube users, but for other more modest community sites, the additional, volatile expense of user payments can become a problem.

All that said, Google/YouTube is addressing the flip-side of community building: if you, the community-builder, are going to profit from the efforts of your hard-working members, it’s only fair to share some of that success with those on whom you’re relying. As Google’s David Eun recently said (in relation to Google’s media partners), “In most cases we still give the majority of every dollar we create from a partnership to the partners, so you still get the lion’s share of the money. What about that sounds so unfriendly?”

What do you think?

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