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Are you ready for the YouTube fund drive?

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Online video: what a pickle. Everyone loves watching stuff on YouTube or Hulu or any of the other zillions of places we send our eyeballs, but no one’s really figured out a way to make money off of it. Even the professional joyologists at Google are set to hemorrhage $470 million in loses on YouTube for 2009, according to some analysts.

Jordan Levin, former CEO of The WB, said at a Web content conference yesterday that “Current production and distribution margins simply cannot support the overhead required to produce premium online content.” And he thinks the solution is to have more strongly-branded content, “like the Texaco Star Theater and the Colgate Comedy Hour,” with those brands footing more of the bill than current Web advertisers are, a la old timey TV.

I’m not opposed to that — I prefer that kind of blatant advertising to a subtle product placement, but maybe that’s me and my stupid hippie values. (Just kidding, I hate hippie values.) That said, I’m not convinced this is the only way sites can make money. If we’re going to stick within the TV finance structure, there’s a public television format of asking viewers for moolah to support programming (and keep the totebag industry afloat) but keeping it free to watch. Or there’s a premium cable format, which would require viewers to pony up for ostensibly superior content. Those seem just as viable to me as superbranding.

What about you, PopWatchers? Put on your thinking berets and lets monetize online video! ¡Whatever’s the opposite of Viva la Revolucion!

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