Web waits to welcome a new wave of YouTube millionaires

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Users who upload amateur films on to the YouTube website could earn millions of pounds from the online video company's pledge to share advertising revenue with content producers.

Chad Hurley, the chief executive of YouTube, told delegates at the Davos World Economic Forum that the site would launch a system to share advertising revenue over the coming months.

"We are getting an audience large enough where we have an opportunity to support creativity, to foster creativity through sharing revenue with our users," Mr Hurley said.

YouTube is keen to cash in on its customer base of 32 million unique users, who watch over 100 million online videos every day, by advertising on the site. The web search giant Google paid $1.65bn to buy YouTube last November despite the video-sharing company having no revenue model.

YouTube's users upload over 65,000 videos a day on to the site. Videos range from amateur spoofs of films to grainy clips of concerts and sporting events captured on mobile phones to footage of quirky tricks and performances. There is also a huge amount of copyrighted material.

Many of the videos have been downloaded millions of times over the past year. The most successful clip, called Evolution of Dance, has been watched almost 40 million times over the past nine months.

YouTube has yet to reveal how it will reward successful content. It could pay on a per-download basis, per thousand downloads or by measuring click-through rates on featured advertisements. The model is likely to be based on Google's AdSense advertising platform that matches relevant text and image ads to website content.

The mobile phone company 3 UK pays users who contribute videos to its SeeMeTV service 1p every time a video is downloaded. It said that a number of users are earning hundreds of pounds a month.

David Wethey, the chairman of the advertising consultants Agency Assessment International, said that there is "no question that YouTube millionaires could emerge" as a result of the huge demand for quirky videos and advertisers' desire to target young people.

Adam Daum, an analyst at Gartner, said YouTube has its work cut out combining the demands of the advertisers with its unique user-experience. He said YouTube would have to ensure that "unfortunate contextual mishaps" - such as a car company's ads being used with footage of a car crash - were avoided .

Download your way to a fortune

* REAL LIFE SIMPSONS Amid all the copyrighted material available on YouTube is this real-life tribute to 'The Simpsons' opening credits that has been watched over 11 million times

* EVOLUTION OF DANCE Comedian Judson Laipply's quirky dance routine has been viewed a staggering 40 million times over the past nine months, making it YouTube's most viewed video

* RIVETING RONALDINHO Wobbly footage of the Brazilian football superstar Ronaldinho showing off his ball skills is a viral advertisement for Nike that has had nearly 10 million viewers