The key to success for YouTube lies in monetizing more of its videos, and the company made a step toward doing that today by opening up its Partnership Program to creators of one-off viral videos.

Starting today, the video portal will allow any video creator with popular, approved content to add advertising to videos. While this won’t be the silver bullet to YouTube’s success, allowing viral video creators to make money from all those page views makes a lot of sense.

YouTube created its partner program a year and a half ago to help
video creators monetize their videos. That was great for
professional video creators and YouTube users with reliably large
audiences. But now anyone with an account can sign up if a video hits a
certain amount of traffic.

In a post titled “In the future, everyone will monetize their 15 minutes,” Google product manager Shenaz Zack writes:

“Now, when you upload a video to YouTube that accumulates lots of views,
we may invite you to monetize that video and start earning revenue from
it. To determine whether a particular video is eligible for
monetization, we look at factors like the number of views, the video’s
virality and compliance with the YouTube Terms of Service. If your
video is eligible for monetization, you will receive an email and see
an “Enable Revenue Sharing” message next to your video on the watch
page, as well as in other places in your account.”

Creators of one-off popular videos won’t automatically get into YouTube’s Partner Program if one of their video is eligible to be monetized, but many YouTube creators (like the ones that uploaded Battle at Kruger, David after dentist or Otters holding hands) aren’t likely to repeat the formula that made their videos go viral. Getting ads on that one video is what matters.

It remains to be seen if one-offs will make much money. Pairing user-generated videos with the right advertising is difficult and many viewers may not be inclined to click on it anyhow. That said, viral video creators should be able to get something from all of the people watching their videos. And this move seems like a no brainer for YouTube.

The company has already enabled music labels and movie studios to monetize unauthorized uploads of their products with its Content ID program. But it all comes down to whether creators choose to show advertising alonside their content. Many corporations would rather take down unauthorized videos then bring in minor amounts of revenue.

There’s also the example of Susan Boyle’s singing clips on YouTube, which notoriously went unmonetized because the U.K. show “Britain’s Got Talent” couldn’t decide who of the many producers should receive the YouTube revenue.

For individual content creators who are surprised by the success of an online video, it seems like a much easier decision. And even if this new expansion of the Partner Program doesn’t bring them a windfall from viral videos, what’s to lose?