YouTube's long been a good friend to video producers who create popular content. They become Partners, gain exclusive privileges, and can choose to run advertising on their videos for a cut of the resulting profit. Only now, YouTube has dropped that "popular" requirement, as detailed on the YouTube Creators blog. If you've got a single piece of qualifying content and are in one of 20 countries now enrolled in the program, you can choose to monetize it immediately and become a Partner on the spot.
Mind you, YouTube hasn't completely leveled the playing field, as we understand that Google isn't extending all the perks of Partnership to newcomers (at least not right away): custom thumbnails and banners for your YouTube channel won't be included to begin with, there won't necessarily be free Google advertising, and in general, "programs will be tailored to partners based on their specific needs." We understand that Creators will be eligible for Partner workshops, though, and other features are planned:
We also recognize that custom thumbnails and banners are sought-after features by many creators. We are working on making these and other features available to more newly-made partners over time, like we have done with long uploads and monetization.
While new content creators might feel like second-class citizens for a while, the system's as democratized as it's ever been. The downside: you can probably expect a whole lot more ads on the video network when people realize how easy it is to cash in.
Disclosure: Our parent company Vox Media is a YouTube Partner... and was, before it was cool.