How Much Do YouTubers Make? Revenue Streams and Top Performers

Make money on YouTube through video channels? You bet, and more and more savvy video passionista's are making the most of the popular online video site - although new rules make it more difficult for brand-new YouTube entrepreneurs to crack the code and earn some dough.

YouTube certainly has a huge global audience, with 1.58 billion users, making it the second-most visited online search engine (after Google). (GOOG)

Check out these other interesting factoids about YouTube, which point out why it's such a hot landing spot for YouTube video makers:

  • Every minute, more than 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube.
  • YouTube accommodates 75 languages, comprising 95% of the global Internet population.
  • The average YouTube user spends up to 25 minutes a day on the site.
  • Globally, YouTube visitors watch four billion videos every day.

What marketing manager wouldn't love to have that many eyeballs attached to his or brand on a regular basis? That's why there's so much cash to be made on YouTube - and there is no shortage of people looking to take full advantage.

How Do YouTubers Make Money?

Making money on YouTube requires creativity, grit, and the now-so-easy ability to generate video content that's unique, and that people want to see.

That said, making money on YouTube is doable and here are the most successful paths to profits that YouTube video mavens are taking:

1. Advertising Revenue

YouTube video producers earn between $3 and $10 per 1,000 viewer engagements, and it's the most common revenue model used to earn money on the social media site. The goal with any YouTube video upload is to leverage the advertising angle. Basically, YouTube pays the video owner 55% of any ad revenue collected on the video page. In more specific terms, if you can convince 10,000 viewers to connect with you on YouTube, you're looking at, at least, a $300 payday.

Primarily, YouTube channel producers earn ad cash through YouTube AdSense partnership programs. Ads are embedded on a YouTube channel page that (hopefully) generates revenue from channel viewership. If there are ad dollars to share, YouTube grabs 45% and you, the channel producer, earn 55% as your commission.

There is no hard and fast way to estimate what you'll earn as a YouTube partner, as experiences on the site differ. For instance, a small ad placed on a YouTube channel in a small town in, say, Argentina, will likely pay out less than a huge advertisement placed by a major U.S. auto manufacturer in Chicago or San Francisco.

With such variances in play, it's difficult to peg future ad earnings on YouTube.

2. Corporate Sponsorships

Companies love to attract eyeballs to their brands, and to their products and services. Thus, many businesses sponsor so-called "influencers" to create YouTube videos that promote their products, and pay the influencer for doing so. The obstacle to YouTube sponsorships is this:  companies only want to work with influencers with a wide following. Newbie YouTube video producers likely won't qualify for sponsorships, until their videos start attracting 10,000 or more user engagements.

3. Merchandise Sales

Some YouTube video producers earn good money selling gadgets, knick-knacks, shirts, hats and even gift cards to viewers who like what they're seeing on YouTube. This angle isn't easy, but selling merchandise for profit on YouTube does not happen overnight. Expect to take years to build a following strong enough to keep your video business in the green via merchandise sales.

4. Fan Donations

Some video entrepreneurs keep the lights on by having channel viewers donate funds to their video channels. This gambit, too, isn't easy, as viewers are loath to part with their money unless they are wildly passionate - or wildly entertained - by your viewing experience. That's always possible, but if you have that kind of fully-engaged audience, it's much easier to earn the big bucks through advertising or sponsorships.

Figure Out How Much Money You Can Make on YouTube

Time for a reality check. It's a very good idea to be rational and realistic before going all in as a YouTube video profiteer. One recent study notes that the top 3% of YouTube video revenue generators barely earns $12,000 annually.

YouTube has also raised the bar for monetizing its video user segment. As of 2018, the company has established the following "ground floor" baselines for paying out on uploaded videos:

You need . . .

  • A minimum of 1,000 subscribers.
  • A minimum of 4,000 hours of what YouTube refers to as "watch time" on the site.
  • And you must meet both requirements in a single 12-month period.

Previously, the minimum monetization baseline was a rather vague requirement of hosting 10,000 public views. With the new requirements, which rolled out in February of 2018, it's going to be much harder for new YouTube video generators to meet those standards, and earn decent cash on the site.

Criteria for earning money on YouTube depends on several factors, including:

  • Where your viewers reside. The "cost per click" metric that YouTube uses to measure payouts is higher in high-trafficked countries like the U.S. and the United Kingdom, and less so for lower-tier countries like India or Australia.
  • Age, gender, and income. YouTube sites that attract high-earners, like middle-aged men viewing a golf lesson or single, professional women engaging with an online MBA tutorial will likely earn much more money than YouTube Videos that attract teenagers or lower-income viewers who aren't as attractive, marketing-wise, to companies and advertisers.
  • Different advertising models. YouTube offers various types of ads that offer different payment models. For example, TrueView and Bumper ads pay on a "per view" basis, while so-called pre-roll advertisements pay on a per-click basis. YouTube video entrepreneurs may also be paid via click-through rates on advertisements included on your channel. Basically, the stronger the click-through rates, the higher the income you'll make.
  • More views matter. Advertisers will obviously tend to place their ads on channels with more subscribers. Consequently, YouTube video makers should make adding subscribers a big priority.

The Top Earners on YouTube

Despite the difficulties inherent in making money on YouTube, there are enough success stories on the site to keep plugging away, with the opportunity to make millions, too.

These top earners are living proof that you can make it big on YouTube:

  • Lily Singh. Known for her entertaining sketches and high-profile music videos, Singh has 13 million followers, and has earned over $10 million on YouTube.
  • Ryan ToysReview. This YouTube channel is run by a six-year-old - that's right - a six-year-old boy named Ryan who simply reviews toys on a regular basis, and earns $11 million, with over 10 million viewers.
  • Smosh. Smosh started in 2005, with the dynamic duo of Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla, who hit it big with comedy and parody videos. The duo attracted over 22.8 million viewers and earned $11 million. The duo split in in 2017, as Padilla left to start his own YouTube site, which now has over two million viewers.
  • Jake Paul. This YouTube superstar has made $11.5 million by rolling out comedy views, video blogs, and music videos, attracting 14 million subscribers in the process.
  • Felix Kjellberg, AKA PewDiePie. Making millions while playing video games, and talking about those games on YouTube, is the brainchild of PewDiePie. This YouTube megastar has a whopping 58 million subscribers and has made over $12 million on his wildly popular YouTube channel.
  • Mark Fischbach AKA Markiplier. The horror video game market has been cornered on YouTube by Fischbach, who has 18 million subscribers and has earned over $12 million, like PewDiePie, talking about video games on YouTube.
  • Jake Paul. The brother of Logan Paul, Jake Paul boasts over 17 million subscribers on YouTube. Like his brother, Paul has made his market posting video blogs and comedy clips, and has earned $12.5 million from his YouTube channel.
  • Evan Fong AKA Vanoss Gaming. This YouTube supernova has earned $15.5 million from his YouTube channel, who also has made his millions creating videos based on video games, boiling down hours of video game play into a single, direct video that resonates with his legion of fans.
  • Daniel Middleton AKA DanTDM. Middleton is a Minecraft millionaire, parlaying his love of the popular video game into a YouTube channel, both reviewing and playing Minecraft on his YouTube channel. He's earned $16.5 million doing so.

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