The New York Times recently posted an article about "how to cash in" on your viral YouTube video.  Mainly, the ground covered there is all the stuff we've covered with The YouTube Creator Playbook and Tim Schmoyer's Reel Web tips.  The centerpiece video of the article is one that became a huge hit this month called "Lily's Disneyland Surprise!" which currently sits at over 5 million views and represents the exact ingredients of viral YouTube sensations: it depicts a girl reacting cutely to an early birthday surprise, but she (and the rest of us) don't know that the book-bag full of goodies is only the start, and the reaction that follows is what makes YouTube the go-to site for emotional response.

Exactly How Much Money Do YouTube Partners Make?

Here's that video, in case you haven't seen it:

YouTube partners are, by contract, forbidden from sharing how much they earn from their video.  But, maybe The New York Times found people who were willing to do so anyway, or that ban is not in effect for these people, or YouTube makes so much money from these videos that they don't want to lose the business, or some other reason.  The "David After Dentist" video has apparently made a little over $100,000 from YouTube ads.

"David After Dentist" has a little over 100 million views.  That means, per 1000 views, the video has made a dollar.  That's a fraction of a penny per view, for partners.  Remember, these people become partners when YouTube discovers that a video is going viral and they ask the creators if they want to share the revenue.  The easiest way to see how much a viral video has earned, using this formula, is to simply remove the last three numbers from the total amount of views.  So, 100 million becomes 100,000.

According to the mom who shot The "Lily's Disneyland Surprise!" video, they've earned $3,000 since the video went viral.  The video has over 5 million views, so the equation's math is just a little bit off here (although in the time NYT interviewed her to today, it might have increased to $5,000), unless the revenue doesn't officially kick in until later.  The equation still gives you a close, rough estimate, and it's still a fraction of a penny no matter how you look at it.  There have been guesses that $2.50 per 1,000 views was a close estimation, but some people might get different rates according to different factors.  It looks like the norm is a buck per thousand.

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And that isn't the only way these videos make money.  Merchandise can be sold, like in the case of "David After Dentist" and its famous line, "Is This Real Life?" became T-shirts and stickers.  In the case of "Lily's Disneyland Surprise!" it's actually no surprise that the family in that video may make more money since Disney might use the video for their own Disneyland ad.

Sites like Will Video For Food, which has its own hits on YouTube, have hinted at what a YouTube partner makes on the site, and everything in that article pretty much points to videos making that fraction of a penny per view, and a third of a penny looks like the closest estimate.

Fractions of a Penny Mean Your Videos Need All the Help It Can Get to Earn Big Dollars

This is why making lots of content every week, sharing your video with numerous sites and blogs, making your video a social activity, means so much in earning money on YouTube.  Your typical "star" YouTube partner, those with millions of views per video, is likely making a few thousand dollars per video.  If they make 52 videos a year, that's earnings of $52,000 and up.  It's always a long shot to be able to make that kind of money uploading videos, so the best thing you can do is be dedicated, be social, and most importantly, have great content.  And then cross your fingers.

  • Kathleen Paul

    yeah like when people post this, everyone thinks they can just start a channel and make good money its hard work just like anything else dont think you are just going to post a video a wam, its work marketing, talent etc

  • Rad - That's rather simple calculator but tells you exactly how much you can earn with Youtube Partner Program.

  • Nathan Thompson

    Awesome article! NO BS and straight to the point. I have one question though, I'm guessing that the topic of your videos you upload also matters if you want to make money? I'm guessing a make-up tutorial video would makes more money than a video discussing politics considering both videos gets 100,000 views each... because of the relevant ads that is placed. Is this correct? :/

    • Chris Atkinson

      Thanks, Nathan. This article was published back in 2011 and there have been many changes since then. There probably should be some variance between videos because of the different quality of ads that will be placed on them. I don't think it would be too much variance in such a case, but the YouTube ad revenue stream is so complex, it wouldn't surprise me.

    • GodIsWithYou

      Hello Nathan... I think it differs because I am a YouTuber and I have less than 100 subscribers and less that 1,000 views and I make more than $2 for a video with less than 100 views.I guess it depends!

    • GodIsWithYou

      Here's the earning from one of my videos. This video had less than 100 views...and my channel had less than 15 followers and less than 500 views... I made that within 2 months after starting my channel for the first time.

      I make videos about fashion, and beauty. I also have a blog...I get more money on blog then I do with my YouTube videos...

  • Gautham@SmashPixels

    I guess that's too less considering the amount them make. I mean the gangnam style has like 1 billion views, and do you think he only earned 1 million through it??

    • Chris Atkinson

      Lots has changed since the publishing of this article back in 2011, which speculated on a rough figure given by the "David After Dentist" dad. The Gangnam Style video has generated $8 million in revenue ( There are lots of different ways videos make money and generate YouTube ad revenue these days. So yes, the "buck per thousand" speculated upon way back then is probably wrong now.

      • Mark

        No, it is still correct. it is actually between .70 to 1.50 per 100k

        Not all partners are created equally, watch this keynote... it is fascinating:

  • kikme

    The obvious reason why youtube doesnt want people knowing how you get paid is paid they pay people different rates for the same amount of views. So they dont want people to compare what they get paid otherwise they wouldn't be able to maximize their profits.

  • Symone Hogan

    YouTubing is like anything else I guess... you have to have talent, charisma, and a lot of luck.

  • Alex Kimzey

    I have made 30 dollars.. All together my videos have only gotten like 700 views.. Soo i dont think that math is right.

    • Chris Atkinson

      Just getting back to you now after 4 months, Alex. This article was published in 2011 and much has changed since then, so yes, the revenue is different now and it depends on a variety of factors.

  • Barry Livingstone

    Ps your mobile site is a pia to post comments on.

    • Mark Robertson

      Thanks Barry.. Ill take a look into that. What in particular was a PIA? Should have been via disqus, which I thought worked ok in mobile.

  • Barry Livingstone

    Of course it also depends on how likely a viewer is to click on one of the adeo

  • Toothy Grins

    Thanks Chris, that was useful information. Too bad it only averages a buck per thousand, but I suppose it can really ad up over time.


    Great content seems to be the key - Have a great day on purpose!

  • GW2Gold

    I think to be honest one can earn much, much more through Adsense directly. If you consider 1000 views is $1 with Youtube, compare that directly with Adsense.. A site with a CTR of even a modest 1%, paying the publisher $1 per click, will make $1 per 100 views, or $10 per 1000 views. Compare this to $1 per 1000 vidoe views.
    You're basically making 10 times more money with Adsense directly.

  • Beata77

    I like the Youtube too. The YouTube Partnership program is now available in many countries, not only in USA. Here is some more information:


    Great content seems to be the key - Have a great day on purpose!

  • GW2Gold

    I think to be honest one can earn much, much more through Adsense directly. If you consider 1000 views is $1 with Youtube, compare that directly with Adsense.. A site with a CTR of even a modest 1%, paying the publisher $1 per click, will make $1 per 100 views, or $10 per 1000 views. Compare this to $1 per 1000 vidoe views.
    You're basically making 10 times more money with Adsense directly.

    • Elizabeth

      I have 2000 page views and only 1 click per day. And I myself have never clicked any ads on youtube so far so I dont think your math is right either.

  • Dwayne Bernard Porter

    sounds great! Need a very good HD camera and software (got any recomendations) for a HD video.

  • Mike Aytona Brum

    good way to earn yer buck c", ).

  • Matt Koval

    The reason no one can pin down the exact figure is because the CPM (or technically, RPM) changes according to country, ad campaign, and ad inventory. Not to mention, sometimes embedded views are stripped of the ads (such as pre-rolls on Facebook), so what you get is wildly fluctuating figures. But I'd agree the average is $1-2 per thousand views.

  • Video Leads Online

    I've got another channel (UseMyDroid) that is a Partner channel... One big tip to pass along to partner-wannabes: Be sure that the types of videos you make can be continued on into the future easily enough. You may make it work eventually, but if the effort is too much to keep it going in the long run - since "fractions of a penny" don't really add up that fast - you may burn out. If it is too much effort to make 'em, you may not keep going.

    The effort I put into each Droid video was too much compared to the eventual payoff.