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.
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.