YouTube Stars Making Big Money – What We Can Learn From Them?

YouTube Stars Making Big Money   What We Can Learn From Them?

For some time now, "moving to L.A. to break into the movie business" has been the clichéd pipe dream for most creative young Americans.  I live in Nashville, and I can tell you that a close second is "moving to Nashville to become a country music star.”  But the digital world may be changing all that.  In a few years' time, the most common pipe dream might very well be "starting my own YouTube channel and making a six figure income," if it's not already.

A new study by TubeMogul—a leading video advertising and analytics platform—reveals that there are at least 10 YouTube stars making an annual income of $100,000 or greater.  The study covered the period from July 209 through July 2010.  And these numbers don't even include pre-roll or overlay ad income, but just the banner-ad income.   As Nalts points out, it's also not counting revenue that content producers can earn from Sponsored videos.

The Stars and Their YouTube Earnings

Here's the breakdown of the top ten YouTube earners according to TubeMogul:

YouTube Stars Making Big Money   What We Can Learn From Them?10. Natalie Tran – AKA, communitychannel—a video blogger
Total views in the past year: 138,871,829
Income: $101,000

YouTube Stars Making Big Money   What We Can Learn From Them?9. The Young Turks, a political talk show
Total views in the past year: 153,807,362
Income: $112,000

YouTube Stars Making Big Money   What We Can Learn From Them?8. Smosh, a comedy duo
Total views in the past year: 154,936,876
Income: $113,000

YouTube Stars Making Big Money   What We Can Learn From Them?7. Greg Benson—AKA, Mediocre Films—sketch comedy
Total views in the past year: 159,030,703
Income: $116,000

*Note – watch this video from Greg refuting the details of the report.

YouTube Stars Making Big Money   What We Can Learn From Them?6. Shay Carl, sketch comedy
Total views in the past year: 192,309,247
Income: $140,000

YouTube Stars Making Big Money   What We Can Learn From Them?5. Lucas Cruikshank—AKA, Fred—children's entertainer
Total views in the past year: 200,656,150
Income: $146,000

YouTube Stars Making Big Money   What We Can Learn From Them?4. Ryan Higa, video blog & sketch comedy
Total views in the past year: 206,979,909
Income: $151,000

YouTube Stars Making Big Money   What We Can Learn From Them?3. Philip DeFranco, video blogger
Total views in the past year: 248,735,032
Income: $181,000

YouTube Stars Making Big Money   What We Can Learn From Them?2. Dane Boedigheimer—AKA, The Annoying Orange—comedy series
Total views in the past year: 349,753,047
Income: $288,000

YouTube Stars Making Big Money   What We Can Learn From Them?1. Shane Dawson—AKA, Ask Shane & others—sketch comedy and parody
Total views in the past year: 431,787,450
Income: $315,000

Surely you recognize some—if not all—of these content creators.  If you've spent any time at all in the last couple years browsing the popular or most-viewed videos on YouTube, you've run into most of these folks.  But you probably didn't realize how much money they were making, did you?

What Can We Learn?  Good Content => $$$

Every year or so there's a run of articles like this that point out how much money can be made using the latest web property.  Remember several years ago, when the story was about how many bloggers were making serious money?  Then it was MySpace Skin creators.  And then it was app developers.  And now YouTube.  Heck, just earlier this year we saw articles (like this one) about how the creator of David After Dentist had turned just that one video into a six-figure income.

And what all these trends and fads have in common is what I call the number one rule of online commerce:  if you can get enough traffic, you can make money.  I don't care if you're offering home improvement tips, comedy videos, or custom-designed logos.  Traffic equals money.  Ad revenue is going to come naturally when you're getting millions of hits.

The danger, of course, is that it's tempting to assume after reading articles like this one that making a living on YouTube is easy.  But just like blogs and Myspace and app-stores… it's far from easy… and it requires a ton of work.  Most of these people on the list below have made YouTube their full-time job, shooting and editing and releasing videos weekly.  You don't just launch a YouTube channel and immediately start getting hits.

Most of these people have been at it for years, diligently building a loyal following, and that takes tremendous effort, and lots of free time.  It's probably not a coincidence that so many of these content creators are teenagers (or were when they started out), as teenagers tend to have less responsibility and more free time than full-time working adults like you and me.  Their common age bracket also tells you something about how many young viewers there are on YouTube, and just how loyal that audience can be.

It's also interesting to see how powerful video blogging—essentially, sharing opinions through video journaling—and sketch comedy are on YouTube.  Not one of these people is a singer posting clips of their newest songs.  Not one of them is a journalist, teacher, or politician.  Instead, it's the laughs and personalities that YouTube viewers seem to want the most of.

It may be easy to poke fun of studies like this, or its subjects.  I've seen most of these shows, and haven't always been entertained by them.  But how many of us have the time to devote to a weekly video blogging show?  How many of us are willing to put our faces and personalities out there on a regular basis?  How many of us are speaking to the issues that teenagers—the core audience group on YouTube—cares about?  These people have earned their money.  It's hard work doing what they do, and they paid their dues to get to this point.  Please don't think you can just upload a video blog tomorrow and be on your way to $100,000 by year's end… because you probably can't.

I don't want to sound like I'm suggesting this kind of success can't be recreated.  It can, if you have the time, creativity, and dedication.  But that's a pretty big "if.”  Your odds of being in this list of top ten YouTube earners next year are about as good as my odds of getting signed to a record deal and winning a CMA.  But if you set more reasonable goals, your chances of success increase dramatically.

While we may traditionally think of YouTube as a way to market our preexisting business, it might be time to start thinking of it as a possible new revenue stream as well.  The big lesson for us to learn here is this:  you can earn money on YouTube.  Maybe not $315,000 a year like Shane Dawson.  Maybe not quit-your-job-and-buy-a-mansion money… but good content will get views.  And views will provide advertising potential.  And advertising potential will eventually turn into dollars.

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About the Author -
Jeremy Scott is the founder of The Viral Orchard, an Internet marketing firm offering content writing and development services, viral marketing consulting, and SEO services. Jeremy writes constantly, loves online video, and enjoys helping small businesses succeed in any way he can. View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • http://www.learningdslrvideo.com/ Dugdale

    When I was at VidCon in the keynotie one morning by a YouTube product manager he told the audience that some of the top YouTubers make a $100k a month not year.

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      Yeah, that seems much more in-line with what I would have thought. There is no way that sxephil is as cocky as he is but only makes 181/yr ;-) I think both Nalts and Greg B. had some good points about the accuracy of the report. Suffice to say – not a bad job.

  • http://www.VideoLeadsOnline.com/ Ronnie Bincer

    I think it's a shame that no dogs were in the top ten list!

  • Jaden

    Why isn't MysteryGuitarMan on this list? I'm sure there are several others making serious cash off their YouTube channels.

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      Yeah, I think that was Greg's biggest point in the video he made – there are
      others that he felt should be there on the list besides him.

  • Chris

    so how does the mula come in for your u tube stuff ? Do companies see the traffic and purchase ad space on your tube time?

  • smile

    This article is definitely inaccurate seeing that MysteryGuitarMan and Ray William Johnson wasn't even mentioned and their videos get millions of views.
    But yes, YouTuber Stars do have a good job. Not much job security though.

  • jason

    all need to shut up

  • http://www.facebook.com/SamiHermes Sami Hermés

    Heey i am Sami and i agree in what you are saying. Yes people want to follow personality and humor on youtube etc. and some earn alot of money!

    What i disagree with is that you ares saying that not everybody can go out and do it.

    I think EVERYONE who are cut out to share their passion on video can do it.

    This is only the beginning of a new era to come within social media and communication.
    The internet and these tool are still in their early phase.
    I mean the internet is still in it's baby years, it's not more than 25 years ago that people went online and 20 before the public really started to use it.
    The potential is sooo big!
    With the inventing of platforms such as youtube, twitter, linkdin, jaiku, beebo, myspace, facebook etc. the internet is on it's way to a whole new level –

    the internet brought with it a new generation and so did all the social media platforms. And new ones still coming!
    Most "modern" Kids growing up today are born into it and understands and breathes these instruments better than previous generations.
    Some live it and play it, all of them have their friends there and interacts with people all over the world, more than "adults" do.
    And it's still growing and new opportunites are arising
    Creating Brand equity is easier and way better than ever before in human history.

    If you have a camera a vision, passion burning desire and a bag full of dreams, ambitions and hard work and discipline you can brand yourself, become famous as a humorist or inspiration, or as bussiness man a musician u name it!
    People and the "new" kids have more opportunities to direct their destiny through internet than ever before and it's still… only the beginning.
    It doesn't have to be about joking around, as long as it is about your passion weather it's flowers or horses.
    And it doesn't have to be through youtube specifically.

    The people mentioned like Ryan Higa, Shane Dawson, happy orange guy etc. are only the beginning of the beginning.
    Within the next couple of years i am shure we will see alot more coming, especially with the expansion of social media, smartphones, apps, xbox etc.

    The big hot shot hollywood dude or manager, promoter, ad-bureaus are all taken out of the picture in this element, you don't longer need their "help" or their "permission" to get yourself out there.
    The opportunity you and me have in front of us is gigantic!

    I have just started to film and edit the first of my own videos for my blog and future site within health and fitness. It's alot of fun and hard work and the process is creative and passionate and videos are amazing. It will be that will be featured at bodybananas.com if any have an interest. It's about fitness and sports, health etc. A whole crew, inclusive myself showing how we get in shape and a lot of experts are going to appear in interviews etc.
    My motivation and my Drive comes from the passion i have to fitness, working out and being healthy I don't know if it is going to be SUCCEEEEEESS!! but i burn for it with all my heart and i will go for it 100000% and have fun with the process.

    by that said i STRONGLY disagree with your last point of view. That not everyone can do it and should expect to get any success with it. It think it is the opposite.
    So many people are creative in different ways now, than before.

    People will find new ways to utilize their creativity and genius on the web.
    it no longer takes "school or university" degrees to succeed if you have a talent or werent cut out for em.

    And the saying that it's because people have more time than you, is an excuse.
    Would you say the same about people who have build "regular" million and billion dollar companies?
    People like Gary Vaynerchuk build a 60 million dollar a year company through a video blog where he talks about vine, he makes people happy and brings joy as well.

    So don't believe that your odds is as small as getting signed to a record deal and winning a CMA cause it's not, it's exactly what it isn't.
    It's about believing in one self and being realistic about ones capabilities and then using them from the best angles with full throttle and passion.

    This is only the beginning!

    ©2008-2011 ReelSEO: YouTube Stars Making Big Money – What We Can Learn From Them?
    Reproduction without permission is prohibited. All Rights Reserved.

  • http://www.facebook.com/SamiHermes Sami Hermés

    Heey i am Sami and i agree in what you are saying. Yes people want to follow personality and humor on youtube etc. and some earn alot of money!

    What i disagree with is that you ares saying that not everybody can go out and do it.

    I think EVERYONE who are cut out to share their passion on video can do it.

    This is only the beginning of a new era to come within social media and communication.
    The internet and these tool are still in their early phase.
    I mean the internet is still in it's baby years, it's not more than 25 years ago that people went online and 20 before the public really started to use it.
    The potential is sooo big!
    With the inventing of platforms such as youtube, twitter, linkdin, jaiku, beebo, myspace, facebook etc. the internet is on it's way to a whole new level –

    the internet brought with it a new generation and so did all the social media platforms. And new ones still coming!
    Most "modern" Kids growing up today are born into it and understands and breathes these instruments better than previous generations.
    Some live it and play it, all of them have their friends there and interacts with people all over the world, more than "adults" do.
    And it's still growing and new opportunites are arising
    Creating Brand equity is easier and way better than ever before in human history.

    If you have a camera a vision, passion burning desire and a bag full of dreams, ambitions and hard work and discipline you can brand yourself, become famous as a humorist or inspiration, or as bussiness man a musician u name it!
    People and the "new" kids have more opportunities to direct their destiny through internet than ever before and it's still… only the beginning.
    It doesn't have to be about joking around, as long as it is about your passion weather it's flowers or horses.
    And it doesn't have to be through youtube specifically.

    The people mentioned like Ryan Higa, Shane Dawson, happy orange guy etc. are only the beginning of the beginning.
    Within the next couple of years i am shure we will see alot more coming, especially with the expansion of social media, smartphones, apps, xbox etc.

    The big hot shot hollywood dude or manager, promoter, ad-bureaus are all taken out of the picture in this element, you don't longer need their "help" or their "permission" to get yourself out there.
    The opportunity you and me have in front of us is gigantic!

    I have just started to film and edit the first of my own videos for my blog and future site within health and fitness. It's alot of fun and hard work and the process is creative and passionate and videos are amazing. It will be that will be featured at bodybananas.com if any have an interest. It's about fitness and sports, health etc. A whole crew, inclusive myself showing how we get in shape and a lot of experts are going to appear in interviews etc.
    My motivation and my Drive comes from the passion i have to fitness, working out and being healthy I don't know if it is going to be SUCCEEEEEESS!! but i burn for it with all my heart and i will go for it 100000% and have fun with the process.

    by that said i STRONGLY disagree with your last point of view. That not everyone can do it and should expect to get any success with it. It think it is the opposite.
    So many people are creative in different ways now, than before.

    People will find new ways to utilize their creativity and genius on the web.
    it no longer takes "school or university" degrees to succeed if you have a talent or werent cut out for em.

    And the saying that it's because people have more time than you, is an excuse.
    Would you say the same about people who have build "regular" million and billion dollar companies?
    People like Gary Vaynerchuk build a 60 million dollar a year company through a video blog where he talks about vine, he makes people happy and brings joy as well.

    So don't believe that your odds is as small as getting signed to a record deal and winning a CMA cause it's not, it's exactly what it isn't.
    It's about believing in one self and being realistic about ones capabilities and then using them from the best angles with full throttle and passion.

    This is only the beginning!

    ©2008-2011 ReelSEO: YouTube Stars Making Big Money – What We Can Learn From Them?
    Reproduction without permission is prohibited. All Rights Reserved.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicoprincely Nico Simon Princely

    Who the hell has job security. NO ONE. Job security is a total illusion. Making slave labor some how feel a little better about their job.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000724274917 Ronaldo Mateo

    raywilliamjohnson?

    • John Dunlea

      I really thought he would be in here too

  • http://gplus.to/rafaelquiles rquiles

    omg if i made even 10k a year on that i would be the happiest!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=703758618 Michael Höing

    xciting

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=739840250 John Wayne Erb

    Good article…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659966392 Brett W Nelson

    I was interested in you articles as a local cinematographer looking into youtube music vids. Interesting that no music vids make top 10. I'd be interested in knowing about youtube artists who launch careers and generate "real world" revenue kicked off by youtube.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002031315063 John Purcell

    It's astonishing to me that hundreds of millions of views only translates to low 6-figure incomes. Are advertisers under-pricing this medium, or does YouTube hog all the revenues?

  • Eli Etherton

    I'm up to $1250 a month now and its still going up everyday. It is a real job to get it going, but it beats having real job

  • RCONNORIII

    Wow that's a lot of chips for video. Have a great day on purpose!

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