How Much Money Do They Make on YouTube: Exposed

Renetto: The roundest face since Karl Pilkington

Renetto. Paul Robinette. Remember him? He makes about $55 a day from YouTube, and I once stalked him and shaved my head to assume his persona. He’s one of the guys behind one of the most interesting video website stats and mobile applications you’re bound to love and forget. It’s called MyU2B. See– I had to look at the website just to get that stupid name right.

The good news? If you’re an OCD creator or media buyer, than this is (and you can quote the guy who wrote the book on YouTube) “the crack cocaine of video statistics.” The bad news? The name is so damned forgettable I want to punch Paul Robinett in his branding boob. Half the reason I’m writing this post is so I can find his website searching the many alternative names my brain has given MyU2B: u2be, myu2be, ub40, u2b4, my2be u2be u2bme, and finally “renetto, youtube, stats, website, with, stupid, name.”

MyU2B iPhone App kicks the ass of YouTube's default mobile viewer.

MyU2B is my indispensable iPhone YouTube viewing app because it’s incredibly easy to sort by my favorite creator’s (people, channels, accounts, profiles) most recent videos. This is a common but impossible task via the caveman-like primitive search functions on YouTube’s own mobile app, and I call that a “deal breaker” or “functional obsolescence” for any regular viewer. MyU2B tells me exactly how many videos my favorite person or channel has posted since I last checked them. It solved a problem most don’t yet know we have.

The app (free and $1.99) also allows me to “super subscribe” to select people (although I haven’t figured out how to delete people like the incorrect jaaaaaa). There are about 2-3 dozen people I don’t want to ever miss, and for that I prefer this app to using YouTube on a computer. On YouTube I’ve “oversubscribed” like many people, so I miss some fresh videos by my favorite peeps. It really sucks to not be current on some of my favorite creators or friends.

The MyU2B stats site, although new and somewhat buggy, is entirely different (yet shares the horrible name). It gives you some pretty decent estimates of how much money each channel/person makes on could make (per comments below) on YouTube, and even sorts estimated revenue by individual video. That’s badass, even if it’s assuming CPMs (revenue per view) that are impossibly inconsistent and volatile. It’s a cool tool just to track who’s getting views and comments… instead of the somewhat archaic method of tracking subscribers… like on VidStatsx. Vidstatsx is an equally crappy named but remarkably useful website, though the latter is a bit too focused on subscriptions (which is not nearly driver of daily views it once was). And tip from Zipster08, who I never miss (despite the mocked screen shot): allow MyU2B to load completely before searching for someone. (Zipster checks hourly). MyU2B doesn’t yet allow you to bookmark or link to a specific search string, but it does index more than 11,000 individual channels.

See below for an example… are they the potential estimates accurate? I don’t know. YouTube doesn’t give me reporting this precise, but I know for a fact that CPMs by individual videos for the same creator can vary from pennies to dollars — by individual video.

Since we YouTube Partners are all contractually obliged to conceal our revenue, it’s hard to know if it’s over or understating revenue/earnings. But feel free to comment (anonymously) if you want to share feedback on its precision! I’m glad it’s not accurate, because I don’t want people thinking about the money I earn from YouTube (it’s equally embarrassing whether it’s high, low or accurate).

MyU2Be (or whatever it's called) can easily track estimated earnings by creator and by video

Finally, let’s help these useful resources with their branding. Anything, including the word “pizzle,” would be better.

On YouTube, Popular and Good Are Different

I would have predicted that by April 2010, YouTube’s “most popular” videos would be consistantly good. In fact, however, we’re seeing some all-star talent like Mediocrefilms and BlameSocietyFilms getting far fewer views than they would have a year ago. And we’re seeing some YouTube channels ranking consistently on YouTube’s most-viewed and most popular sections that are (how can I put this nicely?) kinda “Naltsish.”

Why? Sure there’s an increasing amount of competition, but the only common thread I’m seeing among the high performers (in views and subscription growth) is regularity (videos posted daily or several times a week). To some extent this isn’t entirely new, but I would have thought by now that the “most popular” content would kinda sort out the good from the bad. Has my taste departed from fellow YouTube viewers, or is the algorithm screwed up?

It would appear that routine posting, more than anything else, is key. Talent continues to be far less important than regularity, as well as the basic standards I address in “How To Become Popular on YouTube Without Any Talent” (engaging with audience, collaborating with popular creators, etc).

Joe Penna, MysteryGuitarMan, is an exception to a new rule: popular and quality YouTubers channels are hardly correlated.

There are notable exceptions. Nobody in web video has produced more consistently creative and awe-inspiring videos in 2010 than Joe Penna, known as The MysteryGuitarMan. It’s perplexing that even the most extremely awesome and popular YouTube amateurs is virtually an unknown beyond YouTube. When I speak at conferences, few recognize the most-viewed or most-subscribed people like Fred… and certainly haven’t heard of MGM (aka JP).

Check out a few of these videos from this playlist and you’ll quickly see why he’s predictably on the “most viewed” or “most popular” pages. His videos are not just audible and video joy, they’re painstaking acts of labor. Each take creativity to a new level, and is the output of countless hours of work.

MGM for free wrote my Nalts theme song back in 2007, and I’ve watched his videos over the years. He kinda fell off the grid in 2008-2009, but 2010 has been his year. I think about him at least once daily. I literally go to the computer just to see his new video (versus stumble into him on a YouTube binge). And when it’s something especially awe inspired like “Happy Dance (looping around),” I bring the whole family around the computer, like a 1940 family gathered around a radio to hear Orphan Annie.

According to Penna’s Wikipedia entry, he was going to pursue medical school. While the world could have used a creative and determined doctor like Penna, I’m really, really glad he chose to put his passion into film, video, creativity, illustration and music. I think his more than 750,000 subscribers would agree.

Parenthetically, Penna recently joined Rhett and Link (who haven’t posted a video in weeks and it hurts) to collaborate in the Swamps of North Carolina. Given Rhett and Link’s collaboration with MGM that produced this painstakingly wonderful t-shirt video (read more), I can only imagine what we’ll see next week as the result of sleepless nights by Rhett, Link and Joe.

Annoying Orange’s “Hey Apple” Creator

Meet Daneboe of Gagfilms, creator of the extremely popular “Annoying Orange” series. I interviewed him remotely in late 2007 for Metacafe Unfiltered, a short-lived “behind the scenes of popular creators.” Since he was in Florida, Freddy Nager suggested we do a homage to his popular “screaming eggs” video.

So when I saw his recent Superbowl video surging on YouTube, I went on a binge. Imagine me and my four kids laughing hysterically at the wonderfully sophomoric and simple concept: An orange annoys fellow fruits and vegetables, but always gets the last laugh when their rudeness is followed by their demise.

My favorite is episode three, featuring the Tomato that can’t be both a vegetable and a fruit.

Thanks to Dane for digging up the digital file, and allowing me to post it. 🙂

RSS a YouTube Channel

Some of you aren’t regular YouTube viewers, but have loads of RSS (feeds) available via a reader. I use iGoogle as my reader, for instance, and I have a customized page loaded with RSS feeds from my favorite blogs and websites. Butterfly.

If you prefer to get alerts for new videos that way, here’s a feed URL you can use.RSS it, and you’ll have the latest Nalts video available without having to check YouTube subscriptions.

To change it to a feed of someone with talent, simply replace “nalts” with their username.

YouTube Partner Income Sporadic

While we’re precluded from revealing specifics about YouTube revenue, it’s now becoming more common for YouTube “partners” to know what others are making. While the CPM (cost per thousand views) once seemed to have settled, the creator income fluctuates wildly. As noted in this chart, the month of May took a nose dive for me– June was up slightly. July’s amount (due in days) will tell give us a sense of trends, and whether we’ll return to the peak of the first quarter when InVideo ads were flowing like wine at a wedding.

What’s interesting is that views/subscribers don’t appear to correlate with income very well. See TubeMogul stats (chart 2) for monthly views, but recognize that YouTube’s Partner revenue (paid via AdSense) lags by a month. Any statisticians in the houuuse?

It would appear to me that there are two variables a creator can’t control, and significantly alter  YouTube Partner earnings:

  1. Inventory. If YouTube isn’t selling InVideo ads (ads that surface on bottom of video after 20 seconds) in my videos, there will be almost no income. The income from text ads and banners is paltry even in volume. If that yellow line is in the video player I’m a happy camper. Otherwise I fear retiring a corporate mule. I am aware that this isn’t healthy, thank you. Keep in mind that my revenue is not necessarily suggestive of YouTube revenue or inventory — it could simply be that my specific videos weren’t targeted by advertisers in a certain period. I do see a day where the creator can help sell his/her own advertising revenue, but that’s a logistical challenge.
  2. Location of view. YouTube currently doesn’t flight InVideo ads except for videos viewed on That means a sweet lil’ old blogger embedding my video and getting me hundreds and thousands of views is of no consequence yet to her or me. Yet. Yet!

A few lessons for those hoping to make a living via online video:

  1. Be realistic. It takes a long while for views to translate to income. Think of it as a bonus not salary.
  2. Don’t count on it as a primary income unless you’re one of the top most-viewed creators and your audience is attractive to advertisers. In that regard, it feels more like TV/movies. Hopefully the predictions of radical increase in online-video advertising will equalize this effect… making it more democratic.
  3. If you expect to live on YouTube, become a hot rock star or lower your cost of living.
  4. Expect fluctuation. While in theory you control your views, thse too are dependent on a variety of factors. And unless you start selling for YouTube, the total advertising revenue and inventory is out of your control. People kinda have to be travelling on Maine highways for your Maine hotels to have high occupancy. You can make sure your hotel is more attractive than the very busy Motel 6 across the street.
  5. Find other ways to earn money via online video. Don’t bother selling crap to people (to date, the Nalts DVDs and merchandise has accumulated less than my worse month on YouTube). Rather find ways to appropriately sponsor brands or companies, and pursue those deals on your own. Until I start popping up in keynotes at Advertising conferences, it’s going to be a while before advertisers come hunting for you.

But I’m working on waking the sleeping giants.

Who Created Nintendo’s Mario: Legitimizing Via Video

Guest blog post by Zack Scott.

otto’s dadAs your popularity on YouTube or other video sites climbs, you’ll notice that more people want to talk to you. This is something you will have to deal with, and how you deal with it can have a drastic effect on both you and your fans (or haters). For example, I try to respond to every message I get. I do this because I feel if someone takes his or her time to send me a personal message, then it is well worth my time to reply. And why not? Is my time so important that I can’t take a few minutes out of my day just to potentially make someone else happy that I responded? Of course not.

zack scott as marioBut I must admit it was a little weird to get a message from someone named Arden Lawrence who claimed to be the original creator of Nintendo’s Mario. I got it right after I made my Amazing Nintendo Facts video.  A lot of things went through my mind. It seemed like it could be a prank or a scam, but could there be some shred of truth behind it? I Googled him, and sure enough, he had made some posts on some Internet sites a few years ago. So I wrote back asking for more details.

My response was due to my sense of duty to help people when they reach out. He didn’t ask for anything except for advice. I basically told him that although I don’t fully believe him, I’m in no position to call him a liar. I said that if he wants his story to be taken seriously though, he has to put a face behind his words.

original mario creator?I had no legal advice to give him, but I did give him the best advice I could. And he took it. Several days ago he posted this video on YouTube, and he’s willing to answer any questions anyone has. Sure, this might be an elaborate prank or scam. Afterall, he has no real tangible evidence. But assuming what he says is true, then why wouldn’t someone turn to YouTube to get his story out? Maybe he should be given the benefit of the doubt. If he’s lying, then people will expose that in due time. But if he’s telling the truth, then maybe this will be the start of something fun?

Top YouTube Creator Spinning Off New Video-Community Site (working title

Renetto’s new YouTube siteOne of the most popular YouTube creators, “Renetto,” has been discussing a revolution, and aspirations to create a new website for unmet online-video community. The new site, a homage to Paul Robinette’s self absorption, is aptly titled “RenettoTube.” I announced the new site in this video from last weekend (see launch video). Oh- and I created the fake site as a joke that was lost on many.

Renetto recently created a video where he’s reacting to the more than 180 comments appearing on RenettoTube. For the record, my only fake entry was from MrSafety.

So it’s a joke, but based on reality. If Renetto does get a bunch of creators to participate in an online video site “by the people and for the people,” what are the opportunities and risks? I’d like to hear from you, dear reader. I’ll start the process, though…


  • Smaller entity can better meet needs of the smaller subset of YouTube that is primarily participating because of the joy of community.
  • If he attracts a lot of big creators, it will be hard to ignore.
  • The new site could, in theory, keep lean and more focused.


  • It’s very hard to monetize user-generated content. Renetto will need strong partnerships with online-media buyers, who are still struggling to get their clients to post ads around what they perceive as a risky collection of content.
  • Will viewers migrate? It’s a big challenge to get YouTubers to another site. We saw the mess of LiveVideo’s attempt to develop a YouTube clone, and maybe a little more reluctant to migrate.
  • The battle against YouTube (with air cover from Google) is not trivial. Renetto and his companions will need to differentiate, focus and outsmart the 100 pound gorilla.

Renetto, many know, is an entrepreneur and inventor with good relationships with other creators. So it’s worth watching closely. Stay tuned as more news develops.