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How Much Money Does Jenna Marbles, Smosh and Toby Turner Make on YouTube?

Jenna Mourey (Jannamarbles) makes $4.3 million. Smosh makes $5.7 million. And Toby Turner (TobyGames) makes $4.2 million.

That’s according to this infographic, so it’s got to be true.

One of the top reasons people visit WillVideoForFood is to read about how much money YouTubers make. Read more…

how, much, money, youtube, stars, jennamarbles, toby, turner, smosh, jenna, marbles, make, 2013

How much money do youtube stars make?

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Ray William Johnson Is YouTube’s First Millionaire Creator

YouTube “Partners” are contractually obliged to not disclose earnings from Google’s video-sharing property, but that didn’t stop #2 subscribed Ray William Johnson this week. On Thursday he told ReelSEO’s Jeremy Scott that his YouTube ad-share income over the past 12 months (March 2010-March 2011) has surpassed one million dollars.

Ray William Johnson says "he's not embarrassed to be the first YouTube millionaire

Johnson, one of few top YouTubers that does not accept sponsorships or product placement, has earned $1 million strictly from YouTube’s advertising-sharing program. In his Tuesday video titled “F-U FORUM,” the  37-year-old New Yorker told his viewers he was tired of YouTube’s “cone of silence” about his “bodacious income.”

“I’m just a regular guy with an entertaining hobby that happens to make a friggin million dollars without leaving my apartment,” Johnson told Scott. “Am I supposed to apologize for that? If you’re jealous just do what I’m doing, and do it better.”

Numerous media articles have covered YouTube “star” income, but few YouTube Partners have revealed their revenue, either because they feared legal backlash from the “search giant,” or they hesitated alienating “fans” and viewers.” Johnson said he’s “tired of pretending he doesn’t earn it” because he “spends about 11 hours a day surfing for killer videos to rip and replay.” Johnson told Scott he was not concerned about potential copyright violations from his creations.

“My use of these moronic clips is covered by what’s called “fair use,” (expletive). And it’s a free form of creative expression because I add some comedic writing to the videos instead of just playing them over and over. Like I’ll say ‘hey look at this douchebag’ and then jump-cut edit myself saying “hey look at this DOUCHE-BAG’ from the opposite side of the video frame.”

YouTube spokesperson Felicia Williams would not confirm Johnson’s claims, but former YouTube Community leader  “Big” Joe Smith said it’s “more than plausible.” Smith said Johnson’s nearly 1 billion cumulative views “would conservatively generate in excess of one million dollars.”

Johnson’s claims are also validated by Paul “Renetto” Robinette, who runs the metrics site “MyU2B.” Robinette said his most pessimistic calculations range in the $800,000-$900,000 range, and it’s possible he’ll double his income in the next 6 months based on growth projections.”

Models for “Signing” YouTube Creators; Tips for Advertisers, Studios & Stars

Several trends are causing many independent “YouTube Creators” to sign with “new establishment” (web studios) such as Makers Studios (good luck finding its website), Next New Networks, The Station, Howcast and Machinima. Many early web studios were formed to create and promote custom shows for wide distribution. But the high investment ($1-$5K per edited minute) could not be sustained by the modest advertising dollars moving into the medium. In the past year, most have abandoned custom shows and are signing proven YouTube talent, many who have low costs, but large and steady audiences that are valuable to advertisers.

The trends driving these deals are:

  • It’s a buyer’s market. YouTube advertising revenue is relatively depressed because it’s new and driven mostly by Google Adsense, which allows even small advertisers to target viewers. The revenue model is largely based on “cost per thousand impressions” (CPM), and the income to the creator is mostly hovering at a modest $1 plus range… obviously YouTube pockets a portion before the creator is paid. Since an advertiser is often willing to pay far more for a targeted view, there’s plenty room for an intermediary who can command higher CPMs. Despite Google’s large salesforce, the display team at Google is relatively small. As I’ve said before, most media buyers are opting to put dollars into other sites because YouTube is less flexible.
  • Many solo acts have significant monthly views (mine alone are 5 million plus), but can’t justify selling their own inventory.  However if a network can assemble a collection of creators that are attractive to certain industry advertisers, they can rationalize a salesforce and a premium.
  • The marketplace for talent is growing increasingly competitive, making it more attractive to independent creators to share in such fixed costs as management, marketing and production. Many solo acts on YouTube lack even basic talent representation, and don’t know how to find sponsors or price their sponsorships (and some are not willing or capable).
  • Budgets are flowing online dramatically, as video consumption increases. YouTube has missed a significant portion of online-video budgets because Google’s emphasis remains on paid search (while smaller properties are focused on pursuing larger digital budgets and even television budgets). This is changing, and could become more complex as the lines become less clear between YouTube (which has often proclaimed to be a platform not a network) and web studios (like its rumored acquisition, next New Networks).
  • Cross promotion across creators can grow the size of an audience significantly, and collective groups (like The Station) can expose individual shows/stars to audiences that might not otherwise know they exist. Many creators have sought alliances because there’s strength in numbers. The brat-pack model is not to be underestimated, even though shared successful YouTube channels are rare.

While few web studios and creators will reveal detailed terms, here are a few models that I’ve seen first hand. I will avoid revealing specifics or suggesting which studios gravitate to various models. Even within the same web studios, the deals can vary dramatically based on the creator’s negotiating skills, their content quality, and their audience size. Most deals are more nuanced than the following, but here are some simplified examples:

  • We own you. Small “up and coming” creators were often willing to effectively sell their show to a web studio and become compensated at a fixed price per episode. This is increasingly rare, as it is risky to both the studio (who can’t be sure the star/show will succeed) and the creator (who loses the otherwise unlimited upside potential of a solo YouTube artist).
  • We own 50% to launch you. Some “web studios” sign new talent with a revenue split. A talented but unknown creator can gain accelerated growth via appearances in the network’s already popular shows, and in return provides a portion of his/her YouTube Adsense dollars to the studio. Both this model and the previous require the studio to “claim” the channel via YouTube, and then pay the talent in some form: usually a month after the studio is paid. YouTube is attempting to make this easier for the creator, studio and advertiser… but it’s still fairly complicated to execute. Since the creator can become blind to the actual revenue their channel receives, it requires some trust.
  • We “mark you up.” Since the average ad CPMs remain modest, some studios are able to offer a creator/show a premium CPM (income per view) that is higher than that to which they’re accustomed… but sometimes capped. For instance, the studio may promise to pay the creator $2 per thousand views, and pocket any incremental revenue. This makes sense if the studio can sell the inventory at an ongoing premium, and is even more attractive to the creator if the studio can promote and grow the channel as well. However it means the creator may not benefit from what I’d expect to be higher CPMs in the years ahead.
  • We split incremental proceeds. A more mature YouTube star may negotiate a deal where anything in excess of their regular YouTube “Adsense” revenue is split. The studio may, for instance, sell a series of sponsored shows to a brand or advertiser, providing a complement to typical display ads (prerolls, banners, InVideo ads). The studio also may offer additional “value ads” that are not easy to execute via YouTube directly (such as having a collection of creators promote the brand on their Facebook and Twitter profiles). The creator may occasionally get a fixed sponsorship income (a few grand) to provide messaging within the show, and the display ads are marked up during a specific timeline. We’ve seen programs like Howcast’s GE Healthymagination that involve a number of YouTube stars working together or sequentially. In some cases YouTube manages these directly, contacting top talent to participate.
  • Pay per sponsorship. Some studios remain strictly in the pay-per-sponsored video space, providing advertisers with a flat fee for a series of videos that mention a product or service. A creator who fetches 200K to 1 million views per video can command o5-50K for a single sponsored video, and the studio takes a percent. Again, YouTube does many of these programs directly since the marketplace for these programs is still immature. Hitviews was one of the early companies for these, and Mekanism is doing some now. In my experience, it’s far more profitable to a creator to do them directly via YouTube… but there’s little a creator can do to increase the quantity of these. They’re bought not sold.

In this blog and my book, I’ve argued that advertisers and creators need intermediaries to facilitate sponsorship programs when they go beyond traditional ad buys (invideo, prerolls or adjacent display ads). When I consulted with Hitviews, I helped orchestrate some of these complex sponsorship programs, and they require skills that are rare in traditional and digital agencies. They’re difficult to sell, tricky to execute, and require cash reserves — since creators must sometimes be paid before revenue is received from advertisers. I’ve also done these directly with advertisers since I have a marketing background, but that’s not easy for most creators. Still, these sponsorships are lucrative for creators and extremely valuable for brands. They take the advertising message to where it has greater influence (within the show) and cannot as easily be ignored. They’re also perpetual annuities for brands. Some of my sponsored videos have garnered significant views long past the campaign’s period.

Audiences can be tolerant of these sponsored deals as long as the creative is strong, and a webstar or show does not do them too often. To see some of my own sample sponsored videos click here. You’ll see that most are not heavy on the promotion since that can severely impair views, ratings and comments. My income for these has varied radically, and often does not correlate with the total views of the videos. In a few cases, the advertiser has paid YouTube to “spotlight” the videos, but most of the views are organic.

I have seen some of my favorite YouTube creators fatigue audiences by accepting numerous sponsored deals (especially in a short time period). I’ve seen both extremes: the advertiser paying far more than it should (based on quality of the video or total views), or the creator selling out for a modest fee (and sometimes not paid at all).

Here are some tips first for advertisers/studios, then for creators. My emphasis is on sponsorships rather than “signing,” since the former is more common.

  • Advertisers or studios should not, in my opinion, subsidize a show’s creation. That can get cost prohibitive to a brand, and can result in mostly paid views. Those are not nearly as valuable as “organic” views (where a show already has a recurring or loyal audience).
  • I believe advertisers should provide at least 50% up front (like with any media buy) and withhold 50% based on performance metrics (total views). This ensures the studio has sufficient funds to attract and pay creators, and also reduces the risk to the advertiser. However it seems studios and YouTube often commence campaigns before getting paid, which results in ridiculous long gaps (3-6 months) between posting a video and getting paid for it.
  • Studios (and advertisers) should be careful about the stars/shows they pick. Some have a reputation for delivering content that meets the needs of the audience and the brand, and others are known for turning in marginal content, missing deadlines, or even harming the reputation of the brand. It is difficult for someone not extremely familiar with YouTube and creators to vett them well. For instance, I was approached recently by Best Buy despite my disdain for the company.
  • A good “match maker” will instantly know what creators/shows are right for different advertisers/sponsors, and that requires more than an understanding of a channel’s demographics. Since most popular YouTubers ignore e-mail, it’s not easy to catch their attention even when dollars are involved. If I had a dollar for every false-positive “sponsor,” I could buy YouTube from Google.

Creators:

  • Creators should be very careful about signing “exclusive” deals, which limit revenue in other mediums or distribution channels beyond YouTube. I’ve been offered large monthly sums to move my content off YouTube and have never regretted declining. I’m also glad that I’ve never put a ceiling on my income, or provided any videos to a third-party with exclusively.
  • Since the CPMs are likely to get higher in coming years, I’d be reticent to sign a deal that locks me into today’s CPMs. If an advertiser can command higher CPMs for a specific video or time period, that’s nice. However I wouldn’t want to lock myself into $1 per 1K views, and then watch the average CPM rise.
  • It’s a good idea to have a time period attached to a deal, and opportunities for either party to exit. This is especially important since some of the web studios could be acquired by companies that may change the dynamics between the creator and the studio. It’s also important to have an agreement if an advertiser needs to remove a sponsored video (I’ve seen this happen more times than you’d imagine).
  • I urge creators to seek clarity about studio-exclusivity deals. A smaller creator will delight at signing with a studio that provides lots of new sponsorships. However what happens if that studio isn’t selling deals? Or if the studio is asking the creator to promote brands they don’t like? Or if the studio requests more sponsored promotions than the creator feels is appropriate (Smosh)? Is the creator obliged to take whatever deal the studio secures, or can they decline? More importantly, what happens if the creator is approached directly by a brand? Is he/she still permitted to do a sponsored video, and if so, are they obliged to provide a percent to the studio? Part of the reason I haven’t worked with Hitviews in more than a year is because it resented me working with other companies (YouTube directly or Howcast), and yet wasn’t providing a steady flow of well-compensated sponsorships. I’m still a fan of founder Walter Sabo however.
  • As online video begins to behave more like traditional television (where YouTubers are TV shows, and studios are networks like Fox or ABC) the dynamic could change dramatically. But it’s still a maturing industry, and deals very often favor one party far above another. So regardless of what is in writing, a relationship of trust is vital. There’s a certain “give and take” that is important for all parties involved (advertisers, intermediaries and show creators).
  • In general, I would rather be known as a pushover than a jerk… and the race is a marathon not a sprint. I have been “screwed” a few times, and have left money on the table (and I’ve steered clear of those people since). But I try to be flexible and make concessions knowing it’s a small industry, and that a professional, low-maintenance creator is more likely to earn the long-term trust of a variety of players that can provide income and other opportunities.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to say “no.” I’ve seen several of my friends decline a modest or unfair offer, only to receive a much more generous one.

I’d welcome your comments if you have your own learnings… or your questions if I’ve been unclear. I’m sure it’s not an easy read, since it’s a complex space!

Lastly, if you’re a player in this space and regret not being mentioned, please identify yourself in comments or via e-mail. I am sure I have missed some web studios or intermediaries that are active in recruiting talent and wooing brands.

ABC News Features YouTube Stars (and Income Accuracy)

Two out of three YouTube stars (Jody Rivera/VenetianPrincess and Greg Benson/Mediocrefims) featured in ABC News’ story on “YouTube Top Earners” were among the dozen profiled in my “Beyond Viral” book.

Coincidence?  Or did the student author, Clay LePard (a member of the ABC News on Campus bureau at Syracuse University) forget to read his journalism manual on source citation? Hey it got Greg and Jody some press, as well as Ryan “Nigahiga” Higa. So it’s all good.

Now onto the estimates by Tubemogul (see Business Week)… while being directionally accurate and based on decent assumptions, they are often quite wrong… according fellow YouTube creators with whom I’ve spoken. Of course we’re all obliged by contract to keep the numbers to ourselves. I do know that the income estimates by Tubemogul for some individuals (who have fewer views than I) are paradoxically higher than my own actual income. It’s also worth noting that those Tubemogul estimates don’t include the more lucrative but sporadic sponsored videos.

The reality is that it’s total conjecture since even with total view counts, the actual income per video can range radically depending on the advertiser bidding. What’s important is that a) some do make enough to live comfortably, b) nobody knows how long it will last, c) it’s extremely difficult odds to live on YouTube income.

And as I like to remind people… if I calculated the time I’ve spent on YouTube and arrived at an hourly salary, I’m quite sure that I’d beat it working at Taco Bell. But I enjoy it, so I don’t bother with the math. At least the blog is profitable. Oh wait- that’s right. It’s got no revenue stream. Well ya get what you pay for.

YouTube Stars And Their Estimated Income

How much money do YouTube stars make? TubeMogul used some ad-sharing revenue estimates and view counts to guestimate the annual income of YouTube partners like Shaycarl, Daneboe, and AnnoyingOrange. These estimates don’t capture the 5-30k these guys can earn from a sponsored video.

Posting from iPhone hence the terse post and lack of lovely image and fancy hyperlinks.

http://finance.yahoo.com/tech-ticker/meet-the-youtube-stars-making-100000-plus-per-year-535349.html?willvideoforfood

Exclusive: How Much Money YouTube Partners Make

{Update from 2013 reveals YouTube stars making $4 million plus per year}

How much do YouTube stars make each year? Oh for goodness sakes. Just like my same 5 YouTube videos (see right column of channel page here) represent the majority of my online views… It seems that most of WillVideoForFood’s blog traffic comes from people searching for how much YouTubers make. If you’re curious, read on. If you want to make big bucks, buy my book first. You’ll still be facing tough odds, but at least you’ll wander into the jungle equipped with some survival tools.


We YouTube “Partners” (or “stars” as I hate saying) are all contractually forbidden to share our revenue. But I’ve given hints and clues over time. For those of you who Googled your way here, I’m both a marketer/advertiser and a creator/YouTuber, so that gives me two lenses into this Da Vinci-Code like mystery. Davinci made me think of “Da Bears.”

I’d estimate there are have at least a few dozen YouTube Partners earning $100K per year. That’s great money if you’re in your 20s or 30s and have minimal costs in production or overhead (like 4 kids and a horrific mortgage). But it’s a rounding error for a professional content creator or network.

To calculate a particular Parner’s income, here are some tips:

  • You basically take the Partner’s total views for the month, multiply it by a fraction of a penny, and you have a rough idea. TubeMogul‘s Marketplace shows some of the most-viewed people (and their monthly views). But remember: the most-subscribed are not necessarily most-viewed and vice versa. YouTube doesn’t give a hoot how many subscribers you have (although that certainly helps drive views, but increasingly it seems less powerful than being a “related video”). In general, the commercial content is getting more daily views but the amateurs have a lock on subscribers.
  • Most ads are placed by advertisers based on total 1K views, but some is on a per-click basis (CPC text ads placed by Google Adwords/Adsense). Google/YouTube is usually paid by an agency or media buyer a CPM (cost per thousand, say between $5 and $25 dollars per thousand views), then shares some of that with the creator. This can be highly misleading, because:
    • Some views earn nothing (if they’re embedded and no ad follows it).
    • And increasingly advertisers are paying a high premium for specific content they commission, target, or hand select. Sometimes this might average a few bucks and others it might be much higher… $25 CMP was the published rate of InVideo ads and I know of specific integrated campaigns that command a higher premium from YouTube. Yey!
  • Another confounding variable: potty-mouthed creator turns away advertisers. So watch the ads on your Partner for a while. Are they premium InVideo ads with accompanying display (square) ads? Or are they garbage Adwords/Adsense ads?
  • The text ads may SOMETIMES be paid on a per-click basis, which can make them fruitless or profitable depending on people clicking and buying the advertiser’s product (the latter must occur, or a savvy advertiser will quickly stop the campaign that’s raping them of click dollars and not generating business). I was telling my YouTube buds to turn these off because they’re ugly and don’t make much money, but a few of them gave me a stern stare like they knew otherwise. So whatever… maybe they make money and maybe they don’t. I don’t get a breakdown on them, and they’re still ugly.
  • Then you have to factor in “sponsored videos,” where a YouTuber promotes a product or service for a flat fee (or variable based on views) via Hitviews or related companies. That can easily be more than YouTube shells out per month for ad sharing. The going rate here is incredibly wide: from $1K to $20K and higher per video.

So in conclusion:

  1. Do your own math using monthly views on TubeMogul and assuming some CPM (cost per thousand), but recognize YouTube takes a cut and some of the advertising inventory isn’t sold or is driven by keyword Google adsense text thingies. Maybe the creator/partner gets a few bucks per thousand views and maybe more or less.
  2. Use some of the assumptions above to calibrate your estimate if you’re trying to peak into the W-9s of your favorite “Stars” like Fred. There are now dozens of popular YouTube people that make a full-time living on YouTube revenue, and I’d guess a lot of $50K-$100K per year people. I am not among the full-timers. With a family of 6, I gotta have a day job too. But Shaycarl, Sxephil, Charles Trippy, Michael Buckley and many more… they’re full-time at this. If I was making the bucks I’m making via YouTube after college, I’d probably go full-time too. Fred? Let’s just say he’s got college covered, or a nice nest-egg.
  3. Before you get excited (or jealous), it’s a long haul to cashville. And if you start with the hope of making money, you’re doomed. You need to LOVE it, and be extremely patient as the road to loads of views is tougher to climb, and requires an ass-load of persistence. Start as a hobby and “just keep swimming.”
  4. Finally, there are two forces at odds that impact the sustainability of this revenue for YouTube amateurs. First, we’ll probably see continued competition from more professionally-produced content that fetches higher ad dollars because it feels safer to squeamish media buyers (see, I’m not calling them all dense anymore… only the ones that don’t read this vlog). But the good news is that dollars are projected to grow dramatically. Currently, as a marketer, I’d argue that YouTube is selling itself short.

How’s that? About as specific I can be without breaking my contract or confidence from my friends.

I know some of you peeps know more than I do, so feel free to comment below anonymously or not. Da bears.

The First YouTube Video Ever

The New York Times wrote recently about the first video ever posted on YouTube. Here’s Jawed Karim telling us that he’s standing in front of the elephants. Further, he explains that the “cool” thing about elephants is that they have really long trunks. Karim would later update his video to show an annotation that points out the goat sounds on his  “meet at the zoo” video.

Jawed posted this on April 23, 2005, and would later receive $64 million in Google stock for his contribution to YouTube. He was last seen two years ago in Hawaii. (actually to be fair, Jawed signed in as recently as four days ago).

Says NYTimes Writer Virginia Heffernon:

When this technique of redundancy was used in the films of Godard, it was considered the height of sophistication, a comment on the way movies pile on information: they show, they narrate and they describe. The elephants are unmistakable to viewers, and yet Karim identifies them. Then he names the iconic shape right in front of us — “long trunks” — lest anyone miss that long trunks equal elephants equal long trunks.

If we didn’t believe Heffernon was disguising disdain with subtle sarcasm, we would have thrown up in the back of our throats.

You know, I’m not sure why Jawed picked that username when he presumably had any other option available. It sounds like a b-grade beach movie. I’d have chosen the username Fred or Smosh or Nigahiga or something.

P.S. Here’s my first video (Scary Santa), posted 9 months later than Jawed’s. It has not earned me $64 million dollars yet.

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 YouTube.com. 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.

How Much Money Does a YouTube Partner Make?

Editorial Addition (Jan. 2010)…. here’s a newer post on how much YouTube partners make. Since this post gets so many daily views via search engines, let me answer your question simply. It’s a fraction of a fraction of a penny per view. It’s not enough to cover the mortgage for most, and it’s certainly not yet the reported $2.50 per 1,000 views. It’s often far less, and varies greatly on whether the views have InVideo ads (YouTube charges $25 per thousand and shares that with creators) or the flat square ads (cost far less for advertisers, and doesn’t pay creators). Although I can’t reveal my income, I can tell you it’s highly influenced by my top 5-10 videos, which get millions of views per month (as opposed to the new ones). That said, if you get millions and millions of views per month and live cheap, you could quit your job and buy my dang book, “Beyond Viral.”

Beyond Viral: Tips on Marketing You & Company on YouTube

YouTube’s Fred was rumored to be making seven-figures, but Google clarified that as six figures. But if you take his 350,000,000 views and multiply it by a conservative $1 per 1,000 views…. you’re talking $350,000.00. I’m making more on YouTube than I made in my first job out of school, but with four kids and a lot of debt, it’s not enough for me to pull a Sxephil, Shaycarl, or Michael Buckley and rely on it as a primary income source.

Oh how’s THAT for a blog title, when you’ve signed a confidentiality document that precludes you from talking about your revenue as a YouTube partner?! Don’t worry, YouTube. I’m not breaking rank. But I’m very interested in what people THINK partners are making.

Before YouTube, I’ve always been transparent about my revenue related to online video. I feel that’s part of my role on this blog… to give creators a realistic sense of what they can make in online video (beyond food). Alas, YouTube prohibits it for reasons that aren’t quite clear to me — are there tiers? If compensation varies, then I can be sure I’m at the bottom based on my complete lack of negotiation skills.

I do believe that some prominent YouTube partners are beginning to earn what amounts to a full-time job through the site. But I also understand that some of the early Partner contracts are up for renewal about now.

  • Could some be overstating their earnings? Yes. But some partners are doing $10K a month, especially those that already had an audience and moved them to YouTube. And some creators get millions of views consistently.
  • When some say they’ve quit their day jobs, is that because their costs are so low that even a couple grand a month can sustain them? Maybe.
  • Could the earnings be based on a point of time where, say, they had a video featured that was monetized? Sure.

While there’s no question that many could still earn more money per hour doing something else (like consulting or bartending), I am happier with my income from YouTube than what I was making from YouTube before I became a partner (zero). And while I’m not sure whether the per-view profit is as strong as Revver’s and Metacafe’s (I don’t even have access to any such metrics), I’m not getting any significant views on those sites anymore. So YouTube is far outperforming them.

My advice remains: if you’re looking to get rich, create a bunch of mortgage blogs and sell adsense. Or go into financial services or recruiting like the former co-worker that just called me to “network.”

But if you love video and the community around it, then it’s nice to get an income subsidy that helps you justify the time commitment to yourself, wife and family. I remain optimistic that more of the top creators of YouTube will be able to quit their day jobs, but that’s partially because amateurs will slowly get trumped by the semi pros (whose day job is performing or video creation). It’s already happening. While the amateur vloggers are holding top positions, we’re seeing more semi-professional content done by comedy troups, bands or known offline celebrities.

Now here’s the purpose of my post. I’m curious what people THINK partners make. I can tell from a lot of comments that people WAY over estimate what creators make: “You get paid for this shit?” “You’re asking us for ideas? You’re the one who gets paid.” I can’t participate in this thread, but it will be fun to watch.

And if you’re not a Partner yet, don’t let it upset you unless you have hundreds of thousands of monthly views. Grow the audience and reapply later. Even if YT did make you a partner, it’s not worth it unless you have some views. Take it from a guy that tried Google ads on his blog for a while, and quickly realized that it wasn’t worth the cosmetic interference.