YouTube has taken steps in recent years to entice more direct users, like creating exclusive deals with popular content creators, including Michelle Phan and Epic Rap Battles, and redesigning its home page to make it more of a destination rather than a repository. It has also addressed the issue that YouTube's core audience is too narrowly dominated by young viewers and this year signed a content deal with the NFL to host game clips and interviews.
But recent research has painted another picture. Scoring a place in the top 3 percent of most-viewed channels could bring in ad revenues of just $16,800 per year, according to analysis for Bloomberg News by Mathias Bärtl, a professor at Offenburg University of Applied Sciences in Offenburg, Germany. If you quit your job, that's barely enough to break through the poverty line.
At first, pretty much everybody agrees, television for kids was bad—dumb cartoons, cowboy shows, locally produced slop. There also wasn’t much of it, so kids often watched whatever adult programming was on TV. In the early 1950s, one teacher enumerated the changes she’d seen in her pupils since they had “got television”: “They have no sense of values, no feeling of wonder, no sustained interest. Their shallowness of thought and feeling is markedly apparent, and they display a lack of cooperation and inability to finish a task.” There were calls for action.

YouTube also has a more democratic appeal. Unlike Instagram, where the biggest influencers are mainstream megastars in their own right (Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, Beyoncé), YouTube is dominated by homegrown celebrities, such as Jenna Mourey (a.k.a. Jenna Marbles), Mariand Castrejón Castañeda (a.k.a. Yuya, a Mexican beauty vlogger), and a bunch of gamers that I’ve never heard of but have millions of fans. The world’s highest-paid YouTube star is Daniel Middleton, a British 26-year-old who goes by “DanTDM” and gained his fortune (an estimated annual income of $16.5 million, per Forbes) by posting videos of himself playing Minecraft. Last year, he did an international tour that included four sold-out nights at the Sydney Opera House.

For any well-meaning kids’ producer, one model to look to for inspiration is Fred Rogers—PBS’s Mister Rogers. Rogers didn’t have any deep academic background in children’s development, but early on, he grasped the educational possibilities of the new medium, and in the 15 years between the first children’s show he produced and the national premiere of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, he worked constantly to make it better for kids. ChuChu could well be going through a similar stage now. Founded just five years ago, it’s encountering a different, and tougher, media landscape than Rogers did—but his path is still worth following.

Individuals and businesses make millions of dollars through YouTube advertising, but there are risks to using a platform controlled by another company. Not only is there a chance that a change in Google's search algorithms could make or break video traffic, but Google also takes a hefty 45 percent cut of revenue from video advertising. Nevertheless, YouTube is a massive platform and is the world's second largest search engine after Google, which includes YouTube videos in search results. If the benefits of reaching YouTube's large audience and having Google handle the most labor-intensive parts of building an advertising network outweigh the costs and risks, this platform is a great resource for turning videos into cash.

At the end of the day, though, there are a lot of variables that can affect just how much you can make on YouTube. Your audience has a lot to do with the type of ad that would work best. For example, if you are making short funny videos, it’s probably best to not include a 30-second ad at the beginning—a viewer might just skip right on by. Luckily, YouTube has an analytics page that you can use to see just about every measurable aspect of your video—from demographics to time of day watched and location.


YouTube featured an April Fools prank on the site on April 1 of every year from 2008 to 2016. In 2008, all links to videos on the main page were redirected to Rick Astley's music video "Never Gonna Give You Up", a prank known as "rickrolling".[236][237] The next year, when clicking on a video on the main page, the whole page turned upside down, which YouTube claimed was a "new layout".[238] In 2010, YouTube temporarily released a "TEXTp" mode which transformed colors in videos to random uppercase letters "in order to reduce bandwidth costs by $1 per second."[239] The next year, the site celebrated its "100th anniversary" with a range of sepia-toned silent, early 1900s-style films, including a parody of Keyboard Cat.[240] In 2012, clicking on the image of a DVD next to the site logo led to a video about a purported option to order every YouTube video for home delivery on DVD.[241] In 2013, YouTube teamed up with satirical newspaper company The Onion to claim that the video sharing website was launched as a contest which had finally come to an end, and would announce a winner of the contest when the site went back up in 2023.[242] In 2014, YouTube announced that it was responsible for the creation of all viral video trends, and revealed previews of upcoming internet memes, such as "Clocking", "Kissing Dad", and "Glub Glub Water Dance".[243] The next year, YouTube added a music button to the video bar that played samples from "Sandstorm" by Darude.[244] In 2016, YouTube introduced an option to watch every video on the platform in 360-degree mode with Snoop Dogg.[245]


In re: your second point, getting users to pay for content is absolutely part of the equation, but not the entire equation. The whole other half of it is creating ways to minimize the cut a middleman takes such that even if it’s zero sum game, more of the sum is going to the content creators, as well as developing new revenue streams that don’t require a direct cost from users to give direct profit to content creators.
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YouTube began as a venture capital-funded technology startup, primarily from an $11.5 million investment by Sequoia Capital and an $8 million investment from Artis Capital Management between November 2005 and April 2006.[11][12] YouTube's early headquarters were situated above a pizzeria and Japanese restaurant in San Mateo, California.[13] The domain name www.youtube.com was activated on February 14, 2005, and the website was developed over the subsequent months.[14] The first YouTube video, titled Me at the zoo, shows co-founder Jawed Karim at the San Diego Zoo.[15] The video was uploaded on April 23, 2005, and can still be viewed on the site.[16] YouTube offered the public a beta test of the site in May 2005. The first video to reach one million views was a Nike advertisement featuring Ronaldinho in November 2005.[17][18] Following a $3.5 million investment from Sequoia Capital in November, the site launched officially on December 15, 2005, by which time the site was receiving 8 million views a day.[19][20] The site grew rapidly and, in July 2006, the company announced that more than 65,000 new videos were being uploaded every day, and that the site was receiving 100 million video views per day.[21] According to data published by market research company comScore, YouTube is the dominant provider of online video in the United States, with a market share of around 43% and more than 14 billion views of videos in May 2010.[22]
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