When a video goes viral, YouTube is typically the driving force. As of 2011, YouTube is the third-ranked website globally, with hundreds of millions of users. While you might be using YouTube only to look up video of cute cats and funny pranks, other users actually generate a profit stream ranging from pocket money to money in the bank using their personal YouTube channels and the videos they create. If you want in on the YouTube gravy train, the first thing you should know is that it's not as easy as it may look.
So, predictably, by the time it was 10 a.m., I had made and consumed two cups of coffee, taken out the trash, cleaned my room while taking a deliberately slow approach to folding my shirts, gone on a walk outside to clear my head, had a thing of yogurt and fruit to reward the physical exertion, sent an email to my aunt and sister, read about 100 Tweets (favorited three; written and deleted one), despaired at my lack of progress, comforted myself by eating a second breakfast, opened several tabs from ESPN.com on my browser ... and written absolutely nothing.
ChuChu TV, the company responsible for some of the most widely viewed toddler content on YouTube, has a suitably cute origin story. Vinoth Chandar, the CEO, had always played around on YouTube, making Hindu devotionals and little videos of his father, a well-known Indian music producer. But after he and his wife had a baby daughter, whom they nicknamed “Chu Chu,” he realized he had a new audience—of one. He drew a Chu Chu–like character in Flash, the animation program, and then created a short video of the girl dancing to the popular and decidedly unwoke Indian nursery rhyme “Chubby Cheeks.” (“Curly hair, very fair / Eyes are blue, lovely too / Teacher’s pet, is that you?”)
Of course, influencers have their own interests to look out for, too. “The process of creating a brand campaign is holistic, and the cost is not standard,” says Natalie Alzate, the woman behind NataliesOutlet, a YouTube channel with almost 6 million followers. “My manager, agent, and attorney work hard to ensure that each campaign is a success, which is measured by whether the fans respond to it as well they do to non-sponsored content.”
Chu Chu loved it. “She wanted me to repeat it again and again,” Chandar recalls. Which gave him an idea: “If she is going to like it, the kids around the world should like it.” He created a YouTube channel and uploaded the video. In a few weeks, it had 300,000 views. He made and uploaded another video, based on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and it took off. After posting just two videos, he had 5,000 subscribers to his channel. Someone from YouTube reached out and, as Chandar remembers it, said, “You guys are doing some magic with your content.” So Chandar and several of his friends formed a company in Chennai, in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, from the bones of an IT business they’d run. They hired a few animators and started putting out a video a month.
Advertisers only pay when someone clicks an ad or watches for 30 seconds. This is why you can’t tie your channel views to dollars. If your video gets ten million views but nobody watches or click the ads, you don’t make any money. This is how I’m able to make $1 per 25 views. Advertisers pay big money to get their ad in front of specific and targeted audience.
Little kids are responsible for billions of views on YouTube—pretending otherwise is irresponsible. In a small study, a team of pediatricians at Einstein Medical Center, in Philadelphia, found that YouTube was popular among device-using children under the age of 2. Oh, and 97 percent of the kids in the study had used a mobile device. By age 4, 75 percent of the children in the study had their own tablet, smartphone, or iPod. And that was in 2015. The sea change in children’s content that ChuChu and other new video makers have effected is, above all, profitable.
The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers and the YouTube Symphony Orchestra selected their membership based on individual video performances. Further, the cybercollaboration charity video "We Are the World 25 for Haiti (YouTube edition)" was formed by mixing performances of 57 globally distributed singers into a single musical work, with The Tokyo Times noting the "We Pray for You" YouTube cyber-collaboration video as an example of a trend to use crowdsourcing for charitable purposes. The anti-bullying It Gets Better Project expanded from a single YouTube video directed to discouraged or suicidal LGBT teens, that within two months drew video responses from hundreds including U.S. President Barack Obama, Vice President Biden, White House staff, and several cabinet secretaries. Similarly, in response to fifteen-year-old Amanda Todd's video "My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self-harm", legislative action was undertaken almost immediately after her suicide to study the prevalence of bullying and form a national anti-bullying strategy. In May 2018, London Metropolitan Police claimed that the drill videos that talk about violence give rise to the gang-related violence. YouTube deleted 30 music videos after the complaint.
In September 2018, YouTube began to phase out the separate YouTube Gaming website and app, and introduced a new Gaming portal within the main service. YouTube staff argued that the separate platform was causing confusion, and that the integration would allow the features developed for the service (including game-based portals and enhanced discoverability of gaming-related videos and live streaming) to reach a broader audience through the main YouTube website.
If you really love making video content, consider doing it as a side hustle – something to beef up your resume, find a creative outlet or boost your professional profile in the area about which you broadcast. When it comes to making it big on YouTube, "It's obviously becoming more challenging as there are more creators out there, and everyone is fighting for an audience," Vaught says. "But the barriers to entry are also lower."
In May 2013, creation of live streams was opened to verified users with at least 1,000 subscribers; in August of that year the number was reduced to 100 subscribers, and in December the limit was removed. In February 2017, live streaming was introduced to the official YouTube mobile app. Live streaming via mobile was initially restricted to users with at least 10,000 subscribers, but as of mid-2017 it has been reduced to 100 subscribers. Live streams can be up to 4K resolution at 60 fps, and also support 360° video. In February 2017, a live streaming feature called Super Chat was introduced, which allows viewers to donate between $1 and $500 to have their comment highlighted.
In 2013, YouTube introduced an option for channels with at least a thousand subscribers to require a paid subscription in order for viewers to watch videos. In April 2017, YouTube set an eligibility requirement of 10,000 lifetime views for a paid subscription. On January 16, 2018, the eligibility requirement for monetization was changed to 4,000 hours of watchtime within the past 12 months and 1,000 subscribers. The move was seen as an attempt to ensure that videos being monetized did not lead to controversy, but was criticized for penalizing smaller YouTube channels.
During the same court battle, Viacom won a court ruling requiring YouTube to hand over 12 terabytes of data detailing the viewing habits of every user who has watched videos on the site. The decision was criticized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which called the court ruling "a setback to privacy rights". In June 2010, Viacom's lawsuit against Google was rejected in a summary judgment, with U.S. federal Judge Louis L. Stanton stating that Google was protected by provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Viacom announced its intention to appeal the ruling. On April 5, 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reinstated the case, allowing Viacom's lawsuit against Google to be heard in court again. On March 18, 2014, the lawsuit was settled after seven years with an undisclosed agreement.
YouTube does not usually offer a download link for its videos, and intends for them to be viewed through its website interface. A small number of videos, can be downloaded as MP4 files. Numerous third-party web sites, applications and browser plug-ins allow users to download YouTube videos. In February 2009, YouTube announced a test service, allowing some partners to offer video downloads for free or for a fee paid through Google Checkout. In June 2012, Google sent cease and desist letters threatening legal action against several websites offering online download and conversion of YouTube videos. In response, Zamzar removed the ability to download YouTube videos from its site.
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.
According to ChuChu, its two largest markets are the United States and India, which together generate about one-third of its views. But each month, tens of millions of views also pour in from the U.K., Canada, Mexico, Australia, and all over Asia and Africa. Roughly 20 million times a day, a caretaker somewhere on Earth fires up YouTube and plays a ChuChu video. What began as a lark has grown into something very, very big, inflating the company’s ambitions. “We want to be the next Disney,” Chandar told me.
Merchandise has become an increasingly important revenue stream for these top digital stars, almost all of whom (No. 1 being a notable exception) are in their 20s and 30s. Each of the 10 on our list now has a line of merchandise, whose blossoming sales help account for that 42% income increase from a year ago. “I’ve built this huge community, and we’ve made a lot of people laugh,” says Fischbach, who sees Cloak as the first step toward an empire built on assets more tangible than video uploads. For now, though, all those gaming clips serve as a force multiplier for the man known as Markiplier. Like any savvy businessman, he’s thinking ahead. “I’m not going to be able to make videos on YouTube forever,” he says. “I need to plan for the future.”
On April 6, 2017, YouTube announced that in order to "ensure revenue only flows to creators who are playing by the rules", it would change its practices to require that a channel undergo a policy compliance review, and have at least 10,000 lifetime views, before they may join the Partner Program. On January 16, 2018, YouTube announced tighter thresholds where creators must have at least 4,000 hours of watch time within the past 12 months and at least 1,000 subscribers.
Like any good mogul, Fischbach is diversifying: In October, he cofounded an athleisure line, Cloak, with fellow list member Seán McLoughlin, better known as “Jacksepticeye” (No. 8, $16 million). The workout line includes $85 sweaters and $35 T-shirts. Even if they intend to exercise nothing more than their thumbs, fans have snapped the gear up: The presale items sold out in 48 hours.
“The way YouTube is distributed is not always conducive to ad revenue,” said Tim Bajarin, principal analyst with Campbell-based Creative Strategies, which tracks the the technology sector. “The YouTube ads are on the side, but they are not embedded in the programming, like you see in television.” The current YouTube format might be good for consumers, but that doesn’t mean it’s all that great for the bottom line, Bajarin said. “They are going to have to change things up,” Bajarin said.
You can also sign up for Patreon, which allows you to launch membership-only video channels through YouTube at a small fee per month for regular rewards. Just imagine how much a YouTube channel could generate if it has the 1,000 subscribers required by the YPP. Charge $1 for a new channel with new content, and you could be looking at a solid monthly revenue stream.
As an advertiser on YouTube, you're populating your YouTube channel with video advertisements made by you. The difference between YouTube ads and, say, TV commercials, is that you get to show YouTube ads to more specific and often more engaged audience segments. You'll pay YouTube to host your ads on other, highly watched YouTube channels that appeal to the same viewership you're targeting.
In May 2014, before Music Key service was launched, the independent music trade organization Worldwide Independent Network alleged that YouTube was using non-negotiable contracts with independent labels that were "undervalued" in comparison to other streaming services, and that YouTube would block all music content from labels who do not reach a deal to be included on the paid service. In a statement to the Financial Times in June 2014, Robert Kyncl confirmed that YouTube would block the content of labels who do not negotiate deals to be included in the paid service "to ensure that all content on the platform is governed by its new contractual terms." Stating that 90% of labels had reached deals, he went on to say that "while we wish that we had [a] 100% success rate, we understand that is not likely an achievable goal and therefore it is our responsibility to our users and the industry to launch the enhanced music experience." The Financial Times later reported that YouTube had reached an aggregate deal with Merlin Network—a trade group representing over 20,000 independent labels, for their inclusion in the service. However, YouTube itself has not confirmed the deal.
If you think that’s alarming, especially given the many teens and preteens who watch and are influenced by PewDiePie, you’re not alone. In many ways, PewDiePie’s trollish irreverence and offense-proof shock humor embodies a more pervasive overlap between YouTube’s gaming culture and its alt-right culture. And the criticisms leveled at him in his role as YouTube’s most popular creator represent what seems to have become a larger battle to reclaim YouTube culture— a battle that in recent months has come to a head around PewDiePie himself.
In some countries, YouTube is completely blocked, either through a long term standing ban or for more limited periods of time such as during periods of unrest, the run-up to an election, or in response to upcoming political anniversaries. In other countries access to the website as a whole remains open, but access to specific videos is blocked. In cases where the entire site is banned due to one particular video, YouTube will often agree to remove or limit access to that video in order to restore service. Businesses, schools, government agencies, and other private institutions often block social media sites, including YouTube, due to bandwidth limitations and the site's potential for distraction.
The Pentagon’s admission, relayed to the Senate, came a week after The Atlantic revealed “errors in accounting” in how the U.S. had tracked and billed the Saudi-led coalition for refueling costs—a service that was among the most visible and controversial elements of support as civilian casualties grew. Washington’s support began in March 2015 under President Barack Obama, without explicit congressional authorization, and continued under the Trump administration, amid growing outrage in Congress over Saudi conduct. That changed last month when the Pentagon said it had ended aerial refueling at Riyadh’s request. The Pentagon’s acknowledgement puts a number to at least part of the expansive assistance that the U.S. provided to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen over the last few years.
This is partly because he was a creature of his era, born in the 1920s and active in an age when the whole argot was different. But he lived until 2011, well into the age of LGBTQ. He had plenty of time to make peace with the term, but his friends say he abjured it. “My recollection is LGBT or its derivatives were expressly disliked by Frank,” one of them told me. “He would use gay to cover the full range; or gay and lesbian.” Another said: “Frank was quite indignant about the alphabet soup. When it started in the ’80s with gay and lesbian, he correctly predicted that there would be no end of it.”
In August 2008, a US court ruled in Lenz v. Universal Music Corp. that copyright holders cannot order the removal of an online file without first determining whether the posting reflected fair use of the material. The case involved Stephanie Lenz from Gallitzin, Pennsylvania, who had made a home video of her 13-month-old son dancing to Prince's song "Let's Go Crazy", and posted the 29-second video on YouTube. In the case of Smith v. Summit Entertainment LLC, professional singer Matt Smith sued Summit Entertainment for the wrongful use of copyright takedown notices on YouTube. He asserted seven causes of action, and four were ruled in Smith's favor.
It helps, too, that the same young viewers who eschew television in favor of YouTube are bonkers for video games. “Ten to 15 years ago, gaming wasn’t cool. You didn’t game because it was cool, you gamed because you loved it,” says David Huntzinger, a digital-talent agent at WME. “Now you have Drake going on Twitch and playing Fortnite, and [professional] athletes in the locker room saying they can’t stop playing Xbox—it’s what these kids are living and breathing.”
YouTube carried out early experiments with live streaming, including a concert by U2 in 2009, and a question-and-answer session with US President Barack Obama in February 2010. These tests had relied on technology from 3rd-party partners, but in September 2010, YouTube began testing its own live streaming infrastructure. In April 2011, YouTube announced the rollout of YouTube Live, with a portal page at the URL "www.youtube.com/live". The creation of live streams was initially limited to select partners. It was used for real-time broadcasting of events such as the 2012 Olympics in London. In October 2012, more than 8 million people watched Felix Baumgartner's jump from the edge of space as a live stream on YouTube.