Don’t think watching someone play PS4 sounds like fun? Markiplier’s 22.4 million YouTube subscribers, with their 10 billion video views of his work, beg to differ. Indeed, Fischbach is one of five gamers on this year’s list. The top 10 YouTube stars earned an aggregate $180.5 million this past year, up 42% from 2017. It pays to play: Compared with other common YouTube categories, such as scripted comedy or elaborate pranks, gaming clips can be produced and edited quickly; some gamers post new footage daily. More posts mean more viewers, naturally—and more ad dollars. (The going rate for top online talent, Forbes estimates, is about $5 per thousand views.)
On my last day in the ChuChu offices, Krishnan related a parable to me from the Mahābhārata, a Sanskrit epic. A prince wants to be known as generous, so the god Krishna decides to put him to the test: He creates two mountains of gold and tells the prince to give it all away in 24 hours. The prince begins to do so, parceling it out to people he thinks need it. But as the day ends he’s hardly made a dent in the mountains. So Krishna calls another prince and tells him he has just five minutes to give away the gold. This prince sees two people walking along, goes right over to them, and gives each a mountain. Just like that, the job is done. The moral is unsettling, but simple: Don’t impose limits on your generosity.
You will first have to build up your YouTube platform to gain more followers. While it is by no means a science to instantly get thousands of subscribers or views, by posting frequently, promoting your videos, and paying attention to engagement and demographics, you can see what performs well and curate your content to what your viewers seem to like.
In June 2014, YouTube introduced videos playing at 60 frames per second, in order to reproduce video games with a frame rate comparable to high-end graphics cards. The videos play back at a resolution of 720p or higher. YouTube videos are available in a range of quality levels. The former names of standard quality (SQ), high quality (HQ), and high definition (HD) have been replaced by numerical values representing the vertical resolution of the video. The default video stream is encoded in the VP9 format with stereo Opus audio; if VP9/WebM is not supported in the browser/device or the browser's user agent reports Windows XP, then H.264/MPEG-4 AVC video with stereo AAC audio is used instead.
But sponsorships are where the big bucks are made, and where intermediaries like MediaKix and other agencies come in. This is the major leagues: Most brands aren’t interested in YouTube channels with fewer than 200,000 to 300,000 subscribers or average views of less than 10,000 to 20,000 per video, says Asano. The bar is also high because videos cost more to make, and require tricky negotiations —the sponsor will want to know where their product will be featured, for how long, and so forth. “When we’re connecting top brands with top influencers on YouTube, you’re talking a minimum budget of $50,000 to $100,000, and it just goes up from there,” Asano explains. “Some of the biggest YouTube influencers get paid $100,000 to 200,000 for a single video. And then those videos get millions of views. That’s why there’s a lot of money in the space.”
Estimates for YouTube's annual revenue, nearly all of which still comes from ads, vary a fair amount. But many of the estimates are now above $10 billion. At different points, Bank of America and Mizuho forecast that YouTube would post 2017 revenue of $13 billion and $12 billion, respectively. And in February, Baird's Colin Sebastian estimated YouTube is doing around $15 billion in annual sales.
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Add all these factors up, and a surprising thing is revealed: Through the sustained efforts of children’s-TV reformers, something good happened. “Basic scientific research on how children attend to and comprehend television has evolved into sophisticated studies of how children can learn from electronic media,” a literature review by the Kaiser Family Foundation concluded. “This, in turn, has led to the design and production of a number of effective educational television programs, starting with Sesame Street, which many experts regard as one of the most important educational innovations of recent decades.”
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.
Knowing who you are and, perhaps more importantly, who your audience is will make you attractive to advertisers, sponsors and partners outside the YouTube sphere, experts say. Make sure to also set yourself up as someone who is "brand safe," says Tyler Vaught, head of Niche, Twitter's service that connects creators worldwide with brands to develop branded content. That could mean not using profanities, avoiding charged political topics and dodging drug references and other controversial topics on your channel.
YouTube has enabled people to more directly engage with government, such as in the CNN/YouTube presidential debates (2007) in which ordinary people submitted questions to U.S. presidential candidates via YouTube video, with a techPresident co-founder saying that Internet video was changing the political landscape. Describing the Arab Spring (2010– ), sociologist Philip N. Howard quoted an activist's succinct description that organizing the political unrest involved using "Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world." In 2012, more than a third of the U.S. Senate introduced a resolution condemning Joseph Kony 16 days after the "Kony 2012" video was posted to YouTube, with resolution co-sponsor Senator Lindsey Graham remarking that the video "will do more to lead to (Kony's) demise than all other action combined."
YouTube has a set of community guidelines aimed to reduce abuse of the site's features. Generally prohibited material includes sexually explicit content, videos of animal abuse, shock videos, content uploaded without the copyright holder's consent, hate speech, spam, and predatory behavior. Despite the guidelines, YouTube has faced criticism from news sources for content in violation of these guidelines.
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. YouTube's early headquarters were situated above a pizzeria and Japanese restaurant in San Mateo, California. The domain name www.youtube.com was activated on February 14, 2005, and the website was developed over the subsequent months. The first YouTube video, titled Me at the zoo, shows co-founder Jawed Karim at the San Diego Zoo. The video was uploaded on April 23, 2005, and can still be viewed on the site. 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. 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. 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. 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.