YouTube ads provided a big percentage of the Segarses’ income during those early days, and worked well with their content. “Our workouts require strategically placed water breaks, which easily lends itself to monetization/ads that aren’t intrusive to the user experience,” says Segars. “People even joke about how relieved they are to see ads and get a quick minute to catch their breath.” Meanwhile, that revenue allowed them to adopt a no-sponsor policy. “It has cut out a lot of monetization opportunities, but our audience is well aware of our stance and appreciates it,” Segars continues. “We think that trust is an important part of building a brand.” As a result, they’ve roped in a loyal audience that’s now willing to pay for a variety of workout programs and meal plans for sale on the Fitness Blender website.
Though the furor around PewDiePie’s repeated antics has subsided after each of these incidents, his courting of alt-right ideas has not. Though he has never openly identified himself as a member or supporter of the alt-right, he has continued to like and promote channels run by alt-right-affiliated users, and earlier this year, he made a video in which he reviewed the right-wing personality and alt-right hero Jordan Peterson’s controversial self-help book. In the review, PewDiePie endorsed the book, called it a “fun” read, and said he would take some of its advice.
Controversial content has included material relating to Holocaust denial and the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 football fans from Liverpool were crushed to death in 1989. In July 2008, the Culture and Media Committee of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom stated that it was "unimpressed" with YouTube's system for policing its videos, and argued that "proactive review of content should be standard practice for sites hosting user-generated content". YouTube responded by stating:
Have you ever watched a YouTube star’s video and thought, I could’ve done that? Me neither. Out of all the influencer platforms, YouTube strikes me as the most intimidating. But it can also be the most lucrative, with top YouTubers earning well into the six figures from advertising revenue alone. And this pie is only getting expanding: YouTube recently reported that the number of users earning over $100,000 on the platform has increased by more than 40 percent annually; currently, 75 percent more channels have surpassed a million subscribers versus last year.
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.”
Google does not provide detailed figures for YouTube's running costs, and YouTube's revenues in 2007 were noted as "not material" in a regulatory filing. In June 2008, a Forbes magazine article projected the 2008 revenue at $200 million, noting progress in advertising sales. In January 2012, it was estimated that visitors to YouTube spent an average of 15 minutes a day on the site, in contrast to the four or five hours a day spent by a typical US citizen watching television. In 2012, YouTube's revenue from its ads program was estimated at $3.7 billion. In 2013 it nearly doubled and estimated to hit $5.6 billion according to eMarketer, while others estimated $4.7 billion. The vast majority of videos on YouTube are free to view and supported by advertising. In May 2013, YouTube introduced a trial scheme of 53 subscription channels with prices ranging from $0.99 to $6.99 a month. The move was seen as an attempt to compete with other providers of online subscription services such as Netflix and Hulu. In 2017, viewers on average watch YouTube on mobile devices for more than an hour every day.
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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.”
Should PewDiePie have known better? His critics say yes; though he has been dismissive about the uproar, this is far from the first time he has dabbled in alignment with alt-right beliefs, and he’s previously faced backlash for this type of incident so many times that it now seems more than a little intentional. But PewDiePie and his supporters say his critics are overreacting to a harmless mistake — all while tens of thousands of new subscribers have followed the anti-Semitic channel based on PewDiePie’s brief endorsement.
YouTube earns advertising revenue from Google AdSense, a program which targets ads according to site content and audience. The vast majority of its videos are free to view, but there are exceptions, including subscription-based premium channels, film rentals, as well as YouTube Premium, a subscription service offering ad-free access to the website and access to exclusive content made in partnership with existing users.