Why almost no one is making a living on YouTube

by Todd C. Frankel of The Washington Post


YouTube personality Logan Paul described himself as a “good guy who made a bad decision” when he posted images of what appeared to be a suicide victim online. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

One of the main attractions of YouTube is that anyone can become a star: There are no gatekeepers, no talent agents and no television executives who need to be won over. Stars can come from anywhere — and they do.

Forbes’s recent list of the richest YouTubers is proof: It’s filled with people who post clips about playing video games or kids playing with toys. The top spot went to Daniel Middleton, known as DanTDM. He’s a 26-year-old British gamer — and he earned $16.5 million last year.

But a new study finds that the odds of striking it rich on YouTube — or even making a modest living — are small.

Reaching the top 3.5 percent of YouTube’s most-viewed channels — which means at least 1 million video views a month — is worth only about $12,000 to $16,000 a year in advertising revenue, according to Mathias Bartl, a professor at Offenburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany whose study is one of the first to examine YouTube data for clues about how it works for creators.

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