96.5% of YouTubers make less than £8,750 per year (usually a LOT less)
Last year, a survey of 1,000 children revealed that 34.2% of them wanted to be a YouTuber, with an additional 18.1% aiming to be a vlogger of some description. As I noted at the time, on one level this is no different from my (as yet) unrealised dream of becoming a Premiership footballer, but the YouTube element has a sinister edge: there’s no obvious cut off point when the dream dies. Just because you haven’t become the next PewDiePie or Logan Paul yet, doesn’t mean you won’t be one day. As long as you’re uploading content, there’s always hope.
Yeah, there kind of isn’t. As most people who haven’t drunk the YouTube Kool-Aid will appreciate if 65 years of footage is being uploaded every day, then getting your content seen by anyone but you is about par for the course. A new statistical analysis from Germany confirms this, showing that the chances of making it big on ‘meritocratic’ YouTube are about as slim as making it on ‘elitist’ TV stations.
Professor Mathias Bärtl from the Offenburg University of Applied Sciences examined ten years’ worth of data from YouTube to reveal a number of home truths for anyone believing they’re just one video away from making it big. For starters, 96.5% of YouTube users don’t make enough money to clear the US poverty line of $12,140 (~£8,733) per year.
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But you’re golden if you make it into the top 3.5%, right? Not so fast: getting into the top 3% of YouTube accounts helps a little, but channels in that bracket still only rake in an average of $16,800 (~£12,080) per year. And to get to that point, you need to be drawing in around 1.4 million video views per month or 16.8 million views per year.
“YouTube’s prank community is an arms race of stupidity where if you don’t do something that might kill you for views, someone else will”
It’s the 1% that makes all this hardship seem worthwhile. Drawing in between 2.2 million and 42.1 million video views per month in 2016, they’re the ones that make it look effortless and an easy way of winning fame, acclaim and riches. But the chances of making it into this feted elite are slimmer than they have ever been since YouTube was born: in 2006, the top 3% of YouTubers sucked up 63% of all video views, while now it’s closer to 90%.
Not to mention the fact that making any money on YouTube now requires you put some serious hours in before the company will pony up any ad revenue. Changes made last year required channels to amass 10,000 views before ads appeared, as a way of ensuring brands didn’t inadvertently back offensive or dangerous content. The company has recently upped that high threshold to 10,000 hours and 1,000 subscribers.
It’s no wonder that this makes people do increasingly reckless and dangerous things to get noticed by the algorithm. YouTube’s prank community is an arms race of stupidity where if you don’t do something that might kill you for views, someone else will. In the light of the Logan Paul scandal, YouTube has finally taken steps to try and address this, but it feels like closing the stable door after the horse has not only bolted but let all the other animals out en route.
If all this doesn’t put you off, Bärtl’s research does reveal certain things you can do to boost your chances of success. While the chances of making it to the top 3% of ‘sports’, ‘education’, ‘nonprofit & activism’ or ‘people & blogs’ videos are “consistently worse than average”, in 2016 you had a 10.9% chance of making it in the ‘news and politics’ category.
You’d imagine those chances have diminished considerably with Donald Trump hogging millions of vloggers’ attention spans, but with odds this long, any competitive advantage you can get is probably worth embracing.