You Will Never Get Rich as a YouTuber

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For every professional musician, athlete, or chef, there are hundreds if not thousands of schmucks still playing empty bars on Tuesdays, limping out of the minors on torn ACLs, or flipping burgers at the farthest possible location from a Michelin star. While the barriers to entry might be lower for vlogging fame, new research suggests life as a YouTube star is no different.


YouTube is rife with success stories, some more deserving than others. And those lucky enough to soar into the rarified top three percent of channels manage to secure around 90 percent of the views on the platform. Not there yet? Too bad. And even if you made it, according to Mathias Bärtl, the Offenburg University professor behind the research, it’s likely your earnings just clear $16,000 a year—right in the bottom 12 percent of income for a single person in the US.

This isn’t all that surprising—to us, or to small creators, many of whom use YouTube as an additional income stream rather than their entire livelihood. It gets worse though. Those already soaking up the majority of views are often candidates for sponsorships, and although YouTube’s ad rates are not easily determined, we know top creators are given the option to join the platform’s “preferred advertising” plan—likely netting them more money per impression.

What’s not included in Bärtl’s research (and may not be entirely quantifiable) is how much of this imbalance is the result of YouTube putting its thumb on the scales to favor its biggest names through better placement in search and related videos modules, and through off-platform advertisements. From his analysis though, it’s clear the platform as a whole is coalescing around a select few channels, and is trending towards a more centralized stable of cash cows, many of whom have caused the platform enormous public embarrassment over the years.

Telling the internet about the minutia of your daily life professionally may have to wait until after Google’s inevitable anti-trust lawsuit.


Senior reporter. Tech + labor /// Keybase: Securedrop: http://gmg7jl25ony5g7ws.onion/



I think this article could use a dose of “Anything you do, you probably won’t make it to the top, unless...”

For every success story there are uncountable examples of people who work just as hard, do the “right things” but never climb to the top. And here’s what I notice:

Many of these success stories do only that - tell a story. They don’t state specifically, what exactly it was...the breakthrough, the turning point, or the precise conditions that led to the person’s career, activity, or whatever it is that they do, that pushed them from average to great to the next galaxy.

They don’t wanna do that, because if they did, and others just copy/pasted their success...because then you’ll have these people who just cruise their way up. It’s not in their interest to spill their secrets. The empty, useless advice such as “don’t work for money, make money work for you” tells you nothing at all. If they really wanted to be useful, OK then tell us what you invested in, when to buy and when to sell and let’s all get rich together. Plenty of room for everyone right?

But actually no.