The hidden truth behind YouTube stars

When you watch your favourite YouTubers, have you ever thought how much money they make from the video? Advertisers spend over US$500 billion annually on global YouTube creators. Some YouTubers make eight-figures salaries from their channel’s ad revenue. A Swedish gamer Pewdiepie, who earned an estimated US$12 million last year, is about 1.4 times larger than Hillary Clinton’s net worth. Many people, including myself, had thought about starting a YouTube channel, and wished to become famous and even be able to live off from it.

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In the era of social media, it is not hard to start your career on YouTube if you have awesome and creative ideas to share. However, YouTube is becoming a more challenging and competitive platform. Some YouTubers even noticed the gap between small and large creators is widening. It is hard to be the next YouTube star with only a webcam and great ideas.

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Before understanding the Youtube industry, we should take notice of how new media works. In the recent years, the advanced technology has facilitated the media digitalisation. New media empowers audiences, providing the opportunities for the public to share ideas on different online platforms, such as YouTube. The “many-to-many” web of new media communication has gradually replaced the “one-to-many” communication model of traditional media.


Audiences used to receive messages in one-way communication before new media developed, because there was a high entry fee for participating in sharing ideas. Now, with the low cost of sharing, we are not only listening, but also participating in the production of content and creating our new potential meanings. This has explained why anyone can easily share ideas on YouTube, with simply a camera.

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Everyone can easily share ideas on YouTube but not everyone can be the YouTube star or even just earn enough to live off it. Once a YouTuber links Google AdSense to their channel, they make 68% of the ad revenue (about US$.18 per view), which is around US$18 earning per 1000 views. Also, if YouTuber creates a video for marketing purposes, the YouTuber can earn US$10,000 per 10,000 views. However, it only counts when an audience view the whole advertisement. A YouTuber DarkSquidge has revealed more detailed how YouTuber earn money through advertisement.

YouTubers like Pewdiepie and Smosh, who made US$12 million and US$8.5 million, are only the few that are able to earn more than enough from YouTube.

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Also, visibility doesn’t equal the money YouTuber earn. There are many YouTubers facing the problem of being famous but can barely make rent. Gaby Dunn, who owns a comedy sketch channel with her nest friend on YouTube with half a million subscribers, revealed that she could barely pay her living. She even walked on a red carpet with $80 in her bank account.

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Another famous YouTuber Brittany Ashley, who was the star of BuzzFeed’s YouTube channel, was being forced to serve her colleagues at Golden Globes party due to her day job as a waitress.

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Financial challenge isn’t the only problem if you’re thinking to step into YouTube. Big company such as BuzzFeed, has been caught repeatedly stealing ideas from other individual YouTube creators. A young YouTuber, Akilah Hughes launched a campaign against BuzzFeed because her idea was copied a few times. She accused BuzzFeed filming extremely similar concepts of her videos that filmed few years ago.

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Some people might think that joining those companies can avoid the challenges individuals face. However, Brittany Ashley and Jenny Lorenzo proved that working for big media company means giving up the opportunities for taking extra free-lances. They are fired because they have taken a small role on Gente-Fied, which produced by America Ferrera.

YouTube was originally a new media platform for all types of people share their ideas, which empowers us the freedom of sharing opinions and ideas. On the other hand, when everyone is sharing ideas on YouTube, there would be no one left to be the listener.

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There are about 60 hours of video are uploaded every minute on YouTube, which is hard to gain exposure when there are so many YouTube videos. When new media is getting easier for all the people to access and share ideas, it means more creators on YouTube, which makes less people to remain as the listener. At the mean time, big media companies take advantages on small creators. It totally makes sense why these days so hard to be success and live off YouTube.

As it developed over the time, it is becoming more competitive for individuals to establish their talent. The limited earnings, extremely large amount of creators and the big media companies have made it harder for individual YouTubers. If you are still thinking to step in YouTube and turn it as your fulltime career, maybe you should be aware of those factors and plan carefully.






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