YouTube has quickly become the “go to” website for watching and streaming videos. Started in 2005 by three former employees of PayPal, YouTube was bought by Google in 2006 and has become more and more popular. Celebrities are now capitalizing on the video site by using it post their latest videos and news updates. But celebrities aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits of YouTube; regular users, who would otherwise have likely remained entirely anonymous, have found fame through uploading videos in their spare time – and forging a media career born on the site. YouTube provides a venue for people to share their talents, their voices, and build an audience of their own.
Now with the introduction of revenue sharing from linking advertisements and endorsements to videos, just about anyone has the potential to make money on YouTube. But truth be told, it takes someone special to maintain a successful career of posting videos on the website. Many people have reached celebrity status with their regular video updates receiving millions of views. These YouTube celebrities have built their own fan bases and have even gone on to release with their own albums and books or, in some cases, star in Hollywood movies. One of the most notable YouTube success stories is that of the Canadian pop sensation Justin Bieber – record executives discovered the teen on the video sharing site through his homemade music videos.
With the development of the YouTube partner program, users can earn anything from 70c to, in the best case scenario, $7 dollars per 1,000 views or ‘CPM’ – assuming every viewer watched a pre-roll advertisement. This also explains the rise of those commercials that appear before your video plays. Every time you hit the play button on a popular video someone is earning money, and the video uploader stands to gain profit. Not every uploader qualifies for the partner program, though, as there is a required number of followers needed before being able to sign up.
As YouTube keeps getting bigger, so too do its self-made stars. When a creative and unique entertainer has something exciting to offer, he or she can use YouTube as a democratic platform to promote their work. YouTube has become a legitimate avenue for achieving financial stability and a fan following from the comfort of one’s own home.
We’ve collated information on YouTube’s biggest stars – according to their number of views and their rankings on socialblade, a statistics site which collates a variety of factors to establish the most influential Youtubers – to to bring you the estimated earnings of 10 of YouTube’s wealthiest entrepreneurs (based on the $7 per thousand views assumption) who went from simply uploading videos in their bedroom to cultivating genuine celebrity status, expanding their blogging habit into fame and fortune.
10. Epic Rap Battles – $5.7 million (818 million views)
All it took was an idea between two friends and a budget of roughly $50 per episode in the early days. Peter “Nice Peter” Shukoff and Lloyd “EpicLLOYD” Ahlquist started ‘Epic Rap Battles’ in September 2010 with the concept of historical figures rapping against each other. Before the videos were conceived, they recorded several singles – including one featuring the murderous doll Chucky versus Michael J. Fox – which were never released. Instead, the first official single was John Lennon vs. Bill O’Reilly, which was a hit. But it wasn’t until the second video, Darth Vadar vs. Adolf Hitler, that Shukoff’s and Ahlquist’s YouTube channels would boom in popularity. In 2011, Epic Rap Battles (ERB) got a channel of its own, and the channel remains as popular as ever. In their third season, the boys have even gathered participation from celebrities, driving revenue and popularity through the ceiling.
9. UberHaxorNova – $7.7 million (1.1 billion views)
The second gamer on our list, James “Nova” Wilson, Jr. joined YouTube in April of 2008 posting video commentary and walkthroughs on various video games. He was especially noted for his comedic content, entertaining viewers while giving them tips and tricks for difficult levels on video games. Since his channel’s conception, he has expanded his channel to different kinds of videos including a series called “Chronicles of Nova” and numerous additional video game commentaries – some of his videos have a bit of a rougher edge, sometimes perceived as inappropriate due to UberHaxorNova’s rugged demeanor. He often collaborates on videos with other notable gamers from YouTube and works on multi-playing walkthroughs with his fellow popular vloggers.
8. CaptainSparklez – $8.4 million (1.2 billion views)
One of the gamers who turned their hobby into a career, CaptainSparklez uploaded his first video on July 1st, 2013 so he’s a bit of a ‘newb’ in the YouTube world but still an enormous success. He originally started out posting help videos for those who were stuck on different levels of Minecraft, but he didn’t just stop there. He turned his channel into the place to be for all things gaming including instructional videos for other games and parody video comedies using some of the most popular video games. He also created music videos based on some of the hits of the year, much to the amusement of his viewers; all of this creative energy has made CaptainSparkelz the ninth most successful and profitable star on YouTube.
7. JennaMarbles – $9.1 million (1.3 billion views)
Jenna N. Mourey aka “Jenna Marbles” gained almost instant YouTube celebrity notoriety with her video, “How To Trick People Into Thinking You’re Good Looking” which gained over 5.3 million views in the first week after it was uploaded. She even attracted attention from the New York Times and ABCNews with her video, “How To Avoid Talking To People You Don’t Want To Talk To.” Jenna chose to use a ‘stage’ name rather than her legal surname because she didn’t want her mom to find the explicit, crude videos. Marbles continues to upload videos regularly much to her fan base’s entertainment – she’s even had guest roles in The Annoying Orange and Epic Rap Battles and is one of the most successful women on YouTube.
6. TobyGames – $10.5 million (1.5 billion channel views)
American comedian Toby ‘Games’ Turner joined YouTube in 2006, premièring with a comedy sketch based on the movie ‘Click’. He shot to YouTube super-stardom and went on to compose amusing remix videos and gaming commentaries. Toby has since moved to L.A. to work on his career as an entertainer and he often makes cameo appearance in the videos of other popular YouTubers.
5. RealAnnoyingOrange – $13.3 million (1.9 billion views)
The Annoying Orange series was started by Dane Boedigheimer in 2009, where he stars an anthropomorphic orange who annoys all of the fruits and vegetables around him. Boedigheimer was no stranger to the concept of talking food as he had done a series of videos on JibJab with a different character and plot. Apparently the original concept would have been an apple, but creating a face on the fruit was too difficult. On YouTube, Boedigheimer’s original intention was to only create one video, which was uploaded in 2010. However, because of the booming popularity and fans begging for more videos, Boedigheimer decided to create a full series. He created a new channel called RealAnnoyingOrange dedicated to the series. Since the channel’s creation, it has become one of the most popular channels on YouTube, with new episodes being added on a regular basis. In 2011, Bottle Rocket Apps created a video game based on The Annoying Orange called, “Kitchen Carnage.”
4. BlueXephos – $16.1 million (2.3 billion views)
Proof if any were needed that Youtube is particularly popular among gamers, BlueXephos is the main YouTube channel for the Yogscast group – a group of gaming friends. Founded in 2008 by original members Lewis Brindley and Simon Lane, the premise behind the channel is mainly proivinf walkthroughs of popular video games and comedic how-to gaming parody videos. The channel often uploads videos of the founding members and their friends playing through different levels of video games with riotous commentary, embellished scenarios and comedic voiceovers. In March 2013, the channel was the most viewed and the second-most subscribed channel on YouTube and Simon and Lewis have taken the “Greatest YouTube Gamer” award two years in a row at the Joystick Awards.
3. RayWilliamJohnson – $18.2 million (2.6 billion views)
Ray William Johnson is a video blogger – or ‘vlogger’ – based in Oklahoma City. At one point in 2011 this vlogger was so widely watched it was reported that he had six of the top twenty most-watched videos of the month. Johnson gained popularity from his series ‘Equals Three’ where he adds his opinion and commentary to viral videos. Johnson is also a skilled writer of music and lyrics across a number of different music genres – music he utilizes in his videos. With his witty commentary and originality, he maintains a consistently large viewership that continues to follow his work from the offensive to the informative.
2. Smosh – $19.6 million (2.8 billion views)
Smosh is a YouTube comedy duo with Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla. They founded their YouTube channel in the autumn of 2005, with the name inspired by Padilla’s website, smosh.com. Their videos consisted of lip-synching to numerous popular songs and show themes. They came to the attention of the YouTube community when their video of the Pokemon theme song racked up more than 27 million views, making it the most popular YouTube video of the time. Due to copyright issues, The Pokemon Company had the video taken down but in 2010, Smosh resurrected the song and changed the words to make it more critical of the Pokemon Company. Since 2006, Smosh has created a diverse selection of comedy skits and series that are still regularly updated and consistently popular.
1. Pewdiepie – $21 million (3 billion + views)
Pewdiepie, also known as Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg is a Swedish YouTube vlogger whose videos primarily focus on the realm of video games. He specialises in Let’s Play videos, where he plays through and comments on a range of video games – mainly in the action and horror genres. As of December 2013, he has over 17 million subscribers and the list just keeps growing. Between August and November of this year, Pewdiepie was also one of the most subscribed channels on YouTube.
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