image via Gage Skidmore
It’s hard to believe that YouTube first made waves on the internet a decade ago. In its infancy, the video-sharing website was viewed by many as a mere time-waster for students who needed a break from studying. With each passing year however, the community has carved out a greater chunk of how people spend their time surfing the web (see our post “Digital Media Taking Billions Away From TV“). Just last year, the company was valued at upwards of $40 billion, according to a 2014 AdWeek article — a far cry from when it was purchased by Google in 2006 for $1.65 billion.
One of the most interesting trends for the self-published video platform is the rise in YouTube content creators (also known as “YouTubers“) over the past half-decade. It’s significant enough that some major cities have established dedicated YouTube Spaces, for these individuals to meet and collaborate. Movies Ant-Man, Terminator Genisys, and Trainwreck all collaborated with top YouTubers for their movie promotion. Some of these content creators bring in more cash each year than anyone would have imagined; for example, according to Business Insider, Swedish YouTube sensation PewDiePie brings in an estimated yearly income of $825,000-$8.47 million after the company takes its 45% cut.
So, just how are these YouTube content creators creating new revenue streams and changing how generations stream content online?
There are a variety of ways for YouTube content creators to generate income, but it almost always comes down to advertising. Pre-roll ads that show prior to a YouTube video, for example, are a huge source of income for these digital influencers. Brand-sponsored videos or sponsored content collaborations with social media stars are another way that YouTube content creators augment their video ad revenue. In this developing industry, top YouTube content creators and other social media influencers are being signed to major traditional Hollywood management agencies (see our post “Can Hollywood Stay Relevant With Top YouTube Stars“).
For the 2015 best brand advertising campaigns featuring top Youtubers, check out our post here featuring this year’s 5th Annual Streamy Award nominees and winner.
Nissan’s winning brand campaign with YouTuber, Roman Atwood
The newest, potentially biggest way for YouTubers to earn money is through the recently launched Shopping Ads, which allow retailers (via Google merchant account) to overlay product ads on YouTube videos. Using all of these methods combined, YouTube content creators can bring home an impressive salary with a little luck and a lot of effort.
Although the life of a successful YouTube content creator is extremely lucrative, it’s not all fun and games. Take, for example, the long hours that many creators work to produce content that may or may not become popular, gain traction, or the instability that comes along with the inherent nature of the job. Additionally, there are piracy issues to consider, making it more difficult for YouTubers to make a solid living off of content creation.
Since the rules and restrictions of what can and can’t be posted are always in flux (see our guide here on “FTC Guidelines For Sponsored Social Media Posts“), finding stability as a YouTube content creator in a constantly developing world can be difficult.
image via Dude Perfect
One of the most interesting clues for what might end up being the future of media on YouTube is the fact that content creators are becoming more and more brand-centric as major brands, advertisers, and publishers begin to fully grasp how valuable this channel is for marketing to consumers—especially when social media influencers are involved. Some of today’s top social media stars are brand-affiliated, and this trend isn’t likely to slow down any time soon. Marketing with top YouTube content creators is becoming one of the most popular digital marketing trends in years.
YouTube content creators are building an important seat for themselves in the future of influencer marketing. With companies like NBCU closing deals to sell ads on YouTube videos (according to an article in The Wall Street Journal) and many TV networks pioneering YouTube influencer marketing strategies, it will be interesting to see what 2016 holds for this unique intersection of online, video, and social media marketing.