Making Money on YouTube is Hard Even for its Biggest Stars

  • Making money on YouTube and other social media platforms by giving away free content in exchange for advertising revenue translates to financial stability for only a very few. This has always been well documented. But an eye-opening article published by famous Youtuber Gaby Dunn, titled Get rich or die vlogging: The sad economics of internet fame, tells about her heartbreaking story, along with fellow YouTubers like her, who struggle to make ends meet despite the millions of subscribers and adoring followers they’ve worked so hard to build.

    Many outsiders have a misconception that internet stars are living a glamorous life like traditional movie and tv stars because they are so famous. What we don’t see is the real story behind these young, entrepreneurial minded creators who often find themselves in a dilemma – if they take sponsorships in exchange for producing branded content, fans are quick to condemn and backlash ensues. Yet if they don’t, views alone do not generate a livable income.

    Multichannel networks have the advantage over inexperienced creators, and thus far the MCN model has proven to be financially rewarding again only for a few top creators. Gaby also describes in the article how producing video content and managing a YouTube channel often mimic a full time job for serious creators. So it’s strangely common for internet famous YouTube stars with loads of adoring fans to find themselves working full time to make content, and also at entry level jobs such as waitressing just to get by.

    What’s a serious content producer to do? Abandon the platform that gave them all this fame and glory and get a 9-5? Or accept corporate sponsorships and learn to live with their fan’s criticisms?

    In our experience, a common content strategy that translates to liveable income often includes putting free content on YouTube and leveraging your built in audience there. But instead of spending resources to produce videos only to give them away for free in exchange for a couple cents per thousand views, there is a better way to get more out of them. Now with the new subscriber and viewership count drop controversy, there’s no better time to start diversifying and growing your video business outside of YouTube.

    We’ve seen time and time again how long form, premium content accessible in an SVOD environment coupled with free, shorter form content on Youtube equates to meaningful recurring monthly revenue for creators. Another strategy is content windowing for YouTubers who have supportive fans willing to support creators by paying for earlier access to content. For those who don’t want to support the creator, the content will always be free after the early access window. There’s so much more creators can do with their own branded SVOD channel and the freedom that comes with an owned-and-operated destination.

    So if you’re a YouTube star who can relate to Gaby Dunn’s experiences, reach out to us at Pivotshare and we’ll walk you through the strategies that we’ve seen work for publishers on our platform. Send us a note over to and we’ll be happy to chat!


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