96.5% of YouTubers Don’t Earn Enough to Cross the Poverty Line, Study Finds

Still think you can make money on YouTube?  Well, think again.

So, how much can content creators on YouTube expect to make?

Last year, the team at Information is Beautiful found that content creators only made $1,472 after 2.2 million video views.  This year, The Trichordist noted that the video streaming platform paid a paltry $0.00074 per stream, a slight uptick from last year’s $0.0006 rate.

With the company’s recent update to its monetization eligibility policy, a new study has found that these numbers will only continue to get worse.

Why you probably won’t ever make money from your videos on YouTube.

According to research from Germany, only a few creators will only ever make enough to pay their monthly rent.  The study, done at the Offenburg University of Applied Sciences, found that 96.5% of all YouTubers won’t make enough revenue to surpass the poverty line in the US.

Speaking with Bloomberg News, Professor Mathias Bärtl said that very few could enter the top 3% of most-viewed channels.  He found that these YouTube channels bring in over $16,800 in advertising revenue per year.  That’s slightly above the US federal poverty line, currently at $12,140 for a single person.

Only the top 3% of content creators of all time have brought in more than 1.4 million monthly views.

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Image by Bloomberg

Putting these numbers into perspective, Alice Marwick stated,

If you’re a series regular on a network TV show, you’re getting a good amount of money.  Yet you can have half a million followers on YouTube and still be working at Starbucks.

Marwick works as an Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

So, how much can you expect for every 1,000 views?

According to Lyor Cohen, a top YouTube executive, the video platforms pays out $3 for every 1,000 plays.  The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and various research firms have long refuted this claim, placing the number at around $1.50 (if that).

Accordingly, to calculate earnings estimates in his study, Bärtl used an income of $1 for every 1,000 views for an average YouTuber.  According to Harry Hugo of the Goat Agency, a major influencer marketing firm in London, that number makes sense.

I’ve seen as low as 35¢ per 1,000 views and work with some YouTubers who can earn $5 per 1,000.

YouTube attempted to spin Bärtl’s findings, stating that it has worked to help content creators earn more money.

A company spokesperson said that the number of channels earning hundreds of thousands of dollars has increased 40% year over year.  Without providing any proof to back up this claim, the spokesperson stated,

We continue to see tremendous growth with creators on YouTube.

According to Bärtl, however, the major revenue imbalance has only become worse.  Twelve years ago, the top 3% of channels brought in 63% of total YouTube views.  In 2016, top YouTubers received 9 out of every 10 views on the platform.  The bottom 85% of new YouTubers in 2016 only achieved a maximum of 458 views per month.

Why you shouldn’t expect to make a career on YouTube.

Asher Benjamin publishes over 150 daily video diaries.  The 19-year-old computer science major at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix spends an hour a day editing his videos.  Speaking with Bloomberg, Benjamin remains optimistic that he’ll eventually earn cash from his content.

I don’t know where it’s going to end up.  It’d be cool if I could take the path others have and make it into a job, but we’ll have to see.  I think if I keep uploading, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to make it a career.

Benjamin recently hit 100 subscribers.  He had 71 subscribers at the beginning of 2018.

Realistically, Benjamin and other similar YouTubers may never make a career from their videos.  Recent changes on the platform have only made it much more difficult.  In January, YouTube changed its monetization eligibility requirements.  To earn money from uploaded videos, content creators will need at least 1,000 subscribers or 4,000 hours of total watch time.

Ignoring the harmful results of the company’s updated policy, Neal Mohan, YouTube’s Chief Producer Officer, outlandishly claimed last month,

Even though 2017 was a challenging year, thanks to creators like you, it was full of the moments that make YouTube such a special place…  We’re confident the steps we’re taking today will help protect and grow our inspiring community well into the future.

With the revenue gap only worsening, it appears the only one that can expect a bright future is YouTube.


Featured image by Zoella (YouTube screengrab)

15 Responses

  1. Gordon Gekko

    Not surprising at all – that’s the downside of our digital world. There are only gonna be a few winners. The reality is that Youtube can kick off the majority of it’s creators from their platform and make even more money. They’ve essentially become like a major label.

    • Anonymous

      “They’ve essentially become like a major label.”


      So YouTube is paying engineers, producers, musicians, videos, promotion, advances, etc. now?

      Maybe we shouldn’t all hate Google, then.

    • L. Gorte

      I’ve been pondering this and it has struck me as odd that almost every content or shall I refer to them as bullshit creators are ALLLLLLLLLWAYS trying to sell you on something in their videos. So, perhaps, I can now turn my attention to bringing out the truth about this phony ass platform and all of the fake fucks on You
      tube’s dick!!!. Boy, am I glad I’ve arrived at the truth now because I was gearing towards putting out so much of my valuable advice, tips and tricks when it comes to cracking the code w/ both food and getting your ass to move!!! If anyone out there has any additional material I can add to this valuable piece of investigatory info, please share. Thank you!!!

  2. Anonymous

    I don’t think this is a new phenomenon. Most of the money in the music industry has always been earned by a very few people. That’s been the case since vinyl.

  3. PJ Wassermann

    These numbers are completely wrong for music videos. YouTube pays about $65 for 1 million views of music videos. At least in my account.

    • armin

      it’s not the views – it’s the time they spend viewing

  4. JJ

    This is the millennial generation, too fcking stupid to tie their own shoes. “Oh, let me create content for a website that SOMEONE ELSE owns and then whine about it when I don’t make money”. How about creating your OWN website asstards? Ever think of that? WHY they F are you busting your ass enslaving yourself to a website owned my a multi-billion dollar corporation? What the F has Youtube ever done for you? Do they promote your videos? NO. Do they make them for you? NO. Do they pay you by the hour to make them? NO. This is why that company is so rich, they got all these stupid mofos working for them for FREE.

    • Laz

      God, sohhhhhhh, true!!! Here I was revamping my channel and doing everything I could to get more viewed time and subscribers. I thought something was fishy and had a gut feeling I was simply spinning my wheels. It’s basically predicated on pure utter bullshit sales tactics. It’s no wonder almost every content or shall I refer to them as bullshit creators are selling you on one thing or another. I’m a personal trainer simply trying to put out there fact based knowledge about nutrition and fitness. Thank god I arrived at this invaluable piece of truth before I invested so much wasteful time w/ these fuckin’ maggots!!

  5. Tony Velasquez

    This also leads to YouTubers blanket bombing inane content in huge quantities to try and make up for the low payout for views and time watched. You get “Scientists Explain Why Water is Wet!” and “Top 10 guns [from a 20 year old game that looks like crap now and no one plays anymore]” And then there’s the ever popular slew of videos where someone reads a news article that they found on the web… in real time with the article on the screen.

    You also get 2hr review videos to review a program that was 30 minutes long. And of course, you get 100,000 reviews and commentaries on the latest Hollywood blockbusters that, even if the viewer wanted to, cannot possibly watch them all.

    In the end, this might be a good thing. YouTube will just go back to hobbyists who post a video now and again for the fun of it on topics that they really enjoy instead of someone making 3 videos a day on just whatever useless and mindless topics that they can scrape up for “content” to get views.

  6. Fred

    People should view YouTube as a possible side gig. An additional $2,000, $5,000, maybe $10,000 per year in income would be awesome. But people should be prepared that most likely they will never make a full time living from YouTube.

  7. ES

    YouTube is like the gold rush of the 19th century. Only a few prospectors got wealthy searching for gold. The one’s who made out, were the ones who have always made out, the banks and corporations providing loans and selling supplies to keep the prospectors coming and spending money.

    Thanks for the free content, suckers!

  8. Zach

    What about Gen Z? You Baby Boomer’s never bitch about Gen Z!!!

  9. Chris K

    @ Fred, do you know how insanely difficult and stressful it would be to even earn the 2,000 per year on YouTube? Let’s face it, money makes money and its people that already have the resources or are already somewhat wealthy are the ones that are making money. Just like it is in the USA and everyday life and all other aspects. Things are just not fair for the average. And the changes that YouTube has implemented, makes it even worse for anyone to get a leg up. That’s the bottom line. Until things get better, it sucks trying to actually make a couple of bucks on YouTube.


    I read this article 2 years ago and almost did not start my YouTube channel. These numbers are wrong in this article. Maybe because the article is two years old. You do not have to be in the top 3% or anywhere near that to make your time worthwhile. I made a channel “LIVE FREE” https://m.youtube.com/channel/UC0ACi7Dv2ca2JqwkoOSdZPQ where I just post the things I’m doing. instead of posting it on Facebook I posted on YouTube and it generates income.