How YouTubers make money beyond Ad Revenue

Yes, YouTube Creators earn revenue via AdSense. For savvy influencers this is just one revenue stream. One, which is becoming ever less important as influencers diversify.

Generating one million views a month, as a Creator, puts you in the top 3.5% of YouTube’s most-viewed channels. This is according to new research by professor Mathias Bartl of Applied Sciences at Offenburg University in Germany.

Writing in “Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies”, Professor Bartl’s study is one of the first to examine YouTube data for clues about how it works for Creators.

Yet, as a rule of thumb a million video views a month will earn an influencer around $1,000 a month in advertising revenue. Maybe $16,000 a year, if you are lucky.

Small wonder vloggers are increasingly attempting to build their brands beyond the scope of YouTube. There are three reasons for this:

  • A deliberate strategy to diversify risk away from being wholly reliant on the Google company for their income
  • Identification of additional revenue streams to augment income
  • Preparation in the event that influencer marketing turns out to be a short-lived bubble

Advertising revenue

To qualify for a share of YouTube ad revenue Creators must now earn 4,000 hours of watch time a year and have 1,000 subscribers. The new changes, announced on YouTube’s Creator Blog in January, replace last year’s requirement of 10,000 lifetime views for a single channel.

Whilst Adsense is the most obvious source of revenue generation, it is the least profitable for Creators. The payment terms are also beyond their control and subject to change without warning or consultation.

Making money beyond ad revenue with influencer marketing

The most striking source of revenue beyond Adsense is influencer marketing. With engaged audiences and passionate communities hungry for content, YouTube creators are attractive potential partners for brands.

YouTube Creators with large audiences will earn £67,242 on average per YouTube upload, according to a Rakuten Marketing survey conducted in August 2017.

Super Chat in live streams

YouTubers can also make money through Super Chats in live-stream video. Super Chats enable fans to have their comments stand out from other comments in live stream threads.

Super Chat comments allow viewers to pay to pin a comment on live streams. Launched in early 2017, when someone goes on a live stream, you'll see a dollar bill symbol in the chat window. Depending on the amount you’re willing to pay, your comment will not only stand out by being colourful, it’ll be stuck to the top of the comments.

YouTubers making money beyond ad revenue: Affiliate links

Affiliate links work especially well for Creators who often recommend products in their videos. If someone buys a product using the link shared by the influencer, a small portion of the proceeds from the product purchase goes back to the Creator.

Brand extensions like the Amazon Influencer Program - similar to the Amazon Affiliate programme - offer influencers commission on products sold.

YouTubers get a customisable page on Amazon and a vanity URL to showcase your product recommendations.

The page helps the influencer’s audience search and find all relevant product recommendations in one spot.

Most importantly influencers can earn money from qualifying purchases when customers shop through your page.

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Selling their own digital products

Influencers are monetising their expertise by writing and selling eBooks and online courses. The benefits of this are twofold. The majority of the cost is upfront in terms of production. Once the course or eBook has been published, there is very little variable cost involved. And, being digital, there is obviously no product warehousing needed.

Creating their own product ranges

Beauty brand Glossier has started creating packaging and labels that help products look good when their customers photograph them and post them to Instagram.

YouTubers with a large cross-platform fanbase can build their own brand and influence. Kylie Jenner has taken this idea to the ultimate level.

Jenner, who is probably best known for starring in reality-TV show ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’, conceptualised, founded and leads Kylie Cosmetics.

The beauty firm launched globally in 2016. Kris Jenner has told WWD that her daughter's business has made $420 million in retail sales since inception. The company is projected to make $386 million in 2017 alone. It is forecast to hit $1B revenue by 2022.

READ: How influencers are building their own brands beyond content

Selling merchandise

Many influencers sell clothes and other goods that feature their likeness, channel, and/or brand name. Forbes estimates that Jake Paul (Logan Paul’s elder brother) sells millions of dollars of T-shirts, hoodies, and phone cases each month to his devoted fan base.

Produce content in other formats

In 2015 Caspar Lee and Joe Sugg - UK-based YouTubers with a combined subscriber base of 23 million - launched a production company.

Raucous Productions has released two comedy documentaries: Joe And Caspar Hit the Road and Joe And Caspar Hit the Road USA. More recently the production company has partnered with Primal Media to develop a prank show ahead of pitching it to linear broadcasters, including ITV2 and Channel 4.

Caspar Lee, Daniel Middleton (aka DanTDM) Zoe Sugg (aka Zoella) have all capitalised on their YouTube fame by publishing successful books.

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Consulting work

Creators can also make money beyond ad revenue by leveraging their YouTube know-how, working with brands behind the camera. Yet another string to Caspar Lee’s bow is his stake in a marketing startup called Influencer, where he currently serves as chief innovation officer.

Jake Paul also runs a management agency for YouTube stars. The agency, TeamDom, was formed with $1 million in financing to create a new kind of talent management and creative agency. The company’s focus is on nurturing talent which entertains and engages the teen market.

Filmmaker, YouTube creator and digital influencer Casey Neistat worked with CNN for a year developing a new content platform for the traditional broadcaster.

Speaking at the time Neistat told The Verge “There is a tremendous distrust between the audience that watches my content online and the information that is put out by traditional media. Our broad ambition is to figure out a way with tech and media to bridge the gigantic divide.”

Alfie Deyes, a YouTuber with 5 million followers partner to Zoella, has also changed direction. He wants to help launch startups with the help of his young audience, and everything he's learnt from making popular videos on YouTube. His new company is slated to launch later in 2018. He is set to leave social media talent company, Gleam Futures, to pursue this new interest.

Yes, YouTube Creators earn revenue via AdSense through pre roll advertisements. For savvy influencers this is just one revenue stream. One, though welcome, which is becoming ever less important as influencers diversify.


CampaignDeus is the leading independent provider of influencer marketing campaign data for Instagram and YouTube. Our platform identifies and classifies brand sponsored influencer campaign performance metrics, tracking hundreds of thousands of posts.

We use this data to provide Brands & Agencies with industry insights across verticals, benchmark campaigns against vertical & competitor averages, and equip clients with in-depth reporting and recommendations on how to make campaigns more effective. Get in touch for more details.


Scott Guthrie works with companies to drive business growth in the social age through strategic insight and technical know-how. A former digital director of influencer relations at Ketchum, Scott is now an advisor at CampaignDeus. You can find Scott on LinkedIn and Twitter, or on his blog.