Getting data on what YouTube creators earn can be a challenge. Before they can earn money through YouTube’s partner program, users must agree to the AdSense terms of service, which prohibits disclosure of click-through rates and other data. But Hank Green of the Vlogbrothers decided to disclose an interesting graph that demonstrates how the YouTube ad ecosystem works.
SocialBlade is considered the best tool for getting data on YouTube creators’ earnings. Unfortunately, the algorithms used to generate its numbers are inaccurate at best. The problem is that SocialBlade makes lots of assumptions based on publicly available data like view counts and subscriber numbers, which don’t really paint a clear picture.
Case in point: PewDiePie, one of the top YouTube stars has a reported income of between $2.2 and $17.7 million per year. How can such a wide spread be even close to accurate? (If you were curious, he made about $4 million in 2013.)
Green’s numbers give a much better picture. His numbers cover a small multi-channel network (MCN) with 15 channels, including Crash Course and The Brain Scoop, all administered by Green. The graph tracks growth in CPM, not revenue, but there are still some interesting peaks and valleys.
There is a growth spike during every election season, as advertisers ramp up their efforts to take advantage of YouTube’s demographic reach. Green notes in his post on Medium, “That might seem a little odd until you realize that YouTube provides the kind of demographic specificity that makes campaign managers’ keyboards sticky.”
The graph also shows spikes at Christmas, when consumer spending is likely highest, and there’s a subsequent drop every January. Perhaps what’s most important is that February 2012-to-present represents a 450 percent growth in CPM on Green’s MCN.
YouTube has huge revenue-generation power, but not all of it trickles down to the creators. Green represents a relatively small number of channels, but we can see from recent acquisitions in the industry that everyone is starting to see the potential YouTube holds.