If you’ve ever found yourself going down the rabbit hole of YouTube recommended videos, you’re not alone. According to HootSuite, 70 percent of what people watch on YouTube is from the website’s recommendation algorithm, and 81 percent of U.S. adults regularly or occasionally watch videos based on those algorithms.
And judging from YouTube’s highest paid stars of 2020, videos on the streaming site can bring in big bucks—as high as $15 million to $29.5 million. How do they do it? Finding the right viewers at the right time can sometimes be the case, but dedicated subscribers who continue to watch the videos leave more of a long-term impact.
Here are the highest-paid stars of 2020, according to Forbes.
- #10 | Jeffree Star (Earnings: $15 million* | Total Subscribers: 16.9 million)
- #9 | David Dobrik (Earnings: $15.5 million | Subscribers: 18.6 million)
- #8 | Blippi (Stevin John) (Earnings: $17 million | Subscribers: 27.4 million)
- #7 | Nastya (Anastasia Radzinskaya) (Earnings: $18.5 million | Subscribers: 66.2 million)
- #6 | Preston Arsement (Earnings: $19 million | Subscribers: 15.4 million)
- #5 | Markiplier (Mark Fischbach) (Earnings: $19.5 million | Subscribers: 27.9 million)
- #4 | Rhett & Link and Good Mythical Morning (Earnings: $20 million | Subscribers: 21.8 million)
- #3 | Dude Perfect (Earnings: $23 million | Subscribers: 54.6 million)
- #2 | Mr. Beast (Jimmy Donaldson) (Earnings: $24 million | Subscribers: 49.1 million)
- #1 | Ryan Kaji (Earnings: $29.5 million | Subscribers: 27.7 million)
Interestingly, the highest-paid users weren’t always the ones that YouTube categorized as “top creators.” Note that some are on the list above while others are not on the one below:
- #10 | James Charles (Subscribers: 24.8 million)
- #9 | LazarBeam (Subscribers: 17.6 million)
- #8 | The Royalty Family (Subscribers: 11.1 million)
- #7 | JoshDub (Subscribers: 8.42 million)
- #6 | Chloe Ting (Subscribers: 16.6 million)
- #5 | Tiko (Subscribers: 5.47 million)
- #4 | SSSniperwolf (Subscribers: 24 million)
- #3 | ZHC (Subscribers: 18.1 million)
- #2 | Dream (Subscribers: 14.8 million)
- #1 | Mr. Beast (Subscribers: 49.1 million)
But is having a large subscriber base the only way to make funds? Not necessarily. While advertising companies will often look to more popular users (and those within their demographics) to target, sometimes it can be a hit or miss—if users choose to “skip” and never return. In fact, 76 percent of YouTube users skip video ads, according to IPG Mediabrands’ Magna and Media Lab units. But that’s not always the case.
The ‘ad’ that wasn’t skipped
YouTube reports that ads this year generated more than 470 million views and more than 1.3 million likes. And the top ad on YouTube was about a topic more intense than makeup tips, driving a convertible through a car wash, painting, gaming, stunts or science experiments. This “Never Too Far Down” ad (by Nike) was about resilience: told through the eyes of featured athletes like Lebron James, Serena Williams and Tiger Woods.
“The Next 100,” which paid homage to former NFL player Pat Tillman, also made the list.
Not all the top-paid ads are about sports though. Turbo Tax’s dance craze and the Hyundai Sonata’s self-parking feature were more light-hearted and lucrative ads in the top 10.
However, between the most successful ads and the most prominent YouTube accounts, there’s one noticeable thing missing: diversity.
Top site realizes it has a low point in diversity marketing
YouTube knows it can do better with inclusivity, too. In one of their most recent blogs, Johanna Wright (Vice President of Product Management At YouTube) speculated on how the video streaming site can already “evaluate how videos about Black Lives Matters are performing against other content on YouTube regardless of the creator, but we’re currently not able to evaluate growth for Black beauty creators, LGBTQ+ talk show hosts, female vloggers or any other community.”
So starting in 2021, YouTube will ask creators to provide voluntary information in regard to their gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity. YouTube will also host #YouTubeBlack for creator gatherings, as well as FanFest. That information will be used to help dissect how content from different communities is treated when it comes to search and discovery and monetization systems.
YouTube management also promises to continue being more diligent when it comes to carefully monitoring patterns of hate, harassment and discrimination in the comment section—an area that can become overwhelmingly hard for users to police when they’re reaching millions of subscribers.
In the meantime, for YouTube creators and users who are interested in seeing more diverse content, clicking, recommending and subscribing (all vital actions for any streaming site) to more multicultural content may also be helpful in making sure that lesser-known users can make their way to the top, too.
- * Salary income is based on Forbes report.
- ** Subscriber numbers are based on stats as of Dec. 27, 2020 and may differ from Forbes.