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Just 0.4% of YouTube channels get most views, subs, monetization

“YouTube’s monetization system isn’t good enough to earn a living.”

An academic analysis of 36 million YouTube channels shows the gulf between the site’s haves and have nots.

Just 0.4% of channels surveyed command the bulk of views, subscribers, and pay.

Music and gaming content are the most popular areas on the site.

“YouTube’s monetization system isn’t good enough to earn a living,” said Òscar Coromina, one of the study’s authors.

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There’s now empirical proof that it is extremely hard to make a living on YouTube.

An analysis of 36 million YouTube channels has helped unlock the shape and size of the video sharing platform — and lifted the lid on some of the secrets to success.

Researchers at the Universities of Amsterdam and Barcelona, as well as Queensland University of Technology in Australia crawled millions of YouTube channels using the site’s API. Their research was published in the peer-reviewed journal First Monday, and will be presented at the Association of Internet Researchers conference later in October.

What they found is the best-yet insight into the gulf between success and failure on the platform.

“For the first time we were confronted with this large-scale quantitative data,” said Òscar Coromina of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain. “We are able to see the empirical evidence.”

Out of 36.3 million channels captured in the data, just 4.4 million have more than 1,000 subscribers, making them eligible for monetization by YouTube.

Just 0.42% of channels — 153,770 in total — have more than 100,000 subscribers. And while these bigger channels account for fewer than one in 10 videos posted on the platform, they lay claim to 62% of views.

They are also more likely to have posted a large number of videos: around 940, compared to 26 for those with fewer than 1,000 subscribers.

The super-elite on YouTube, those with more than a million subscribers, are in an even more rarefied world.

Just 15,496 out of the 36 million surveyed have more than a million subscribers, but account for more than a third of views worldwide. In other words, just 0.04% hit more than one million subscribers.

Many YouTubers rely on a second platform, like Patreon, to bolster their income

Overall, the data shows just how tough it is to become a popular channel on YouTube and earn enough to make a living.

“It surprised me,” said Coromina. “It’s very different to talk about the popular YouTubers and small individuals who create videos to share with their families.

The average YouTube channel has been running…

Chris Stokel-Walker

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