Forbes published their top 10 YouTube earners list for 2020. Forbes estimated that the platform’s celebrities brought in over $200 million from June 1, 2019 to June 1, 2020, representing a 30% jump from the previous year, $162 million. At the top, for the second year in a row, is Ryan Kaji (#1) with close to $30 million in earnings, up 10% from 2019. Cracking the top 10 from seemingly out of nowhere is Mr. Beast (#2), Jimmy Donaldson, who’s video of him counting to 100,000, put him on the map. Mr Beast spends most of his time thinking of new video ideas with his budget cracking 6 figures per video now. How do YOU crack the top 10? Here are some common themes we’ve found across YouTube’s top earners:
- Funny – Comedy is one of the things newcomer Mr Beast is known for. David Dobrik (#9) also appeals to your funny bone as does the platform’s oldest comedy duo Rhett and Link (holding steady at #4). Preston Arsement (#6), who started in the video game Minecraft, also dipped into pranks recently to crossover into non-gamer audiences.
- Stunts – Show us something we haven’t seen before. Video is the perfect medium for visual candy. In addition to kicking tail in video games, a common thread across 40% of the top 10 is to show us something we haven’t seen before. Dobrik, Rhett and LInk, Dude Perfect (#3), and Mr Beast all engage in stunts that sometimes are mindless (like counting to 100,000), but are things that we’ve always dreamed about. Advanced editing and camera tricks offer non stop entertainment as Dude Perfect’s “Bowling Trick Shots” illustrates.
- Outrageous – There are outrageous activities out there that are not death defying stunts or laugh your face off pranks. However there is a fine line between entertainment and downright offensiveness. Some like Rhett and Link are able to blend 1 and 2 into outrageousness by eating Cheetos flavored Pop Tarts, or Dude Perfect’s “Bubble Wrap Battle,” while some like PewDewPie go too far with some of his racist videos or Logan Paul’s walk through Japan’s Suicide Forest.
- Excitement – Video gamers and stunt people provide it, and Mr. YouTube himself, Ryan Kaji, gives us this thrilling feeling everytime he does an unboxing of one of his toys. It’s a hit of vicarious dopamine like when you buy something online (a double shot, since you get one when you click Buy and another when the product comes) or win the jackpot on a slot machine.
- Babysitting – 81% of parents with children 11 or younger let their kids watch YouTube. Additionally, kid videos have 3 times more views than other videos. 30% of our top 10 includes kid-centric stars (Blippi (#8), Nastya (#7), and Ryan). In addition, 5 year old Nastya, widens her audience by translating into 7 languages. These creators are able to monetize most efficiently given the strict rules around kid-friendly content giving advertisers a brand safe environment.
- Teach – Many of the makeup stars that have gone onto create their own lines have started on YouTube. Jeffree Star (#10) does HowTo videos on applying makeup, which allows him to promote his own products. Michelle Phan, James Charles, Sun Kiss Alba are just some tutorial stars that have also sold their own beauty products. In addition to makeup, there are so many more videos when learning something is better to be shown, not told. I’m still waiting for a good bow-tying video, hint, hint.
- Game – Amazon bought Twitch for close to a billion dollars in 2014, a niche site for live streaming video games. There are a lot of gamers out there with the gaming market surpassing the movie industry and the professional sports industry (pre-pandemic) in total dollars. 2 of this year’s top 10 and 5 of last year’s top 10 started and / or stayed in the video game sphere.
In addition to the ad revenue that YouTube brings, many in the top 10 also sell merchandise including makeup, apparel, merchandise, fan club memberships, custom toys, and more.
Many of the top 10 also have licensing and content deals with mainstream media including Ryan’s and Dude Perfect’s show on Nickelodeon. (See this post for other revenue streams). Need help promoting your channel? Sign up at Famecast for the full suite of tools and let us know if YOU break the top 10.