In 2015, when Paul Kousky began earning around $100,000 a year from his YouTube channel, he dropped out of college to focus on online video as a full-time job.
Creators like Kousky, who are a part of YouTube’s Partner Program, earn money on YouTube through Google AdSense, which places ads within videos that then generate a certain amount of revenue depending on factors like a video’s watch time, length, and viewer demographic.
Kousky, now 24, earns a majority of his revenue through ads, he said. These ads run on his YouTube channel PDK Films, which has 10 million subscribers.
Kousky’s highest-earning video is one he posted in February 2018, titled “Nerf War: Tank Battle,” which went viral worldwide six months later, he said. Today, the video has over 150 million views.
Kousky earned $97,000 in AdSense from the video, the most he’s made from a single video, according to a screenshot viewed by Business Insider.
“Some people think that’s low; some people think it’s high,” he said. “For me, that’s just what I’m used to on my channel. Some people get a couple million views and pull in $100,000 in AdSense off that.”
How creators on YouTube earn revenue through ads
Some top YouTube creators have clear strategies they employ to earn more money from advertising on videos.
But the CPM (or cost per thousand views) can vary wildly depending factors like the subject matter (and what advertisers that attracts) and the viewer demographic.
That means that a video with 1 million YouTube views won’t always make the same amount of money for a creator.
Austen Alexander, a YouTube influencer with 135,000 subscribers who is an active-duty sailor for the US Navy, told Business Insider that a video with roughly 1 million views earns him about $6,000 in Google AdSense revenue. But Kevin David, a YouTube creator and entrepreneur with 800,000 subscribers, said that his video with 1 million views earned him $40,000.
Why does David’s content get such a higher ad rate? David likely has a higher CPM because of the type of content he produces: detailed how-to videos (like how to make money online or sell products on Amazon) and e-commerce tutorials.
But YouTube ad revenue is only part of the revenue equation, and many creators earn money through brand sponsorships, merch, or other means.
Talent manager Jordan Worona, who has made a name for himself representing controversial and unfiltered influencers like Tana Mongeau, said his clients find many ways to make money beyond AdSense.
For instance, Worona helped Mongeau sell T-shirts with pictures of her mug shot after she was arrested in 2017. They sold $40,000 worth in two days, he said.