If you believe the hype, YouTubers are the future of the entertainment industry. If we’re all migrating towards the internet anyway to consume our media, then it only makes sense that websites devoted to providing original content—like YouTube—will only continue to thrive. Whereas older generations missed the wave of original online entertainment content during their youth, and older millennials tend to focus more on Netflix and other streaming services, YouTube belongs to Generation Z. These #youths flock to YouTube en masse for the platform’s promise of free entertainment, but they stay for the sheer variety of content available.
Almost by definition, YouTube houses a virtually infinite amount of content of all different types, so that literally anyone should be able to find something they are interested enough in to spend hours watching (which translates into hours of advertisements, which, in turn, equals money). It is no wonder, then, that YouTube would want to reward and protect the content makers who are able to accumulate the most eyeballs on a page. On a more sentimental level, many YouTubers claim that the website becomes a community, a place where literally anyone can carve out a small home for themselves and find like-minded people.
But turning those eyeballs into multiple zeroes in a bank account isn’t exactly an intuitive process. Most YouTubers who report high incomes owe that money to a wide range of sources. These revenue streams can range from a book of some kind, an online store selling merch, signing with a talent agency, working with YouTube Red to produce even more original content, collaborating with more traditional media platforms outside of YouTube to create more videos, or even going on tour.
The dollar amounts on this list are from a December 2016 Forbes ranking. The publication based its ranking on “raw, pretax estimates of earnings…on data from Nielsen, IMDB, and interviews with agents, managers, lawyers, industry insiders, and the stars themselves.” Combined, the top ten highest paid YouTubers made a whopping $70.5 million in 2016.