The outrageous fortunes of vlogging on YouTube

The outrageous fortunes of vlogging on YouTube
Karl Jonsson / Flickr.com
Instead of bussing tables and tediously tending to customers, there are some enterprising youths who are turning to a new avenue of employment: YouTube. What are these kids thinking?

Felix Kjellberg is a Swedish-born YouTube video maker, most commonly known by his online alias PewDiePie (pronounced pew-dee-pie).

He also happens to be a millionaire. Who screams at video games.

And he’s not alone. There are hundreds of young video bloggers – aka “vloggers” – who film thoughts, observations, comedy sketches, science facts, and an assortment of different things for their followers to enjoy online.

They are a group of young entrepreneurs who have been born into the digital age, savants of social media marketing and advertising. And brands are catching on to the social currency these vloggers hold, especially with the teenage and university student demographics.

One example, Jamie Curry, has a paid sponsorship with Kiwi Bank, and has had deals with Coca-Cola and Netflix, and currently holds court with about 1.5 million followers on YouTube.

Shannon Harris, who produces videos under the name Shaaanxo, has the largest social media presence on the New Zealand YouTube scene, with just under 1.87 million subscribers. She’s estimated to earn somewhere between $137.8k and $2.2m per year, according to metrics website Social Blade.

So how do these vloggers draw such huge crowds?


Elena Carroll

Elena Carroll, creator of the ClassicSplendour channel (focusing on make-up and fashion tutorials) believes it’s the relatability between video creators and their audiences that holds the key.

“The reason why they do so big is because the people that view [vloggers] would be ranging from 10 to 20. Maybe a little bit more, but more often around that age,” she says.

“[The audience] feel like they know this person, and see them as friends. They’re involved in [the vlogger’s] lives.”

YouTube success

Carroll began the beauty and fashion YouTube channel after watching her dad produce his own stuff and putting it online. It soon paid off – a year after creating the channel, she was made a YouTube partner and started making money.

The 19-year-old student currently has around 6,400 subscribers. Despite the non-disclosure agreement with YouTube, she’s “allowed to say it helps me out at university. It’s basically the equivalent of a part-time job.”

So instead of bussing tables or selling clothes, she’s getting paid to try out, review, and recommend beauty products on YouTube – but that’s not all.

Her videos’ success has also meant being contacted by fashion brands and product companies who want to cash in on her popularity. And her being very particular about what makes it on to her channel makes sure her endorsement mean something.

“I’m not just going to take on anything just because it’s been offered to me,” she says. “I’m quite aware of what I want for myself, but I would be open to anything.”

However, the life of a YouTube celebrity isn’t all glitz and glamour and free beauty products – a lot of it is constantly sacrificing nights out with friends to produce videos, as well as backlash from people both online and offline.

“In high school, it caused a little bit of grief when my peers started finding out my videos. They weren’t very nice to begin with, and it was mainly guys that didn’t understand [what I do],” Carroll says.

Her pragmatic approach to the negativity is to simply plod on, ignoring the detractors and naysayers. She has good reason to: one video tutorial she created has been seen by more than a million people.

What’s the secret?

“I’m actually still trying to figure that out myself. You make videos, and you hope they’ll do well. It just happens, and you just don’t know [why].”