With names like panacea81, julieg713, and fafinettex3, these young cosmetics gurus have drawn devoted followings on YouTube, offering tips and tricks on everything from applying eyeliner to how to achieve a certain "celebrity look." Think Lady Gaga.
In the last three months, the top five sites in the makeup tutorial subgenre together have generated more than 150 million views and averaged more than 600,000 a day, according to Web video measurement service TubeMogul. Views have increased 40% in that span.
Several of these videos are consistently among the top 100 on YouTube at any given time, and a recent one by Michelle Phan, showing how to use a business card to apply mascara, currently ranks among the top 10 most viewed. The growing audience for the videos in turn has attracted advertising and sponsorships from beauty products companies such as BeautyChoice.com, MAC Cosmetics, Clinique and Cibu International.
"What's fascinating to me is that these makeup how-to videos are not only getting more views than any other YouTube partners--and ad money -- but also getting money from affiliate links to sites like BeautyChoice," said David Burch, marketing director at TubeMogul. "It's growing faster than any other category I've seen." He noted that Phan's how-to-look-like Lady Gaga video alone has generated about five million views.
YouTube's partner program allows independent video producers that have gained a certain audience level, among other criteria, to share in revenue from AdSense ads run against videos on their YouTube channels. Among the best-known partners is Nebraska teen Lucas Cruikshank, aka "Fred," whose YouTube celebrity has spawned lucrative sponsorship deals with Zipit Wireless and 20th Century Fox.
Michelle Phan, panacea81 and scores of other beauty video producers are also YouTube partners. Recently, the video hub amended its ad policy and began allowing partners to include paid product placements in their videos and related content.
That decision has proved a boon for the makeup instruction videos, which abound with plugs for BeautyChoice.com, MAC Cosmetics, Revlon and other companies. Phan, whose YouTube channel is approaching 200,000 subscribers, pushes her own line of health and beauty products under the name IQQU.
Whether all the cosmetics brands shown or mentioned in the videos are paid is not clear. YouTube requires that partners notify the site if their content includes paid placements.
The site also doesn't allow product placements outside the partner program. At least one recent video on the fafinettex3 YouTube channel appeared questionable. It begins with the blogger, whose profile describes her as a 20-year-old licensed practical nurse named Aubrey, explaining that she recently bought a Canon Powershot SD 780 IS, while holding the box up close to the camera.
But even such blatant and off-topic endorsements don't seem to diminish the appreciation of grateful fans. "your videos are actually amazing. ive spend hours and hours watching them, ive learnt so much from them and im sure others have to, your brill at what your doing please please dont stop making vids," read one comment posted on the fafinettex3 site.