YouTube Influencers Finding New Challenges

Between the changes made to YouTube’s monetization policy and oversaturation of influencers, making a career on Google’s video platform has become increasingly difficult.

A recent survey — The State of YouTube 2019 Report — published by Storyblocks and ICX Media, examined more than 400 YouTube creators, who said their annual earnings continue to fall, while newcomers are faced with hurdles to achieve success.

Early on, top-earning YouTube stars of 2015 earned between $2.5 million and $12 million. By 2016, one media outlet put PewDiePie’s worth at $78 million.

As one of the top-earning YouTubers, Felix Kjellberg -- aka PewDiePie -- now has made more than $12 million talking about video games, according to one report, but findings from the survey by Storyblocks suggest that annual revenue on average continues to fall. 

In 2018, YouTube tightened the rules around its partner programs. To apply to have ads attached to their videos, creators needed thousands of hours of overall watch time and needed to have at least 1,000 subscribers.

Challenges for smaller influencers also are being created by the success of live-streaming events and culturally defining moments like SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch, Beyoncé’s takeover of Coachella, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's royal wedding. Those live streams were the top three events on YouTube in 2018, according to a YouTube post released Thursday.

Live streams have become a way for brands to connect with new and existing fans, but the findings from Storyblocks' survey suggests that it has become increasingly difficult to make it financially as a full-time YouTube influencer. Some said that joining a YouTube influencer agency --  a digital marketing and advertising company -- could help their career.

There are thousands of smaller creators participating with different aspirations. Today, 31% of survey respondents said they use YouTube for creative projects and hobbies. Some 27% said they use it for full-time work, and about 22% use it for business and personal work, 17% use it for part-time work, and 3% use it for education.

Those who say they use YouTube for part-time work or for business and personal use list two primary reasons: additional income, and aspiring to create video as a full-time job. How-to & style is the most popular type of video, followed by education, film & animation, science & technology, and music.

Overall, 49% see creativity as their primary motivation for creating videos. About 34% said the goal is to promote their business, 14% said the goal is to get more subscribers, and only 1% said they are looking to gain likes.

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