Back when I first joined the YouTube partner program in 2012, there was a rule that you were not allowed to disclose your earnings. Judging by the recent trend of videos on YouTube revealing Adsense revenue, it seems like that rule is no longer be part of the YouTube partner program, and so, I’d like to discuss and compare earnings from two similarly “viral” videos I have had.
The first video was “Shite Irish Girls Say’, uploaded in January 2012, (from here on referred to as ‘SIGS’). It was a short, two-minute sketch jumping on a comedic trend sweeping YouTube at the time. It now sits at 1.7M views.
The second video was ‘Why I didn’t wear my Say Yes To The Dress’ video, uploaded in November 2018, from now on referred to as ‘SYTD’. It was a ten-minute, long-form “Storytime” style video, a style of video popular on YouTube at the time. It now sits at 1.3M views.
The two videos' trajectories are very similar. Both videos got a similar amount of views in their first month, with a massive first ten days, leveling off around day 11. Both have continued to gain views to this day — but one video made significantly more money than the other.
I think it’s really important that we discuss these earnings from these videos in relation to the following things:
- How much was made on the initial virality of the video: The first month’s earnings.
- How much has been made from the video in its lifetime: Lifetime Earnings.
- Total YouTube Revenue vs. Creator Revenue, i.e. taking into account ‘Revenue Share’ with Google.
- The mitigating factors that played into the vastly differing returns on the videos eg traffic sources, audience demographics, ad types and more.
So, I’ll throw out the figures everyone is waiting for, and then I will break down the ‘why’.
The first note is that every YouTube creator, upon entering into the YouTube Partner Agreement, enters into a Revenue Share Agreement with Google. This Revenue Share gives 55% of Adsense Earnings to the Creator, and 45% of Adsense Earnings to Google. When we talk about ‘Total YouTube Earnings’, that refers to figures before this ‘Revenue Share’ is taken into account. ‘Creator Earnings’ refers to the earnings after the ‘Revenue Share’ is taken into account.
The first month’s earnings
SIGS (2012) got 80,000 more views in its first month but actually made a lot less money.
In the first month, SIGS got 820,000 views and SYTD got 740,000.
In that initial month, SIGS earned €367 and SYTD earned €3,774. After Revenue Share, my earnings were €129 from Shite Irish Girls Say and €2,170 from SYTD.
The above figures are pre-tax and so, an important note is that in 2018, I was in the higher band of tax (Any earnings over €33,500 in Ireland), so I paid 42% tax on the €2,170, leaving me with a net total of €1,258.60.
In the lifetime of the videos, I have made €354.34 from SIGS and €3,507.10 from SYTD. That is 8 years for SIGS, and 18 months for SYTD. These figures are post-Revenue Share but pre-tax.
A number of factors played into the differing earnings of these two videos;
Channel Status on YouTube
Possibly the single biggest factor is that when SIGS say went viral, I was not a member of the YouTube Partner Program. At the time, you needed to apply, and you needed either a 1,000 subscribers or a million views to be approved, of which I had neither. However, when the video started going viral, YouTube did enable that video (alone) for monetization, but not until the video reached over 150,000 views, which meant I earned nothing on the first 150k views.
TLDR: Monetisation needs to be enabled in order to make money on YouTube!
Back Catalogue of Content
When I published SYTD, I had an existing backlog of work. Simply put, that meant that people had other videos to watch of me once they were finished watching that video. SYD had the opportunity to drive up my Watch Time, thereby bumping up the earnings for the channel for the month and driving more subscribers overall. SIGS didn’t really have that back catalog to drive subscribers or Channel Watch Time.
TLDR: More content = more Watch Time = more revenue.
Available Ad types
When SIGS say went viral, not only were the first 150k — 200k views not monetized, but there were fewer ad types available, and Premium didn’t exist. For example, midroll ads did not exist when SIGS was published, plus it still isn’t eligible for midrolls due to being too short.
So there were fewer ways to monetize Shite Irish Girls Say. Interestingly, SIGS actually made more money on display ads in its first month than SYTD did. However, SYTD made a lot more money on skippable video ads and, due to the length of the video, has the ability to have midroll ads, which the shorter video does not.
TLDR: There were different types of ads available in 2012 v 2018 — the video published in 2018 had more ad types available than the video published in 2012.
Traffic source — SIGS came from external recommendations; it went viral in the biblical sense, with people sharing the video on other social media networks. WIDW didn’t “go viral”; instead, it got a lot of views from recommended videos on YouTube. It is understood that traffic driven this way is better for the algorithm: your video extending the existing Watch Session of a user is infinitely better for you in the algorithm than external views which don’t translate to Watch Time past your video.
TLDR: Session Watch Time is king now.
The major difference between these two videos is that they attracted wildly different audiences.
The majority of viewers for SIGS were from Ireland (the country of upload), whereas the majority of the audience for the SYTD video came from the United States.
The age profile and gender of the two audiences were also very different, with SIGS boasting a 50–50 gender split and SYTD securing a whopping 97.1% female audience.
The age profile of both audiences was actually similar, with both videos attracting a majority of viewers between the ages of 18–34, with 18–24 being the biggest demographic followed closely by the 25–34 demographic.
SYTD having a majority American, female audience in the 18–34 age brackets is a massive factor in how much money it earned. In advertising, the income of women in the 18–25 and 25–34 age brackets are considered the most disposable: i.e. they’re earning increasingly good money but possibly don’t have mortgages, children or locked responsibilities yet.
All these factors play into the CPM: Cost Per Mille (Cost Per Thousand). This is the price advertisers pay per 1,000 ad impressions. An important note here is that not every view is monetized: only about half of the views will have an ad play due to limits on how many ads a user can see in a certain period of time, whether or not that viewer is the target demo for a serving ad, and what device the user is viewing the video on.
RPM: Revenue Per Mille is perhaps a better way to understand the money a video makes than CPM. RPM is a new YouTube metric that is calculated by multiplying the Total YouTube Revenue by 1,000 and then dividing it by total views in the same time period. YouTube describes RPM as giving the Creator “the most holistic measurement of the overall rate at which you earn money on YouTube”.
As you can see, all of these factors are reflected in the RPM & CPM of the two videos, with SYTD having a much higher RPM and CPM than SIGS.
TLDR: USA! USA!
The Lifetime Success of a Video
In summary, I have made a lot less money from SIGS in it’s lifetime than from SYTD; €354 compared to €3,507.
However, I think it’s important to note that while ‘Shite Irish Girls Say’ may have ‘underperformed’ in terms of ad revenue, that video brought a lot of viewers to my channel at a key time for my channel’s development — the very beginning. I know that in Ireland, I’m still known for the SIGS video, so it can’t be underestimated how important that video was for channel growth or even just my visibility in Ireland, which has inevitably led to other paid opportunities, like sponsored posts or television appearances. The ‘Say Yes To The Dress’ video made a lot more money on YouTube, but has relatively limited penetration in the Irish market. In fact, being on the actual ‘Say Yes To The Dress’ TV show brought me much more visibility in Ireland than the YouTube video about the experience with 1.7M views.
TLDR: A video’s success isn’t most accurately measured solely in how much money it made.
If you want to hear more about this topic, check out my video below.