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YouTube video creators make money, but not a fortune

January 11, 2009 | 10:19 am

Picture_1 Wannabe Web enterprisers became enlivened last month when the New York Times published a story describing how lucrative YouTube has been for some. In the year since Google's preeminent video service launched its ad-revenue-sharing program with partner users, some have turned amateur video production into a full-time job.

But not everyone is having the five-figure-per-month success of Michael Buckley, the host of the WHATTHEBUCKSHOW, who was profiled by the New York Times.

Massimo Mascoli, the quirky host of the Freedom and Democracy channel, sounded off about his earnings from the ad-sharing program -- which amount to nada. Of course, with 2,669 subscribers, he doesn't have nearly the same following as Buckley, whose channel is the eighth-most-subscribed-to on YouTube, with nearly 329,000 regulars.

Tay Zonday is an impossibly deep-voiced L.A. resident whose classic Chocolate Rain is the 46th most-watched YouTube video of all time. His channel is the 67th most-subscribed-to, but Zonday says he makes about a quarter of the $17,000 to $20,000 in monthly income that ...

... Buckley was quoted in the New York Times as having made. Zonday makes thousands of dollars per month from video ads, but a large percentage comes from ring tone and music sales, he says.

Spencer and Dylan -- as the anonymous hosts of the 22nd most-subscribed-to channel, Household Hacker, call themselves -- aren't living in the lap of luxury from their YouTube success either. In fact, they said in an e-mail, "It is not enough to live off comfortably at this point for two people, but enough that we can afford some pretty sweet electronic gadgets or pay our rent (some months, it's enough for both!)."

Greg Benson has been running Mediocre Films, the 29th most-subscribed-to channel, full time since May last year. "I quit auditioning after being a successful working actor for over 20 years," he said in an e-mail. So, YouTube revenue is certainly paying the bills.

YouTube partners wouldn't discuss the specifics of their ad earnings, and many refused to talk at all on the subject because, as many users note, the agreement with Google bars them from such public discussions. Google spokesman Aaron Zamost says the company cleared certain partners to disclose financial details.

One possible explanation for the apparent disparity among ad revenue success is channel content. For example, Buckley's theme of entertainment gossip might attract more lucrative advertisements than, say, the Household Hackers, whose content is sometimes of questionable legality.

-- Mark Milian

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