YouTube’s creators are willing to open up on just about any topic, whether it’s Charles and Alli Trippy sharing the difficult details of their divorce, or Tyler Oakley sitting down with his mom to watch his own birth, but the one topic that seems always to be off-limits is money. There are many reasons why, ranging for personal modesty, to contractual requirements, to fear of alienating viewers. That’s why many were shocked when Harley Morenstein blew the lid off the open secret that top YouTube creators are also big earners at this year’s Streamy Awards. Money is a taboo subject especially when it comes to creators profiting from the ads that YouTube serves up to their audiences. Still, Hank Green says that ad revenue in YouTube is climbing and that’s good news for all of us.
In recent post on Medium, Hank Green shared data culled from his network of YouTube channels showing a significant increase in CPM rates over time. CPMs are industry speak for the rate that advertisers pay to place ads on a particular video. They differ by content creators depending on how many subscribers they have, how often their videos are viewed, and what type of content they create. CPM’s are also considered private information and the YouTube terms of service specifically prevent creators from discussing them publicly. Still, while Hank’s data don’t show any hard numbers, they do show that the trends over time are positive, increasing over 200% between 2012 and 2014.
Rising CPMs mean richer YouTubers, something that fans are often surprisingly unhappy to hear. We root for our favorites, but we don’t want to think that our relationship with them is transactional, and that they’re just in it for the dollars. Thinking like this is understandable, but it misses the point. Creators can only create if they can afford to do things like eat and live indoors. Ad revenue makes that possible. Furthermore, a rising YouTube CPM means less need for brand deals and sponsorships which many fans see as the ultimate betrayal of the creator audience relationship. Creators need to get paid to make the thing we love, and a higher CPM is the best way for that to happen while allowing creators to stay true to themselves.