A Career Through Viral Videos

If someone ask 5-year-old kids 20 years ago what they wanted to do when they grow up, the most possible answer would be a pilot or a firefighter. No kid would have said “I want to make viral videos for a living”.

Well some of these 5-year-old kids are now millionaires creating videos through YouTube and the popularity of this career path has been growing rapidly.

No one is better in making a living out of viral videos than Ray William Johnson. 

While in his Columbia University dorm room, RWJ had this ingenious idea to create viral videos while commenting on other viral videos online and eventually this idea became his full time job after school.

He started the series “Equals Three” on YouTube in 2008 and every week he would show three viral videos of the week and comment on them in a humorous way. In just 4 years, with a video every week, RWJ income in 2012 was estimated to be $1 million a year. Since the beginning of his YouTube career, it is estimated to have made more than $7.5 million with 750 videos! His channel was the first YouTube channel to reach 5 million subscribers.

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RWJ is not the only young video producer to have such great success but he was definitely the blogger who expanded the industry the most and one of the founders of making viral videos for a living.

His success is based highly on the great idea of the “Equal Three” series and the way he produced his videos. According to last week’s article, RWJ has most of the 6 categories. His videos were about current viral videos so they had great social currency and his personal brought a lot of ethos and pathos into his work.

Unfortunately, he has now decided to start a career as a producer outside of YouTube but the ‘Equals Three” series is still going on with a different presenter. The show is currently having a very small success compared to the RWJ era which shows how important it is to have a great persona behind the camera.

Making viral videos is not easy, even when you aim for the six elements needed for a viral video. RWJ was able to do that before anyone even knew what a viral video was.

It is very interesting how a career path that did not exist 10 years ago, has now created millionaires. I wonder what YouTube producers will be doing in the next few years. Are they going to have the same success? Or there won’t be single producers emerging just because of the huge competition out there?

-DV

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8 thoughts on “A Career Through Viral Videos

  1. BROOOOOOOO! Good piece! Ray is a pretty funny guy that I have seen A LOT on YouTube! I didn’t know he was making a ton of money off of doing them however. Do you know how these YouTubers make their money? That would be pretty cool to investigate and see the way that this works. I do agree that when I was 5 I was not thinking about the internet, at all. Well, except for Captain Crunch’s video game that you had to get the CD for the game out of the box in order to play online. Today, internet based careers are second nature which in hindsight seems ridiculous considering this all happening in two decades…Great food for thought my friend. Keep up the good work!

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    1. So in order to start making money on YouTube and become a “YouTube partner”, your channel needs to have more than 100,000 views. The money you get is relative to the views, the subscribers and the likes your channel gets. The equations are pretty complex but on the ballpark money for views varies between $2.5-$5 per 1000 views (depending on subscriber and likes). Then there is the money that comes from the Ads you watch before a video. Every 1000 times a pre-roll advertisement is shown, Youtube gets paid some amount of money. The amount can vary but typically YouTube is paid between $20 and $25 for every thousand ad views and the partners get a portion of that.
      The top YouTubers make an average of $20 per 1000 views.

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  2. This is a great post about how someone can become famous, just from a few videos on YouTube. Kenton, to answer your question, most YouTubers make their money from advertisements. Companies pay them to put their advertisement before their video shows. I knew a girl who use to sing on YouTube, she got really famous, and eventually due to so many people following her and encouraging her to take the next step, she tried out for the voice. Now she is living in LA and working on a new album, all because of YouTube.

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  3. YouTube/small video channel producers have definitely seen an interesting time in the past decade. Lots of small time producers I once watched have moved onto doing movies and working for companies that they previously based their content on. It is really hard to guess what the future will hold for those wanting to get into the business of creating content that is seen far and wide, but I do think there will always be a market for people creating such content. Like always to make it in that business it will require luck, skill and determination to keep producing after initial successful videos.

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  4. It seems to me that they have the potential for even greater success. I mean social media isn’t getting smaller. Technology continuous to spread across the globe making it easier and easier to participate. So while there may be more competition those who succeed have a larger audience to appeal too.

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  5. I feel like there might be more people trying to make it on YouTube and get paid big bucks for it but not many will actually survive. Like you said it’s all about the persona of the person making and narrating the video. Especially with all the articles and information from people who analyzed viral videos and try to decode why they’re successful. Just because you know all the ingredients that goes into something doesn’t mean it’ll be good.

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