The highest-paid earner on YouTube in 2019 made $26 million talking about toys
Today, in news that’ll make you wonder what you’re doing with your life, Forbes released its annual ranking of top 10 YouTube earners — and two of the highest-paid stars on the video-sharing platform haven’t even hit double digits in age yet.
Snagging the No. 1 spot? Eight-year-old Ryan Kaji, who banked a mind-boggling $26 million through his “unboxing” videos and branded merch (his line has over 100 toys, clothing items and more). It’s his second year in a row crushing the YouTube competition, and he even managed to pull in $4 million more than last year based on 2018’s report by Forbes. Granted, Kaji’s sort of an “old” pro by now, having gotten his start in vlogging at the tender age of three.
To give you an idea of the kind of content the 23 million subscribers of Kaji’s Ryan’s World channel expect, consider this: The grade schooler’s most popular video, which has raked in 1.9 billion views, features him running around on an inflatable retrieving plastic eggs with toys inside.
And Kaji isn’t the only kid making bank via YouTube videos. Five-year-old Anastasia Radzinskaya landed at No. 3 on Forbes‘ list with a similarly awe-inspiring earnings total of $18 million in 2019. The adorable young Russian entrepreneur’s parents originally created her YouTube channel to document her treatment for cerebral palsy. However, it didn’t take long for a wider audience to fall in love with the little girl.
Today, “Nastya” has over 107 million subscribers across seven channels and reels in six-figure endorsement deals. Work for her looks a lot like hanging out with her family, playing with her cat and going on family-friendly excursions, like her wildly popular 2018 trip to the zoo.
She’s honestly way too cute.
Rounding out the list are: Dude Perfect ($20 million), Rhett and Link ($17.5 million), Jeffree Star ($17 million), Preston Arsement ($14 million), PewDiePie ($13 million), Markiplier ($13 million), Daniel Middleton ($12 million), and Evan Fong ($11.5 million)
Obviously, these numbers are enough to make anyone want to run off and join the circus — and by circus, we mean the world of monetized vlogging. However, internet culture writer and YouTubers book author Chris Stokel-Walker cautions that YouTube fame is the exception to the rule. “The vast majority of people who start a YouTube channel, or engage in any career as an influencer, won’t make it,” Stokel-Walker told the BBC in response to Forbes’ rankings. “96.5 percent of YouTubers don’t make enough from advertising revenue alone to break the US poverty line — and with the numbers of creators on the platform constantly increasing, the competition is only getting tougher.”
Having said that, a study performed by the Pew Research Center this year did show that videos with children in them average almost three times as many views as other types of videos. Ryan and Nastya are clearly on to something here. And that something, in their case, pays an exorbitant amount of money.
That may not be the case for long, though. In September, YouTube announced that it’s in the process of rolling out new data practices for children’s content designed to protect young people using the platform. However, those practices will almost invariably limit young YouTubers earning potential.
Still, if your kid shows a real penchant for unpacking toys and talking about board games, maybe it’s worth nurturing. With YouTube’s popularity steadily rising with tweens, who knows? YouTube might wind up being the career of the future. But like, seriously, where was this when we were coming of age? Think of how much ’90s kids could have talked about! What a missed opportunity.