How Much Money Do Viral YouTube Videos Make?

By Megan O'Neill 

Over the summer, YouTube revealed that hundreds of partners are now making six-figure incomes, but how much do individual video partnerships make?  Earlier this week Claire Cain Miller of The New York Times reported that it may be more than you think.  Cute videos of kids going viral could be enough to send the kids to college and more, and though YouTube expressly forbids their partners to reveal exactly how much money they make from YouTube, they’ve revealed some pretty nice estimations.

The New York Times article focuses on a video that went viral earlier this month—Lily’s Disneyland Surprise! 6-year old Lily reacts to finding out that she gets to go to Disneyland for her birthday and the video has been viewed over 5.2 million times so far.  According to the article, the mother of little Lily, Katie Clem, “has made $3,000 in three weeks and stands to make much more because Disney wants to use her video in a TV ad.”  In another example, Miller reports that David DeVore, father of YouTube sensation David After Dentist, which has been viewed over 100 million times, has made over $100,000 from YouTube ads.

Of course, YouTube ads aren’t the only way that owners of popular YouTube videos make money.  As stated above, Clem stands to make a large chunk of money from Disney if and when they use her video in a TV ad.  Merchandising is also a great way to profit off your YouTube success.  David DeVore is a master of merchandising.  He told us in an interview back in August 2010 that following the success of the video he made David After Dentist his full time job.  “I manage all the merchandising,” he said.  This includes everything from branded t-shirts to stickers.

Nobody really knows the exact amount of money that can be gleaned from a viral video (except YouTube and the video owners themselves), but it seems to be quite a hefty sum.  Unfortunately, you probably shouldn’t set your sights on hitting viral gold yourself.  If you talk to most individual video partners that have gone viral with a home video they’ll tell you that they didn’t set out to make a viral video.  Clem told the NY Times, “We didn’t try.  I don’t have any advice because I literally went to bed that night and woke up and our lives were completely different.”  It’s really all about luck.  But if you manage to create a viral hit, the reward seems to be plentiful.

How much money would you guess the average viral video makes?  Are you surprised by the NY Times statistics?

Megan O’Neill is the resident web video enthusiast here at Social Times.  Megan covers everything from the latest viral videos to online video news and tips, and has a passion for bizarre, original and revolutionary content and ideas.