Ever ask yourself how much you can make on YouTube? This calculator is an attempt at a realistic, data-driven answer to that question. Ignore the first scenario (Imaginary Instant Superstar) - that's intended for humor value. The other scenarios provide a more thoughtful view of how you can build a valuable income stream from a video tube site.
The model looks at two revenue streams - and we have reason to believe top YouTube personalities are consciously managing both of them. Ads are an obvious revenue stream - capturing a few dollars per thousand viewers. And if you're talking about something relatively non-commercial, Ads may well be the best option for your channel. But you can also use Youtube to promote an offline business - for example, look at the promotional video for the Dollar Shave club (recently acquired for a ton of money). They used Youtube to seriously kick start their subscription business. A more humble example we provided is for niche courses and services - the math indicates you can still earn a good income from a very small audience if you can find a way to promote something they find valuable. We've seen a lot of this going on with career and education based sites.
The model does a slow build of traffic and views. We ignore subscribers; from what we can tell, YouTube subscriber counts are basically a vanity metric - most good videos have a ton more views than subscriber signups or even thumbs up / down. We do care about views per video and the volume of videos which the channel is publishing per month. As the number of videos increases, the total views for the channel increases (increasing advertising revenue along with it). In reality, there will be lags due the time it takes for YouTube's ranking algorithms to spot good content.
While the earnings (from a real channel) are less than you were likely expecting (WOT? No Millionz?), there's more value here than you think. The income geneated from past videos, particularly from advertising, is potentially passive. You get paid when the video is shown, for as long as it continues to attract an audience. For certain types of content, these videos may remain relevant for a very long time - giving you an ongoing income stream for several years. That $10,000 annual run rate isn't just a $10,000 check: it's potentially a recurring passive income stream for the next few years. That's a bit more interesting.
Another common amateur mistake is controlling video production costs. As you can see with most of the scenarios, success requires publishing a LOT of videos over the next couple of years. If you're going to be successful on YouTube, you need to have your content production costs aligned with your expected revenue. I included the livecasting cats scenario as a joke (meow!), but after more thought, the low content cost there may make it a good investment (or at least pay for some cat food). There's also a tradeoff between video quality and traffic - better videos are more likely to get traffic (but also cost more time / money to produce). Welcome to the art of managing a publishing company.