"Success" on YouTube still means a life of poverty

In fact, 96.5 percent of all of those trying to become YouTubers won’t make enough money off of advertising to crack the U.S. poverty line, according to research by Mathias Bärtl, a professor at Offenburg University of Applied Sciences in Offenburg.

Breaking into the top 3 percent of most-viewed channels could bring in advertising revenue of about $16,800 a year, Bärtl found in an analysis for Bloomberg News. That’s a bit more than the U.S. federal poverty line of $12,140 for a single person. (The guideline for a two-person household is $16,460.) The top 3 percent of video creators of all time in Bärtl’s sample attracted more than 1.4 million views per month.

“If you’re a series regular on a network TV show, you’re getting a good amount of money,” said Alice Marwick, an assistant professor of communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Yet you can have half a million followers on YouTube and still be working at Starbucks.”