Working how YouTubers gets paid and where that money comes from is one of the more common pursuits of non-YouTubers who are considering becoming YouTubers.
In this particular case, we can answer this question very simply, but don’t worry, there’s plenty to expand on with this topic.
Do YouTubers get paid for subscribers? – No, YouTubers do not get paid for subscribers. YouTubers are paid based on how many adverts are seen and clicked on by viewers calculated by YouTube Adsense CPM, affiliate agreements, sponsorships, brand deals and/or by funneling people into external sales of services, products or merchandise.
The typical relationship between YouTube, its content creators, and its viewers involves no direct transaction of money.
Viewers do not pay to view a specific piece of content (with the exception of movie rentals of course, but you can’t subscribe to a movie rental), YouTube does not receive any payment that corresponds to a specific viewer or the content they are watching, and so there is no payment to be issued to a YouTuber when they gain new subscribers.
So, if you wanted the short, simple, and blunt answer to “do YouTubers get paid for subscribers?”, there you go.
However, if you’d like to dive a little deeper, stick around.
The Value of Subscribers
One common misconception about YouTube is that more subscribers means more money, but it’s not that simple.
It’s true that people with more subscribers tend to be making more money, but the correlation between the two is not as strong as you might expect.
Think about your own YouTube viewing habits. For the vast majority of you, we’d be willing to bed that you have dozens—perhaps even hundreds—of channels that you are subscribed to, the vast majority of which you haven’t made a conscious effort to look at for a long time.
We all do it.
It’s one of the reasons why YouTubers often take issue with YouTube’s somewhat erratic and unreliable system for notifying subscribers about new videos.
The point we’re getting here is that having a subscriber in no way guarantees that the subscriber will be watching any of your content, let alone all of it, and it is the watching of content that generates the revenue that ultimately pays YouTubers.
If you’d like an example of this in action, take a look at the YouTube goliath that is PewDiePie. The man with more subscribers than literally any other individual on the platform. At the time of writing this, PewDiePie has over 109 million subscribers, yet you have to scroll down through five months-worth of content to find a video that has cracked 10 million views.
And the vast majority of those videos between then and now fall into the 2-5 million view range.
PewDiePie is not abnormal in this respect.
There are always exceptions, of course, but as a general rule, most YouTubers see a similar ratio of subscribers to average views. In fact, the generally accepted wisdom among YouTubers is that a healthy, growing YouTube channel should aim to be getting views equal to around 14% of their subscriber base.
So, given that the vast majority of a YouTuber’s subscribers often aren’t watching their content, it makes sense that YouTubers aren’t getting paid for each subscriber they gain.
How DO YouTubers Get Paid Then?
This topic is worthy of a post of its own, so we won’t go into too much detail here, but knowing how YouTubers get paid will help you understand the lack of a connection between subscriber count and revenue.
There are several ways to get paid as a YouTuber, but, for simplicity’s sake, we are going to focus on the YouTube Partner Programme for this brief section.
Channels that are enrolled in the YouTube Partner Programme (after meeting the necessary criteria to be accepted) can choose to monetise their videos. YouTube will then start showing ads before, after, during, and beside that video, and the YouTuber receives a cut of that revenue.
Essentially, subscribers are meaningless to YouTube when it comes to revenue, and given the increasing complexity of the recommendation algorithm and how many subscribers don’t watch channels they subscribe to, they are increasingly meaningless in discerning viewing preferences as well.
YouTube subscribers are a convenience for the viewers and a metric for the YouTubers, but nothing more. YouTube is basically concerned with watch time, because the more watch time there is, the more ads can be shown. This is why a channel with 10,000 subscribers and a monthly watch time of 5,000 hours will almost certainly make more revenue than a YouTuber with 20,000 subscribers and a monthly watch time of 2,000 hours.
There is more to YouTube than subscribers, of course. In this section we’re going to look at a few aspects of the platform that, through squinting eyes, might look a bit like subscriber-related action, but are not quite the same thing.
We mentioned above that there is no direct transaction between a viewer and YouTube, and that is true when talking about a specific video.
With the exception of movie rentals—which don’t really count in this context—nobody pays YouTube a fixed amount to watch a specific video. But they can choose to pay YouTube directly.
YouTube Premium is YouTube’s way of cutting out the middle man. Rather than finding advertisers to pay for your eyeball-time so they can give you a share of that money, YouTube Premium allows users to pay YouTube directly. By all accounts, this is a better situation all around, since the user can watch their content without being interrupted by ads, and YouTube can get paid directly without having to worry about fickle advertisers and data collection regulations.
Of course, it’s not free, which is why the majority of viewers choose not to join Premium, but the option is there.
But there is no direct correlation between what the user pays and what they watch. A YouTube Premium user could watch one video all month or a thousand videos. They are paying for a service, not a product. As for the YouTuber, they get a share of the YouTube Premium pot based on how much watch time they have accumulated from Premium viewers. So, once again, if the viewer isn’t watching their content, they aren’t making that YouTuber any money, subscriber or not.
What Are YouTube Memberships?
YouTube Memberships are different from subscribers in that anyone with a YouTube account can start a channel, and anyone with a YouTube account can subscribe to a channel. Your channels needs least 1,000 subscribers, and not having lots of ineligible videos on your channel.
And to become a member, you need to pay a monthly fee.
Memberships allow members to receive certain perks that regular viewers don’t get, such as badges, custom emojis, access to exclusive content, etc.
By its very nature, YouTubers do get paid for every membership, but as we said, members and subscribers are not the same thing.
Do YouTube Subscribers Matter?
We painted a pretty bleak picture of the worth of subscribers in this post, and we wouldn’t begrudge you wondering if there’s even any point in trying to grow your subscribers.
The truth is subscribers both do and don’t matter simultaneously. On the one hand, it is watch time and viewer retention that earns you revenue as a YouTuber, and these are also the driving factors that pushes YouTube to recommend your content more.
Neither of these things are significantly affected by your subscribers—as we’ve said, only a small portion of a channel’s subscribers watch its videos on average.
On the other hand, a large subscriber count does have certain bonuses from a psychological standpoint. For one thing, it makes you feel more successful, and when you feel good about your channel, you enjoy it more.
But perhaps more importantly, it gives your channel a little more credibility with newcomers.
It’s not exactly a flattering aspect of human nature, but we are far more likely to pay attention to a video by a YouTuber with a million subscribers than one with a hundred, even if the smaller YouTuber does a better job with their content.
Ultimately, though, it’s something of a moot point. The only way to grow subscribers without cheating the system (which we do not recommend you) is to make content that people like, which you should be striving to do regardless.
YouTube subscribers aren’t quite relegated to mere metric status just yet—they do factor in a number of situations.
For example, you will find it much harder to get a brand deal or sponsored content with a small channel than you would with a channel that has hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
And, as we mentioned above, there is the psychological aspect of just having that big number planted at the top of your YouTube page.
But it is far from the most important aspect of a successful YouTube channel.
A channel with far fewer subscribers that is getting more views and more watch time may not get the same immediate respect that a larger channel does, but that probably won’t matter to the smaller YouTuber, who will almost certainly be making more revenue.