The surprising highest-earning YouTube stars of 2018

From brand partnerships to make-up lines and tickets to exclusive events; what was once the preserve of the world’s top athletes and A-list now includes a selection of social media’s finest influencers - and YouTube has been one of the top sources.

Mark Fischbach; for example, raked in $17.5 million from his YouTube channel @Markiplier over the last twelve months. He started the channel to record audio snippets, practising for a career as a voiceover artist, but found a niche sharing clips of himself playing PS4 games complete with his wry running commentary. He now has over 22.4 million YouTube subscribers, who together have contributed to his 10 billion views this year. It’s not just Mark; either - analysis by Forbes suggests that gaming is now the hottest niche on YouTube.

Why? Compared to other niches, such as make-up tutorials, elaborate pranks or travel diaries, gaming needs little prep. The footage can be recorded quickly, at low cost, and often doesn’t take much time to edit. That means the best gamers can record new videos daily; leading to more vies, and more revenue - it’s estimated that the top gamers are earning around $5 per thousand views.

But the top earner might surprise you.

His channel is a bit more traditional; some may say wholesome. Ryan’s Toy Review; which posts daily videos of 7 year old Ryan opening and playing with new toys, has now amassed 17 million followers. Like every other 7 year old; he’s a big fan of LEGO, trains and cars, and he’s just released his own line of collectables into Walmart stores. We can only imagine that’s soon to be accompanied by a Ryan range of toys! But for now; he’s earned $22 million from YouTube in 12 months alone.

What about the controversial influencers?

2018 has been a year of controversy in the world of influencers; with YouTube and Instagram particularly hitting the headlines regularly. So how did the stars caught up in the headlines fare?

Felix Kjellberg, or @PewDiePie, is still the most followed YouTuber; with over 72.5 million fans. He was dropped by Google, who had been creating a series of reality shows with him, from the Google Preferred Ads partnership and from Disney after uploading anti-semitic videos to his channel. It was alleged to be the ninth such upload since August 2016; although many were deleted soon after the scandal broke. He apologised on Tumblr; clarifying that he “obviously does not support such groups”, and after a quiet period, it seems advertisers are coming back. He’s believed to have earned up to $450,000 for each sponsored post in the later half of the year; and his income totalled $15.5 million in the past twelve months.

He’s not the only YouTuber who found themselves in the headlines. In January 2018, 23-year-old Logan Paul was also removed from YouTube’s Google Preferred scheme; after he posted a video showing an apparent suicide hanging from a tree in a Japanese forest. He too apologised; but the video did the rounds for weeks afterwards, and Logan’s video and brand income took a heavy hit. He raked in just $14.5m this year; with fans keeping him afloat with his hefty merchandise business.

Are you surprised by any of the top earners this year?