According to a decade-long study by a professor at the Offenburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany, 96.5 percent of YouTubers don’t make enough annual ad revenue to reach the U.S. federal poverty line. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all but a handful of YouTubers live under highway overpasses and film themselves showing off their morning dumpster haul, but it does mean that for every Zoella, there are around 27.57 other vloggers and video-makers who don’t reach $12,140 a year from ads. To put that into perspective, if you flip burgers at McDonald’s, you can expect to make $5,000 more per year if you’re working full time. And don’t forget to like and share that stat.

As juicy as this nugget of information seems, it’s also a little deceptive. Although only the top three percent of the most-viewed YouTube channels bring in more than $16,800 a year in advertising revenue, social media ads aren’t the only source of income open to YouTubers — or all other digital influencers, for that matter. You might be tickled by the idea of poverty-stricken influencers living lives of squalor, but it’s not really one with much basis in reality. It does, however, raise some interesting questions about the profitability of influence.
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