Meet Ryan. He and his parents make far more money in a year putting videos on Youtube than most people will make in their entire lifetimes. Nice work if you can get it.
I was impressed–and maybe a little bit skeptical–when I first wrote about him a year ago, and he’d just closed the books on an $11 million annual profit. Now, I’m doubly blown away — as he’s doubled his annual take, bringing in $22 million over the last year. Here’s Ryan’s story, how his family makes so much money–and what he’ll be doing next year.
To put that $22 million number in context, it means Ryan, age 7, made more for reviewing toys and starring in other YouTube videos last season than Tom Brady made for playing quarterback for the New England Patriots. It’s enough to rank him No. 1 among all YouTube influencers, beating out gamers, comedians, makeup artists–and more gamers. (Gamers are big on Youtube.) He’s also the only kid (although clearly driven and managed by his parents) on the top 10 list, according to Forbes.
As I wrote last year, Ryan’s main YouTube channel is called Ryan’s ToysReview, where he has more than 17 million subscribers (up from 10 million when I wrote about him last year). It’s produced by his family, and occasionally co-stars his parents and sisters. They don’t disclose where they live or what their last name is, which makes sense, especially since Ryan has been starring in these things since he was 3. He’s a cute kid. And his work largely consists of unboxing videos (where people simply open boxes of merchandise), and product demos that basically involve his playing very enthusiastically with different toys.
About $21 million of his earnings last year came from programmatic pre-roll advertising, which basically means the short ads that play before and during many Youtube videos. The remaining $1 million comes from direct deals he’s done with advertisers (well, his parents have done with advertisers), according to Forbes. One technical theory as to why he’s so successful: His demographic obviously comprises very young kids, and they’re simply unlikely to try to fast forward through a video advertisement or close the whole thing out of frustration when they see an ad. As for why it works? Why are kids so sucked into unboxing videos? (I know I sound like an old dad when I ask that question, but I’m serious.)
“I’m entertaining and I’m funny,” Ryan told NBC in a recent interview. Also, as a manager for YouTube influencers (not Ryan’s manager), told Forbes, it could be that unboxing videos are great for people who won’t ever be able to afford the things being portrayed in the videos, but would love to have them even for a minute. The next best thing to owning one is experiencing it virtually, seeing someone else play with it,” said Chas Lacaillade, the founder and CEO of Bottle Rocket Management.
Since he’s still in first grade, the Forbes article explains, 15 percent of his earnings are partitioned into a Coogan account, which means he can’t touch the money until he’s a legal adult. So, what’s next for Ryan? Will I be writing about him a year from now, and how he’s making even more money? All signs point to yes, in part because he’s now branching out beyond Youtube, into other media. Among the deals Ryan’s family and manager signed in the second half of 2018 (which aren’t included in the computation of his $22 million) are
- a management agreement with Pocket.watch, a kids entertainment studio;
- arrangements to repackage his content and distribute through Hulu and Amazon; and
- Ryan’s World, which Forbes describes as “a toy and apparel collection sold exclusively at Walmart … featur[ing] a variety of slimes and putties, Ryan action figures, T-shirts, toy cars and more.”
Unless he gets burned out and decides to quit making videos, which would be entirely understandable at some point. He’s only 7 years old, Lacaillade said, and “he’s got enough money for 100 lifetimes.”