How you can generate profit from YouTube
How you can generate profit from YouTube
By Lea Steuri
British wrestler turned media pro. There is only one name that comes to mind: Alex Shane. By the age of 40, Alex has worked as a TV producer for Sky and as an arena tour promoter for TV channels and large American clients. He also worked as a radio show host and producer for Talksport, television host and commentator for ITV1. He has built a YouTube empire from scratch with videos regularly generating half a billion views. In short, Alex Shane is not only one of the most successful British wrestlers of all time, but also owner and shareholder of almost ten companies and an absolute YouTube genius.
You have been successfully working in media for a long time. What is your personal key to success?
As someone who trained as a pro wrestler and never set out to own various media properties, my path to success in this field was slightly more unique than most. Yet, years later, I realise that the same rules applied as both, self employed British heavyweight wrestling champion and a media company owner. It’s also likely relevant to anyone who reads this, regardless of how abstract or conventional their own journey is. Simply put – be prepared to deliver far more than you are actually paid for and eventually you’ll be paid far more than you are actually required to deliver. When people use the excuse: “Well, what did they expect for sort of that money?” to justify substandard work, it tells me something right away. It tells me that they’re more interested in what they want to get back, rather than proving to their client why they should be paid more in the future. In my experience, if you decide to be bigger than your place, those around you will eventually see that in you and expand your place (or payment) in order to fit your capacity for consistency and high standards of delivery. If your biggest reward is the pride of overdelivering to your clients, eventually your clients will overdeliver right back just in order to keep you!
What do you wish you would have known about working in/with media when just starting out?
That one’s easy. I wish I had fully understood sooner just how much more valuable it is to have your success on YouTube or via your own direct-to-consumer model, than to rely on it coming from traditional media. When one of my YouTube properties signed to Sky TV for a weekly television series in 2012, I believed this to be the most important contract of my business life. I was one of the first creators to go from YouTube to television with my own intellectual property and my show would go on to run weekly for over four years. It was great until… it was terminated with just two week’s notice! All because one new person in management decided it did not fit with their new vision. It was financially devastating, almost crippling, for around six months, but also the single best thing that ever happened to me and my business. Now, not only do we make almost ten times the revenue by being back on YouTube, but more importantly, we control the distribution, schedule and customer interactions. Not just of our show but of the entire channel! We now don’t have one boss – we now have millions. Yes, it’s far harder to keep them all satisfied. Yet our fate is no longer just in one person’s hands – a true game changer for any business.
Can a media outlet like YouTube be used to generate profit?
Absolutely! Every time you see an advert on a YouTube video, if the channel it’s on is correctly monetised, the video creator will receive half of that revenue. There are then also things like product placement, merchandise sales, Patreon and more. As an example, one of my channels charges around $3,500 to brands for a 30 second product placement and we are booked many months in advance, with a waiting list. This means that on that one channel, simply through YouTube/Google Ads, advertising splits and product placements alone, it generates almost a million dollars annually. This is before other key revenue streams generated like merchandise sales, website traffic bumps, event tickets, Patreon, our books and magazines, etc. Outside of my own business, I know of 17-year olds who generate £30k a week from their bedrooms with YouTube. For tens of thousands of business people globally, YouTube is the single most transformative wealth generation tool of the last decade.
Given the current global situation, do you have any tips on how to grow a business from home?
In my mind, YouTube and a well monetised website are key. These are truly unprecedented times for everyone. The main advice I can give at this point is to understand that, viewed correctly, this could be a huge opportunity. Your customers and you are now on the same footing, experiencing many of the same difficulties and looking for a way out. The time to build trusting, lasting relationships with them is now. Why? Because as difficult as it is to comprehend right now, this period will pass. When it does, those relationships will be the life blood of your business. As an example, we had a live wrestling show planned on March 16th in London, which we had to postpone. We decided instead to run it as an empty arena, charity live stream for the members of my industry affected by loss of earnings. The show was watched by almost 200,000 in the first 24 hours – a forty times multiple of the 500 tickets we’d sold. More amazingly, it generated over five times more revenue in digital viewer donations than it would have done in ticket sales. We helped our audience feel good and helped those in our industry survive. Yet, we also did something else. We tested a completely new and industry changing revenue generation tool, which is now ready to run regularly when the world returns to normal. In short, the virus forced us to turn a live show into a digital show and we discovered that it generated five times the money and forty times the audience in doing so. Necessity is the mother of invention after all.
What tips would you give an entrepreneur on how to use YouTube effectively?
The answer to this question has changed multiple times every year for the last five years and for one reason. Algorithms. When YouTube change theirs, the world goes upside-down for content creators. Especially because a lot of these changes are often closely guarded secrets. As an example, for many years, the advice was to make videos that were under six minutes. Then, almost overnight, this changed to videos over ten minutes. If you’re on the wrong side of an algorithm change, you can see your views and/or revenue cut in half literally overnight. Or for example, a certain word might become a punishable offence that gets your revenue stripped, such as the word ‘coronavirus’ was for a while. The reality is that unless you have the time to commit and intend to become an expert, it’s far better to employ expert advice. I know of a case where a former client of mine had a video that did 36 million views and made… only £500 because he was on the wrong side of an algorithm. He should have made around $40k from it! Used correctly, YouTube is the gateway to building your very own media empire. An advertisement and spokesperson that, if done right, actually pays you a profit for its very existence. It’s almost like someone paying you to put up a billboard promoting your business. YouTube is the closest thing to democracy that we have. What do I mean by that? Well, one lady with an iPhone-recorded cat video can get seen by more people (and for free) than a state of the art, special effects laced production that Coke might have spent ten million dollars on. Not even the political system is that democratic! YouTube is the great equaliser and the reality is that you can start a channel from your mobile phone today. To start a traditional TV channel in just the UK alone would cost you over a million pounds. With YouTube, you can be set up to go live and worldwide in just minutes. It’s actually a media revolution.