Meet YouTube superstar Marques Brownlee. He’s a 20-year old tech reviewer that has two million subscribers on his channel and hundreds of thousands of views for his videos. His lucrative YouTube career started in 2008 at the young age of 14 with a review of the HP Pavilion dv7t media remote. His passion for the analysis of technology led him to create tutorial videos and industry analysis that helped in building upon his loyal following.
To start out, his views fluctuated drastically depending on the content of the video. However, he didn’t give up and kept consistently putting out his work. He caught his stride leading into 2011 and started putting up view count numbers that often ventured into the hundreds of thousands. He hasn’t looked back since.
Last June, he held a secretly leaked iPhone 6 screen up to a camera and began stabbing repeatedly at its supposedly indestructible glass surface.
His outrageous routine and exclusive tidbits about the then-yet-to-be-released iPhone 6 proved to be a potent combo for the highly influential phenom.
Employing a mix of descriptors that come natural to college students – "super high-quality" – and the hardest-core of tech geeks – "zero percent opacity" – Brownlee's five-minute review instantly went viral, attracting nearly 8 million video views.
Brownlee's influence is reflected in his online traffic numbers. He has arguably the most subscribers – 1.8 million – among individual YouTube tech reviewers. As of last week, he was ranked top three in the most influential "science & tech" channel rankings by YouTube performance measuring firm SocialBlade, which looks at social media referrals, online traffic and interactions with and among subscribers in its metrics. (Unbox Therapy, a tech product channel run by Lewis Hilsenteger, and CrazyRussianHackers, which runs videos on science pranks, ranked higher.)
His 686 videos have been viewed 158 million times. And last year, Vic Gundotra, a former Google exec who headed the development of Google Plus, called him "the best technology reviewer on the planet right now." Google "best tech reviewer" and his name floats to the top quickly.
His business is lucrative enough. Brownlee's income from advertising shown on his videos – Google does all the back-end work on placing them but takes a big cut -- could range anywhere from $1,117,000 a year to $3,434,000, depending on the amount paid per thousand clicks, according to SocialBlade, which estimates YouTubers' incomes using online traffic.
Given that the ads on his videos are generally for tech devices, his rates likely run on the higher end of the range, SocialBlade's Arnold says.
His popularity has opened doors, and dealing with the gatekeepers of the industry is much easier now. "Now the companies are very open to working with me," he says.
Like other YouTubers, he's reluctant to talk about money, but suffice it to say it's no longer just a dorm hobby. Now an incorporated entity, his video operation – run under the channel name MKBHD (his initials plus "high definition") – brings in enough advertising revenue to pay for his expensive equipment, the devices he reviews, travel and other expenses, he says.