CoverIntroductionKey Civics and Government ConceptsDefining Critical Media LiteracyCritical Media Literacy GuidesTopic 1. Foundations of the United States Political System1.1 Social Media Policies and Community Standards on YouTube, Twitter, TikTok and More1.2 The Internet as a Public Utility1.3  21st Century Women STEM Innovators1.4 Media Coverage of Kings, Queens, and Royal Families1.5 Representations of Native Americans in Films, Local History Publications, and School MascotsTopic 2. The Development of United States Government2.1 Declarations of Independence on Social Media2.2 Media Marketing and Government Regulation of Self-Driving Cars and Electric Vehicles2.3 Representations of and Racism Toward Black Americans in the Media2.4 Political Debates Through Songs from Hamilton: An American Musical2.5 Bill of Rights on TwitterTopic 3. Institutions of United States Government3.1: Hollywood Movies About the Branches of Government3.2: Writing an Impeachment Press Release3.3: Members of Congress' Use of Social Media3.4: Political Impacts of Public Opinion Polls3.5: Website Design for New Political PartiesTopic 4. The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens4.1: Immigration in the News4.2: Portrayals of Immigrants in Television and Film4.3: COVID-19 Information Evaluation4.4: Women Political Leaders in the Media4.5: Online Messaging by Special Interest Groups4.6: Digital Games for Civic Engagement4.7: Social Media and the Elections4.8: Images of Political Leaders and Political Power4.9: Media Spin in the Coverage of Political Debates4.10: Celebrities' Influence on Politics4.11: Political Activism Through Social Media4.12: Media Recruitment of Public Sector Workers4.13 Deciding What Books Students Read in School4.14: Images of Teachers and Teaching4.15: For Whom Is and Could Your School Be Named4.16: Representing Trans Identities4.17: Media Framing of the Events of January 6, 20214.18: Music as Protest Art4.19: PACs, Super PACs, and Unions in the Media4.20 Brands and PoliticsTopic 5. The Constitution, Amendments, and Supreme Court Decisions5.1: Prohibition in the Media5.2: The Equal Rights Amendment on Twitter and Other Social Media5.3: Civil War Era News Stories and Recruitment Advertisements5.4: Representations of Gender and Race on U.S. Currency5.5: The Equality Act on Twitter5.6: Reading Supreme Court Dissents Aloud5.7: Television Cameras in CourtroomsTopic 6. The Structure of State and Local Government6.1: Native American Mascots and Logos6.2: A Constitution for the Internet6.3: Military Recruitment and the Media6.4: Your Privacy on Social Media6.5: Pandemic Policy Information in the Media6.6: Gendered Language in Media Coverage of Women in Politics6.7: Gender-Neutral Marketing of Toys 6.8: Environmental Campaigns Using Social Media6.9: Trusted Messengers, the Media, and the Pandemic6.10: Online Campaigning for Political Office6.11: Advertising the Lottery Online and In Print6.12: Local Governments, Social Media and Digital Democracy6.13: Protecting the CommonsTopic 7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media Literacy7.1: Press Freedom in the United States and the World7.2: Objectivity and Reporting the News from All Sides7.3: Investigative Journalism and Social Change7.4: News Photographs & Newspaper Design7.5: How Reporters Report Events7.6: Recommendation Algorithms on Social Media Platforms7.7: YouTube Content Creators7.8: Fake News Investigation and Evaluation7.9: Paywalls and Access to Online News7.10: Critical Visual Analysis of Online and Print Media7.11: Memes and TikToks as Political Cartoons7.12: Women Reporters in the Movies7.13: Design a 21st Century Indie Bookstore 7.14: Greenwashing and the Media7.15: AI Writing Tools and Political Information
Critical Media Literacy and Civic Learning

7.7: YouTube Content Creators

YouTube, like Instagram, TikTok, and other online social media platforms, is much more than a source of entertainment, ideas, and information. It is a huge money-making enterprise that generates enormous profits -- for its owner Google and for some of the individuals and groups who produce content for the site.

YouTube -- where users watch one billion videos every day -- took in about $30 billion in revenue in 2021, most of it from targeted advertising built into the videos people watch (read how YouTube itself explains its business model).

The lure of making money online has produced a whole new area of jobs for individuals and groups as YouTube Content Creators or YouTubers - those seeking to make money by creating and uploading content to YouTube. Once a content creator has gained 1,000 followers and 4,000 watch hours in the past year, that person can start earning money from YouTube. In 2021, for example, one YouTuber offering personal finance advice had 1.1 million subscribers and earned $444,000 for the year (Perelli, 2022). Google ads generate most of the money earned, but content creators can also sell merchandise on their sites. 

Image preview of a YouTube video
Watch on YouTube

A small number of content creators who become online stars make big money. The 23-year-old extreme stunt performer MrBeast earned $54 million in 2021. Nastya, a seven-year-old girl, has 87.5 million subscribers for her channel about her daily life (see the highest-paid YouTube stars in 202115 YouTube Stars Break Down How Much They Get Paid Per Month for Their Videos). 

While a small number of YouTubers make lots of money, the economics of online content creation favors corporate organizations that do not depend on YouTube as their sole income, as Shira Ovide reported in the the New York Times (January 27, 2022). Ovide cited the example of a cycling channel on YouTube that cost $5 a month to join via an iPad app. Of the $5 the customer spends, Apple gets $1.50, YouTube gets $1.05, and the cycling channel creators just $2.45. Many content creators are upset, saying social media companies are taking too much of the revenue in fees. For some, these fees make it nearly impossible for them to pay bills and make ends meet.

In the following activities, you will critically examine YouTubers' channels before designing your own YouTube channel and considering how revenue you might make from your channel should be shared and regulated.

Activity 1: Design Your Own YouTube Video Channel

Imagine you have decided to become an online YouTube star with your own YouTube channel. 

Activity 2: Propose How the Revenue You Make Should Be Shared

Additional Resources


Connecting to the Building Democracy for All eBook

Building Democracy for All: Digital News and Social Media


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