A friend at YouTube told me that maybe a half-dozen people make their living as YouTube creators. Everyone else in the site's partner program gets maybe a couple thousand bucks for millions of views (like our guest writer Yuri Baranovsky). How can someone figure out their personal worth to YouTube? Good question. Tech and media blogs like paidContent keep guessing and making rough calculations, but it's all fake numbers based on spotty data. So how much did the YouTube stars in that South Park episode — the ones waiting in YouTube's office for their money until they all fight to the death — how much money did they really make?
The vast majority of YouTube partners haven't talked about what they're pulling in. Neither has the company. And there's really no incentive to; revealing the pay would only make users more agitated when they're not at the top of the list. So we're not sure how much Tay Zonday or Chris Crocker are making. But I can tell you this about the Internet stars that South Park killed off:
1. Tay Zonday, "Chocolate Rain": Unknown, but possibly a good amount. Probably made more from his Dr. Pepper commercial.
2. Tron Guy: Probably nothing; he was only part of other people's videos
3. Gary Brolsma, "Numa Numa": Maybe a little from his uncomfortably bad sequel that racked up nine million views, though this was before the partner program officially launched. But the original Numa Numa, which got eleven million views, was just someone else's copy; remember that Gary was the last huge video hit before YouTube, back when everyone had to download Windows Media and Quicktime files.
4. Star Wars Kid: Nothing. Settled a lawsuit against the kids who put his video online (again pre-YouTube though copies are up at the site), and some bloggers raised money for him out of sympathy.
5. Sneezing Panda: Nothing.
6. Dramatic Prairie Dog: Nothing. Apparently taken from CollegeHumor.com, where someone took a clip from a Japanese show and added the dramatic sound. One site claims it was an animated GIF long before it became a video.
7. Chris Crocker, "Leave Britney Alone": Probably nothing; he doesn't have ads on his channel so he must not be a partner. And I haven't heard anything new about the reality show he was supposed to star in.
8. Chinese Back Street Boys: Almost certainly nothing; the clips seem to have been uploaded by someone else, and no ads appear near them.
9. Laughing Baby: Nothing. No ads. A shame too, cause this video got over 45 million views.
10. Afroninja: Nothing. The clip wasn't his.