Sure, it's full of keyboard cats and double rainbows, but these days, YouTube is also a serious moneymaking machine. YouTube star Ray William Johnson is showcasing the medium's potential: With more than a billion total views, he's making about $1 million a year through his clips, insiders tell the Wall Street Journal. Thanks to a twice-weekly show that gets 5 million regular viewers, the comedian—who mocks other popular YouTube clips—currently boasts the site's biggest audience. He goes by RayWJ.
So where does all the money come from? YouTube offers partnerships that can bring popular users between $3,000 and $9,000 per 2 million views. "Several hundred" such partners made more than $100,000 last year, an 80% jump from 2010, says a Google rep. "This is a microcosm of what's going on in the overall media landscape. We're moving from a scaled mass media to more hyper-local, niche media," says an industry expert. Indeed, scoring a few million views means a user "rivals second- and third-tier cable networks"—and YouTube's 780 million monthly unique visitors represents a far bigger audience than that of traditional TV networks. (Read more YouTube stories.)