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‘It just went ballistic’: Rise of the YouTube entrepreneurs

TikTok and Snapchat may hog the social media limelight but for a cohort of creators the longstanding platform YouTube is proving far more lucrative, with over 200 Australian YouTube channels recording more than 1 million subscribers.

Cooking star Marion Grasby says she is now more well known for her YouTube channel ‘Marion’s Kitchen’, in which she posts videos of herself cooking, than for her breakout role on Masterchef Australia.

“My company started as a food company in 2010 and we were solely food producing kits for Coles and Woolworths in Australia,” Grasby says. “Then just over three years ago we decided to do videos on YouTube to promote our products and it just went ballistic from 45,000 subscribers to 1.3 million.”

Marion Grasby says YouTube is the ‘flywheel’ for her business.

Marion Grasby says YouTube is the ‘flywheel’ for her business.Credit:Claudio Raschella Photographer

Grasby says Marion’s Kitchen is now a “food media company which happens to produce products” and gets about 48 million views a month across platforms, which she compares to Seven’s breakfast television show Sunrise which has an average audience of 450,000 per morning or around 13.5 million viewers a month.

“Australia is still very much a TV country, people don’t realise exactly the power of YouTube or Facebook, or they do but I think they don’t know the extent of it,” she says. “We can be getting that many million views a month but everyone’s still talking about Sunrise.”

Grasby is not the only Australian entrepreneur turning to YouTube, which is a subsidiary of Google and generated ad revenue globally last year of $US20 billion ($25 billion).

Research published last month by Oxford Economics, on behalf of YouTube, calculates the social media platform contributed $608 million to the Australian economy in 2020 and supported 15,750 full time equivalent jobs.

This calculation includes not only revenue paid directly to creators through advertising and royalty payments but also an estimate of the broader impact across supply chains and other revenue streams, such as product sales and live performances.

The mechanism by which YouTube determines how much revenue to pay creators is mysterious and can vary wildly with both Grasby and YouTube declining to comment, although Grasby says it is “certainly not a trivial amount” and enough to pay her 18 staff and run her two studio kitchens in Noosa and Bangkok.

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