Power, fame and fortune: A glimpse into Singapore's lucrative YouTube industry (VIDEO)

Published date12 January 2020
Publication titleMalay Mail Online

With her hair tightly pulled back in a ponytail, Rui looks like a typical 15-year-old with a quiet and studious demeanour - not quite what one would expect of a YouTube personality.

In about 15 months, Rui, who declined to have her pictures taken or her full name published, has attracted almost 17,000 subscribers to her 'spudstudy' channel.

So far, she has put up 29 videos showing her putting together her study notes, tidying up her desk, giving tips on how to have better handwriting, as well as her travel vlogs, among other things - all without showing her face.

One of her first few videos, which she put up during the December holidays in 2018, racked up 400,000 views. The three-minute video titled 'day in my life: holiday edition' shows her going about routine activities such as taking care of her pet guinea pigs and preparing her meals.

Requests for endorsement are already trickling in, from as far away as the United Kingdom (UK).

The first request came from a tuition centre in the UK, while the second was from a video editing website. She did not take up the first one as she suspects that it is a scam while she turned down the other as the company wanted her to reveal her face.

She is currently talking to a firm which wants her to mention a PDF document converter in one of her videos in return for US$70 (RM285). In the meantime, she has earned a couple of hundred dollars from AdSense, a programme run by Google that allows advertisements to be run on YouTube videos.

Despite her modest success on YouTube, Rui said she has no interest in trying to carve out a career by making videos, like what many YouTubers aspire to.

Speaking to TODAY at a cafe after school earlier this week, she said her interest lies in science. 'YouTube is a place where I relax during study breaks, get views and have fun, but I don't take it as a career,' she added.

Rui is earning peanuts compared to the eye-popping amounts that bona fide YouTube stars overseas as well as in Singapore make. But every YouTuber has to start somewhere.

Ryan Kaji, who was born in Texas in the United States, started unboxing toys on YouTube when he was just three.

Like Rui, Ryan started out with simple videos - his first shows him playing with Lego bricks.

Five years on, Ryan is earning millions.

In fact, he was named the highest paid YouTube star in Forbes' list released last month, having earned US$26 million last year reviewing toys.

In second spot was the five-man sports crew, known as Dude Perfect, which specialises in intricate trick shots. They made US$20 million.

Rounding up the top three was Russian-American Anastasia Radzinskaya, 5. She earned US$18 million with videos that mainly feature her playing with her dad, according to Forbes. She now works with toy and food brands.

ingapore's biggest YouTube stars are not in the same stratosphere but they are doing not too badly themselves.

There is little publicly available information about the YouTube industry in Singapore, except that the hours of content uploaded from YouTube channels here increased by over 50 per cent between 2018 and last year.

Nevertheless, Tan Jianhao, 26, is regarded as Singapore's top YouTuber with 3.8 million subscribers to his channel. The chief executive officer and founder of Titan Digital Media reportedly earns a six-figure sum annually although industry observers believe the amount to be higher.

Another major player, Night Owl Cinematics (NOC), told TODAY that their annual revenue is a seven-figure amount.

Out of the bedroom, into the big time

Official figures on YouTube's earnings are not available, although estimates for 2019 ranged between US$16 billion and US$25 billion. As such, the size of the YouTube industry in Singapore is a mystery as well.

But while there was the perception just five years ago that YouTubers should get a real job, several homegrown YouTubers have managed to break out of their bedroom workspaces to build thriving businesses with million-dollar revenues and dozens of employees.

Having built a brand on YouTube, many of them have established presence on other social media platforms as well.

According to industry players, the 'Big Four' of Singapore's YouTube industry are Titan Digital Media, NOC, Wah!Banana, and Clicknetwork.

Mostly run by millennials in the late 20s or early 30s, these channels have hit the big time.

Together, they produce most of the comedy sketches, vlogs, and lifestyle videos that many young Singaporeans are glued to.

They are getting a big chunk of advertising and...

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