YouTube is best known for its viral videos of babies and cats. But there are thousands of decidedly less cute videos racking up the views. How-to videos are extremely popular and some of the creators are actually making serious money.
Sara White, a first grade teacher in Charleston, W.Va., is the woman behind a series of popular videos about hair extensions. White says she posted her first video about hair extensions because she couldn't find a good instructional video on YouTube. When the clicks started adding up, she started adding new videos.
She eventually joined YouTube's partner program, where the site shares ad revenue with people who post videos regularly.
"I thought, 'Well, I won't make that much money from it,'" White says. "You know, I thought I'll make a couple dollars a month. But I was like, 'Wow, this is really cool.' I don't have to get a second job now."
Making Over $100,000
This is a common experience among YouTube's 15,000 or so partners.
"A lot of YouTubers describe themselves as accidental entrepreneurs," says Annie Baxter, a YouTube spokesperson.
YouTube says there are hundreds of people who make more than $100,000 a year on their videos. Baxter says instructional videos are on the rise.
Geoff Dorn knows this market well. He's the man behind a series of videos on how to tie a tie.
In the video, you can't see Dorn's face — just a close-up of his neck, his white dress shirt and pale blue tie. With a monotone voice, he carefully describes the mechanics of the four-in-hand knot.
"That was shot in my kitchen," Dorn says. "I think I tacked a white sheet up against what was a red wall."
That incredibly dry video has been viewed six million times. He also has videos on the full Windsor, the half Windsor, the Shelby knot and the bow tie.
"It's nice to get paid for doing absolutely nothing, or doing something once," Dorn says, adding that he can pay his property taxes each year with the money he gets from Youtube.
He lives in Portland, Ore., and works in finance. And Dorn does actually wear a tie to work every day. But that's not why he decided to make videos about tying ties.
"You know, any entrepreneur gets an idea that they want to make whatever, donuts — they want to make whatever they think they're good at," Dorn says. "But what you really should do is figure out what the market is and make that."
He says he made these videos because he knew there was demand.
While Dorn's videos seem to lack personality by design, Sean Plott's videos embrace it.
In his videos, Plott goes by his gaming handle Day. He says the videos really took off when he started talking more about himself.
"It wasn't just Day, the analytical nerd who just sat down and only talked about how to improve and how to learn," he says. "It became this edutainment show and that helped tremendously."
So much so that when Plott finishes his master's degree at the University of Southern California later this year, he plans to make this Web show his full-time job. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.