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AKIPRESS.COM - Ryan of Ryan Toysreview really isn’t that different from any other first grader. The 7-year-old loves trains and cars; he giggles over Disney characters; he builds entire civilizations with Legos.
Except when he plays, he does so in front of a camera. An adult, presumably, then promptly uploads these videos onto his YouTube channel for his millions of followers—most of whom are elementary-school-age peers.
These short, simple videos have made Ryan one of the most popular influencers online, with 17.3 million followers and a total of nearly 26 billion views since he (and his parents) launched his main channel, Ryan ToysReview, in March 2015. For Ryan, this means not only an endless stream of toys to play with but also a seemingly endless stream of money: He was this year’s highest-paid YouTube star, earning $22 million in the 12 months leading up to June 1, 2018, Forbes estimates.
“I’m entertaining and I’m funny,” Ryan recently said in an NBC interview, explaining the popularity that has led him to become a mini-millionaire.
Nearly all of his money, or about $21 million, comes from pre-roll advertising on his channels Ryan ToysReview and Ryan’s Family Review. When views go up, so do these automated ad dollars. With more views than anyone else on the list, it’s no surprise he claims the top spot. The remaining $1 million comes from sponsored posts.
In January 2018, the 23-year-old elder Paul brother was kicked off YouTube’s Google Preferred program, which gives favorable ad rates to popular channels, after he filmed a video in Japan that showed an apparent suicide hanging from a tree. He apologized. His income from videos (pratfalls, pranks) and brand deals took a hit, but loyal fans kept his hefty merchandise business afloat.
Scandal hasn’t stopped Felix Kjellberg, the Swedish gamer who is the most followed YouTuber (72.5 million followers). Despite a backlash last year after a rash of anti-Semitic videos, advertisers have returned, shelling out up to $450,000 for a sponsored video.
Foulmouthed, energetic Seán McLoughlin is the most popular YouTuber in Ireland thanks to his colorful video-game commentary. A few bad words haven’t kept him from going mainstream: He did a series for Disney and is developing exclusive content for live-streaming platform Twitch.
Witty Canadian gamer Evan Fong plays mainstream titles like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed. On the side he’s launching a hip-hop career, but music (so far) isn’t proving nearly as lucrative as the subtle art of being a couch potato in demand.
Hawaii-native Markiplier is on his PS4 nearly all day everyday—but he’s not bumming around. The gamer toured North America, signed seven-figures worth of brand deals and, with No. 8 Jacksepticeye, recently launched Cloak, a high-end athleisure line for gamers.
The makeup artist, famous since the Myspace era, has reinvented himself as a beauty mogul, cofounding Jeffree Star Cosmetics, which sells an estimated $100 million–plus of eye shadow, lipstick and highlighters annually.
Last year’s top earner at $16.5 million—Daniel Middleton, a British gamer who specializes in Minecraft—has been playing on-camera for six years, amassing a following of 20.7 million, who shell out for his tour and merchandise, which includes backpacks, baseball caps and hoodies.
This five-man sports crew (Coby and Cory Cotton, Garrett Hilbert, Cody Jones and Tyler Toney) specializes in feats of dexterity and intricate trick shots— say, hurling Ping-Pong balls that trigger domino-falls of Oreos, which garnered 175 million views).
The boisterous younger brother of disgraced Logan (No. 10) earned a career-best income from his thriving merchandise business. He attracted more than 3.5 billion views of his rap songs and goofy pranks over our scoring period.
Ryan’s just like every other 7-year-old: He loves Legos, trains, cars—and his 17 million followers. His latest mini-mogul move: a line of collectibles and more, now selling at Walmart.