In February, we were lucky enough to get an unexpected viral YouTube hit.

I had spent almost every day of 2014 playing as part of what we called the Expert in a Year challenge. We videoed it all and as a final round-up put together a one-second-a-day video, published it to YouTube and forgot about it.

A few weeks later someone found it. Liked it and posted it to Reddit. Then over the course of a few days the world went mad. We clocked up over 1.5 million views and for a few hours we were the people everyone wanted to speak to. We were featured on many sites, including the BBC, Huffington Post and Digg, and had one very surreal interview on Swedish television.

Just after it happened, I wrote about the experience in this post. But I left out one thing. How much money we made.

Direct Earnings

We have made….. drum roll… €775.

As of writing this post the video currently has 1,770,000 views. That is an incredible number of people! It’s more than the populations of Washington DC, Detroit and Las Vegas all put together. When put like that, €775 feels pretty rubbish.

That’s €0.00044 for every view. Ouch.

Let’s look a bit deeper. For the first 200,000 views, we didn’t have any way to make money from the video. On the YouTube dashboard, there is normally a button to turn on monetization. But for us it was grayed out. Youtube had detected that we were using a commercial song for our background music and we hadn’t bothered to try and license it.

After it started to go viral we got contacted by a bunch of different companies offering to manage the video for us. One advantage they had over going it alone was they could turn that monetization on. After looking at the options, we signed up with Storyful.

The ongoing deal was that any revenue would be split 50/50 between us and the song’s artist. Of that 50% share, we would get 60% and Storyful would get 40%.

In other words, we would earn 30% of the total revenue the video brought in.

Storyful also had a few other things to offer us. They would try and license our video out to other sites and they offered us a $300 sign-up bonus.

Here’s the total revenue breakdown:

  • Signup bonus: $300
  • YouTube: €340.11
  • Other sites and licenses: €154.69

I have no idea why they’re mixing dollars and euros, but there we go. So in total the video itself has earnt €775 ($825 or £543).

As we only 30% of total revenue from YouTube. If we had instead found a way to keep 100% of it, we would have earnt €1,133.7. Ignoring the first 200,000 views, that is still only €0.64 per 1,000 views. That’s quite a bit less than what a lot of YouTube celebrities claim to make!

Indirect Earnings

Table Tennis Bats

One of our businesses is a table tennis brand. That’s a pretty direct link. You’d think that people who could sit through 5 minutes of me prancing around playing table tennis might be interested in buying a bat? Even before the video went viral we put a link to one of our bats in the YouTube description. ka-ching.

Let’s take a look at the Amazon analytics. In particular the number of views we got on that listing, and the number of orders.

amazon analytics youtube viral video

Well, that graph isn’t particularly encouraging. When the video went viral there was a massive spike in the number of views but no noticeable change in the number of sales.

Blog Traffic

The video was also linked to a table tennis blog where we had recorded my training progress throughout the year. Here are the monthly views.

how much do you make from a viral video blog traffic

Well, it looks like generally the blog’s traffic has been growing pretty steadily. Then there was a massive boost in February when the video went viral. But once again it doesn’t look like it has translated to many more regular readers.

Of the roughly 110,000 extra blog views, only about 80 of those signed up to the email list. That’s a pretty awful conversion rate.

Affiliate earnings weren’t noticeably higher in February than any other month and Ben Larcombe (who coached me throughout the year) didn’t receive any more requests for coaching.

Expert in a Year Book

amazon bestselling book

In August we released the Expert in a Year book. Maybe if it had been out when our video went viral it would have converted to a lot of sales… but as we didn’t find any way to capture that traffic for later use I suppose we’ll never know.

We did send it to the 80 odd people who signed up to our email list. But 80 out of 1.7 million is pitiful and we have no way of knowing if any of them actually bought the book.

I expect that most of the Expert in a Year book’s sales were from our regular, committed readers rather than those whose attention was grabbed for a few minutes by a viral video.

Conclusion

What can I say? It turns out that a viral hit just isn’t worth very much.

Easy come. Easy go.