How to Make (Some) Money from YouTube Shorts

Want to make money from YouTube Shorts? It's possible but not exactly profitable. Here's what you need to know about making money from short, vertical content.

For some creators, the new YouTube Shorts feature has been a goldmine for generating more views. We’ve witnessed several channels post vertical videos of less than 60 seconds, have them featured on YouTube’s Stories and Short Videos shelf, and get thousands of views in a short amount of time.

That’s exactly what happened to Dan, our executive producer at vidIQ. He posted this YouTube Short to his gaming channel, and it took off with 830K views and counting:

With such a popular video, Dan had to be making a decent amount of cash, right?

Nope. Not even close. For a video with three-quarters of a million views, Dan has only earned $6.82 so far. That’s a frightening pittance of money, even for newer creators, so our thoughts go out to our dear executive producer. Hang in there, Dan!

But in some small way, maybe we should be thankful for those $6.82. By now, it’s a known fact that Dan’s video shouldn’t be making any money because YouTube Shorts aren’t monetized. The Creator Insider team said so themselves in this video, which explains what YouTube Shorts are and how they behave.

In regard to monetization, their exact words were...

“Stating it upfront, right now: Shorts aren’t going to be supported by ad serving, and they’re not going to generate YouTube Premium subscription revenue.”

So that raises an interesting question about Dan’s YouTube Short and its $6.82 worth of revenue. Where is the money coming from if vertical videos of less than 60 seconds aren’t monetized?

Monetization 101: YouTube Shorts vs. Regular Videos

We’ve mentioned this in previous blog posts, but we’ll state it again right now. There are a couple of ways to watch a YouTube Short, and the most common is by discovering it on the Stories and Short Videos shelf.

The other way is by viewing it as a regular YouTube video. That’s what happens when viewers watch a video on channel pages, within browse features, and many other areas on the platform.

If a video is watched as a YouTube Short, it earns no revenue. On the flip side, regular YouTube videos can have ads, and therefore, generate revenue.

Need more insight on how this works? Watch our latest video about YouTube Shorts and how certain traffic sources can determine your payout:

Or, to understand the viewing modes of YouTube Shorts, take a look at Dan’s gaming channel, Vortac. When you navigate there, you’ll notice he created a featured section where you can see all of his Shorts.

Simply tapping on one of those videos and watching in full doesn't help Dan make money from a YouTube Short. Instead, you’d have to go deeper into his channel, sort the content by most popular, find the Minecraft Short with nearly a million views, and tap on it. The video will load within a regular YouTube player that does serve ads - and that helps Dan get paid.

When you make a YouTube Short, it's almost as if you have two shots at pleasing YouTube’s algorithm. If the regular video doesn't perform well, maybe the YouTube Short version of it will. We’ve read many testimonials from creators in the vidIQ community who’ve witnessed the ‘Shorts surge’. It’s what happens when your video views are stagnant, then suddenly spike when YouTube features your content on the Stories and Short Videos shelf.

But of course, this surge generates views within the ‘YouTube Shorts’ traffic source, and as we mentioned before, those aren’t monetized. So Dan’s $6.82 of revenue really came from these traffic sources, and they account for just 100,000 of his 750,000 views:

  • Suggested videos
  • Direct or unknown
  • Browse features
  • External
  • YouTube search
  • Other YouTube features
  • Playlists
  • Playlist page
  • End screens
  • Notifications

Why Is Short Video Revenue Much Lower on YouTube?

OK, back to the money question. No matter how you look at it, $6.82 is a terrible return for 750,000 video views. So how can this be?

To get the answer, we studied this graph in Dan’s YouTube analytics. It shows estimated playbacks, which indicate how many video views had ads served on them.

As you can see, the number is astonishing. Even taking out all of the Shorts views that can't be monetized, only 3% of regular YouTube views were monetized.

This is a wild generalization, but in our experience, a monetized channel can usually get two-thirds of their views monetized. For example, on a video with 100,000 views, 66,000 of those views will be monetized in some way.

This is just a theory, but we think the brevity of YouTube Shorts makes their revenue lower, even when watched as a regular video. Think about it: A video of less than 60 seconds attracts fewer viewers outside of the never-ending carousel of the Shorts shelf.

So on a regular Watch Page, advertisers won’t be jumping at the chance to show ads to less potential viewers. Plus, placing even two ads on a one-minute video is just enough ‘commercial time’ to alienate viewers.

YouTube Shorts and the Power of Discovery

From a business perspective, what is the point of YouTube Shorts if you can’t make money from them? What if you want all your views to come from the regular YouTube player so you can get paid?

The answer to that is channel discovery. Over the last couple of months, evidence suggests channel size matters less when it comes to YouTube Shorts. It's almost as if creators have an equal chance of their videos being discovered on the Shorts shelf, which is a massive advantage for smaller channels.

Take Dan as an example. He only earned $6.82 from regular views on his YouTube Short, but he gained nearly 6,000 subscribers in the process.

If you’re a smaller creator trying to reach the 1,000 subscribers needed to monetize your channel, gaining 6,000 subscribers from one video is amazing.

Of course, this comes with challenges. First, how do you convert those YouTube Shorts subscribers into fans of your long-form content? And second, how do videos with a shorter viewing duration impact a channel’s Watch Time? All of this would be solved by YouTube allowing Shorts monetization, but will that ever happen?

For Now, Focus on the Benefits of YouTube Shorts - Not the Money

YouTube Shorts may never be monetized, and if so, creators should focus on the sweeter gains of short-form content, which are more views and subscribers. YouTube does change its strategy now and then, so be on the lookout for any monetization news around YouTube Shorts.

Until then, it looks like Shorts are primarily for video discovery. When executed the right way, creators will benefit from that one, intended purpose.