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The Preteen’s Guide to Getting Rich Off YouTube

Ryan Kaji’s video empire makes most of its revenue from merchandise, not ads.

relates to The Preteen’s Guide to Getting Rich Off YouTube
Photographer: Sarah Karlan for Bloomberg Businessweek
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Ryan Kaji is one of the most popular YouTube creators in the world, with a main channel that’s drawn 29 million subscribers interested in watching the 9-year-old open new toys, exercise, or do crafting projects. For Ryan and his family, that audience has translated into millions of dollars in annual ad revenue, the traditional form of income for YouTube celebrities.

Shion and Loann Kaji, Ryan’s parents, have also struck sponsorship and merchandising deals with Walmart and Target and signed on for TV shows with Nickelodeon and Amazon. This year, the Kajis are adding a footwear line with Skechers USA Inc. In total, products bearing Ryan’s World branding generated more than $250 million in sales in 2020, according to Chris Williams, whose company PocketWatch Inc. handles the family’s licensing business outside YouTube. The Kajis’ share of those sales represented from 60% to 70% of the $30 million of their annual revenue—making it the first year their licensing business has surpassed their YouTube ad revenue.