This year's highest-paid YouTube star made $22 million in one year by playing with toys. Ryan of the channel Ryan ToysReview is a 7-year-old first-grader who, yep, opens, plays with, and reviews toys in his super-popular videos; he has more than 17.3 million followers. (His family also runs Ryan's Family Review, which has more than 3 million subscribers.) In an interview with NBC News last month, Ryan, who started filming toy videos with his parents when he was 3, said he wants to be a game developer when he grows up. Forbes notes that, not surprisingly, Ryan's fans are mostly other elementary school-aged kids. Other than $1 million earned from sponsored posts, the entirety of that $22 million came from pre-roll ads that play before his videos. Last year, he was No. 8 on Forbes' list, Business Insider reports.
"Unboxing videos provide the proxy for actually experiencing the joy of receiving and opening something you really desire; this is especially true for items that are out of reach or unattainable," says the founder of a company that manages many "unboxers," though not Ryan. BI notes that Ryan's fame began in earnest when a 2015 video of him opening a box of more than 100 Cars toys went viral; his mom left her teaching job to manage the channel full time, the Verge reported in 2016. As a result of his YouTube fame, Ryan also recently launched a line of Ryan's World toys and clothing for sale at Walmart, and his videos will soon be repackaged and distributed through Hulu and Amazon—deals that did not add to his earnings for this year's list, but will surely impact next year's. See the rest of the top 10 YouTube earners between June 2017 and June 2018 at Forbes. (Or read more about Ryan here.)