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Ryan Kaji, known for his channel “Ryan’s World,” garnered $26 million for the year, earning him the title of the highest-paid YouTube star beating out scores of older, well-known YouTube megastars hoping to cash in on the social engagement from the platform.
Since it launched in early 2005, the platform has been seen as a launchpad for performers who go on to achieve "stardom" through the content they post and attain a hefty paycheck in return.
Kaji became an internet sensation with his “unboxing” genre on YouTube, which is owned by Google, where he would open presents in front of a camera and comment on them, according to Forbes.
In 2015, Kaji’s channel debuted as "Ryan ToysReview" before transforming into a full-blown children’s channel with over 23 million followers to date.
Kaji is one of ten other significant earners on the platform who brought in a total of $162 million from June 1, 2018, to June 1, 2019, Forbes estimated.
And though Kaji was named the top earner, he was far from the youngest. Coming in at No. 3 on the list is 5-year-old Anastasia, who goes by “Nastya,” with 107 million subscribers across multiple channels, according to Forbes. Nastya, whose videos feature her playing with her dad, gained $18 million for the year.
The earnings were estimated from pretax income collected from things such as advertisements, sponsored content, merchandise sales and tours. Fees for agents, managers and lawyers are not deducted. A YouTube star is defined as someone whose primary form of revenue from digital and media come from the social media platform, according to Forbes.
Kaji also has a TV show called Ryan's Mystery Playdate on Nick Jr. which is based on his YouTube channel. The preschool television series follows Kaji, his parents and animated friends “as they work together to tackle a series of imaginative, physical challenges and unbox puzzles to reveal the identity of his mystery playdate,” according to IMDB.
Kaji also has a deal with streaming service Hulu, according to Forbes.
In analyzing every video posted by high-subscriber channels in the first week of 2019, Pew Research Center found that children’s content and content featuring children fared much better and received more views than other videos.
"Videos aimed at children were highly popular, as were those that featured children under the age of 13 — regardless of their intended audience. "
In a separate study conducted by Pew Research Center, it was revealed that 81 percent of parents with children 11 years old or younger let their child watch videos on YouTube, with 34 percent saying their child watches content on YouTube regularly.
In YouTube’s lengthy terms of service, those who are under 13 are simply asked, “please do not use the Service." However, YouTube has a service for children, YouTube Kids. The kids-focused platform already requires parental consent and uses simple math problems to ensure that kids aren’t signing in on their own.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.