GLOBAL: The engine of Alphabet’s video streaming giant, YouTube, is its YouTubers serving niche interests and pushing video forward; however, a new analysis shows that just 3% of channels capture 85% of the site’s total viewership.

Recent research into the last 10 years of channel and video data from Mathias Bärtl, Professor of International Business at Offenburg University in Germany, shows that the number of creators who make it to the point that they can make a living is startlingly small.

In an analysis for Bloomberg News, Bärtl found that breaking into the top 3% (over 1.4m monthly views) will draw an advertising income of roughly $16,800 a year, just a little over the United States’ poverty line ($12,140 for a single person).

“If you’re a series regular on a network TV show, you’re getting a good amount of money,” Alice Marwick, an assistant professor of communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told Bloomberg.

“You can have half a million followers on YouTube and still be working at Starbucks.”

Recent surveys suggest that YouTubing looms large in many kids’ ambitions, with one finding three times as many children wanted to be YouTubers as wanted to be doctors.

Yet inequality accompanies even the internet. The top 1% of creators took between 2.2m and 42.2m views a month in 2016, according to Bärtl. While these figures guarantee significant ad revenue, their spots on YouTube alone will not form their total income: sponsorship and influencer deals are increasing in significance, making total earnings difficult to calculate.

Rates change over time and are anything but clear: Bärtl based his income estimations on a rate of $1 CPM, though one agency professional said he had seen rates as low as 35 cents per 1,000 views.

The platform says it is working to help creators make more money, but the imbalance has worsened in the decade between 2006 and 2016, as the top 3% in 2006 used to account for 63% of views.

YouTube’s brand safety efforts, which came into force last month, are designed to look after brands and will make it even more difficult for the bottom 85% of creators. In order to qualify for the YouTube Partner Program they will need to have accumulated 4,000 hours of views on their videos and have at least 1,000 subscribers.

Sourced from Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, Bloomberg, Veriety; additional content by WARC staff