This YouTube Star Is Also a Retail Empire

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Linus Sebastian is the face of a mini YouTube empire. His company is similar to the scale-down version of Gap, which employs fashion designers, logistics specialists, graphic designers and “fit technicians” to sell merchandise to fans.

Sebastian is one of the online personalities who has discovered that putting his name or face on products is the ticket to increasing fame.

Sales of themed goods such as hoodies and plush toy video game controllers generated about 32 percent of revenue for Sebastian’s Linus Media Group in 2021, up from 3 percent five years ago, he told me. “Clothing is where really successful people like the Kardashians of the world make a living,” Sebastien said. (This is not true at all, but you will realize.)

Advertising, the traditional way for people to make money online, is a little more than half the revenue of Linus Media Group. Most of the company’s videos about computers, video games, and other tech gear have plugs for sponsorship, and Sebastian’s company collects revenue from ads and subscriptions that YouTube sells.

But it is a commodity that is growing faster than both other streams of income, and Sebastien needs different skills than anything he has done before. “You can’t just put your label on a T-shirt and hope people buy it,” he said.

On Tech is writing a series of newsletters on the economics of people like Internet makers or Sebastian who are so good at creating online videos and other content that they turn it into a livelihood.

Sebastian gives a glimpse into the skills needed to build a 21st century media company. He’s the chief executive who is equally comfortable watching the old cable TV box open for 14 million video subscribers and talking to me about vague financial criteria.

Sebastian’s decade-long journey to become a YouTube star inevitably began with the courage of his former boss. Sebastian worked for a computer retail store and was asked to make a video to boost sales. It’s easy to see why they were caught. Sebastian spreads joy in his videos, even though, like me, you never build a solid gold video game controller.

He then had a disagreement over the strategy with the high-ups, who told Sebastian that he could either fall in line or find another place to make a video, Sebastian said. He chose the second option. Sebastien started his own YouTube channel in 2013 and started a business with his wife just a few months after their first child.

Today, Linus Media Group has about 65 employees and half a dozen YouTube channels that have a combined monthly viewership that can compete with the Super Bowl. Staff members write scripts, make videos and deal with sponsors. They also created a streaming video site to make money away from YouTube.

About 11 people work on merchandise alone. Employees order empty water bottles and underwear from factories and enter into an agreement with a local printing company in the Vancouver area to customize them. Others specialize in clothing design, customer service, or products around the world. Selling merchandise is inevitably more expensive than selling ads.

Entertaining for the fickle interests of millions of subscribers is not always fun.

“Do you think your job is stressful?” Said Sebastien. “I have 10 million bosses.” (Technically, 14 million.)

But despite being a YouTube star for years, Sebastian says he still wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes and is excited about the vague video idea to try.

More on-tech on the Internet maker economy:


  • Get to know Peter Thiel, a technologist who has re-emerged as a leading financial supporter of Republican U.S. political candidates., Many of whom are Donald J. Connected with Trump’s ideas. My colleagues Ryan Mack and Lisa Lerre have reported on Thiel’s apparent interest in candidates seeking to ignore the Republican establishment.

  • Contract workers in sub-Saharan Africa who review Facebook posts describe stressful working conditions and as low as $ 1.50 an hour. A Nairobi-based employee of the outsourcing firm Sama told Time that he had about 50 seconds to examine Facebook posts, which sometimes included graphic images depicting dismemberment, murder or rape.

  • The love story behind the photos in the “High Five” Wikipedia entry. The story of Tim and Tamara’s five minutes of internet fame has been told through Valentine’s Day greetings, as published by Input.

Check out these beautiful and quirky photos of the polar bears that occupied the abandoned weather station in the Arctic.


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