The world of video editing and filming always fascinated local 17-year-old Lucas Desgrosellier.
For most YouTube channels, building an online audience takes months or, most likely, years.
Yet only a month after he started to film himself playing Fortnite, the popular online free-to-play Battle Royale-style video game released in 2017, Desgrosellier went from about 50 subscribers to more than 150,000 people who wanted to know when the teenager uploaded a new video.
“It was actually one of my very first gaming videos that went viral, so it was crazy,” Desgrosellier said. “We were all freaking out. They all knew this was a dream of mine and I was putting so much time into this.”
Desgrosellier said he started his Ghoulz YouTube channel in 2013. Back then, his content centered on filming himself as he would review toys, inspired by other creators popular on the platform at that time.
The video platform has undergone immense cultural changes since 2013. Whether a video goes viral is now dependent on how long someone watches a video and whether they binge watch the channel’s videos back-to-back, Desgrossellier said.
Part of his success comes from the fact that an average viewer of the Ghoulz channel watches 60-70% of the video, Desgrosellier said.
“It’s definitely way above average for a YouTuber,” Desgrosellier said.
This promising watch-time met the criteria of the Google-operated algorithm, which noticed the Ghoulz channel as family-friendly and one that appealed to the trend of playing Fortnite for an online audience.
As of February, about two years after taking on the Ghoulz brand, Desgrosellier has nearly 2 million subscribers. Most of his viewers are younger adolescents, he said.
Each video of Desgrosellier garners about 1.8 million views. Google advertisements are placed on each video, meaning one video could earn $17,000.
That’s what happened when Desgrosellier decided to donate all the proceeds from one video to the Children’s Miracle Network at Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in Spokane.
From November to February, that charity video was seen nearly 2 million times and earned $17,000 that went toward basic costs to help children in need, said Rachael McKinney, program director for the children’s network.
“We’ve been working together, I want to say, since last June. That was when we first connected and started talking about this potential fundraiser,” McKinney said. “On our side we felt like we wanted to sell him on, ‘Yes, you should fundraise for our children’s hospital.’ ”
Lisa Desgrosellier, Lucas’ mother, said she always supported her son’s pursuit of filming and editing his videos. There were some concerns of maintaining privacy, but she knew her son had a passion for his channel.
“It’s great to earn money and be successful and do things you like, but there’s a bigger meaning in life, and to be able to see the needs around you,” Lisa Desgrosellier said.
The Ghoulz channel releases a new video every other day.
Since the algorithm first picked up his channel in 2020, he saw about 30,000-40,000 new subscribers each month. Last month, Lucas Desgrosellier’s channel earned 120,000 new subscribers, the highest monthly growth.
“You have 2 million people waiting on you to post the next crazy video,” Desgrosellier said. “Sometimes it’s hard because none of my friends can relate to me because they don’t really understand what that’s like.”
Fortnite skyrocketed to popularity after its release in 2017, partly because of online streamers like “Ninja,” who showed his unique and entertaining reactions to the game.
And the game is free and online. Players can easily team up with their friends, and they can also customize their player, usually by spending money.
Celebrities have endorsed and added customization to the game; hip-hop artist Drake played with Ninja in 2018, only adding to the mainstream popularity of the game.
The audience for Fortnite trends much younger, with ESports News reporting that as of 2018, 62.7% of players were under 24 years old. Male players made up 72.4% of the player base, ESports News reported.
The platform that distributes and runs Fortnite, Epic Games, does not give out monthly active user counts, but it did report in 2019 that there were about 12.5 million players in the game at any given time.
Between advertisements, sponsorships and brand deals, a family-friendly YouTube video can earn anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 per video, Desgrosellier said.
So some prolific YouTubers, especially those with more than one channel and millions of views, can have the opportunity to earn more than $100,000 a month. Most of that revenue comes from Google advertisements, about 70% of the video’s income.
Desgrosellier has about 15 employees who work to edit his videos, design his thumbnails and manage his social media accounts.
“We’re now a full-time business,” Desgrosellier said. “It’s forced me to grow up pretty quick. It’s good and bad, right, because most 17-year-old kids don’t have to learn about taxes. I know a lot about taxes and real estate now.”
He plans to buy a house in Idaho once he gets out of high school, which he has been completing online during the COVID-19 pandemic because it gave him a chance to work more on his channel.
With the success of his channel at a seemingly endless upward trajectory, he said he does not have plans to attend college.
Desgrosellier said he also plans on releasing his own clothing brand within the next four to six weeks.
Most YouTubers can pay to have a T-shirt company make low-quality niche merchandise, but Desgrosellier said he wanted to expand and create his own line that did not necessarily focus on the Ghoulz brand.
“There’s a negative connotation about YouTubers that they’re stuck-up people who flex their money,” Desgrosellier said. “It’s really important for me to stay grounded. I want to be able to use that money to change and impact people’s lives.”
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