On the Money

YouTube's creative class: Making cookies, games and millions

YouTube millionaires

Want to know how to make "Star Wars"-themed cake pops, emoji cookies or rainbow bagels?

Each week Rosanna Pansino cooks up a new geeky baking tutorial. Her channel's 6 million subscribers are eating it up, and it's starting to make her a lot of dough. "I started creating content for fun," Pansino told CNBC's On the Money in an interview. "I really wanted a creative outlet and it wasn't about business at all."

Pansino is one of YouTube's most successful creators, earning $2.5 million in pre-tax revenue last year according to Forbes.

She's not the only one. Other YouTube millionaires include video game commentator Felix Kjellberg, known by his screen name PewDiePie, who earned a cool $12 million last year. Meanwhile, the comedic duo behind Smosh earned $8.5 million.

Katy Perry performs during the Super Bowl XLIX halftime show in Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015.
Rock stars want changes to YouTube

Research firm eMarketer projects digital video advertising will grow 28.5 percent this year. It signals that so long as YouTube's biggest stars keep generating content garnering millions of views, advertisers are willing to channel bigger portions of their budgets to digital.

This past week at BrandCast, Youtube's annual pitch to advertisers, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said the company now reaches more 18-49 year olds than any network—broadcast or cable.

This comes on the heels of Magna Global, the ad buying arm of Interpublic Group, recently signing an upfront deal to move $250 million dollars from its TV ad spending budget to YouTube. Magna's clients include Johnson and Johnson and Coca-Cola, and the company's financial commitment is about four to five times larger than what it spent last year.

Bigger than TV

YouTube unveils their new paid subscription service at the YouTube Space LA in Playa Del Rey, Los Angeles, October 21, 2015.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

After Pansino posted her first baking tutorial video in 2011, she says she got a huge positive response and people were requesting more content.

So she kept creating videos, even though her agent at the time thought it was a bad idea. She was an actor, and even had a small role on Fox's television show "Glee." She thought YouTube would help her get more comfortable on camera.

Her agent, however, gave her an ultimatum: Stop posting videos on YouTube to focus on auditions, or he would drop her as a client. Pansino ultimately stayed with YouTube, and the momentum kept building.

As her audience began to grow, she invested everything she had into her videos to buy better equipment, create better graphics and hire a team. Today she runs an 8 person production company that produces at least 1 video a week.

"We're able to get 60 million views a month which is more than some popular TV shows. I find it really incredible," says Pansino, who is just one of about a billion YouTube content creators. So what makes her standout?

"What is the most important is the content comes first and so does my community. Being really interactive is something I strive to do all the time," says Pansino.

This past November, she released her first cookbook, and she says she's open to exploring more opportunities. That may include a web series, a movie, or whatever else her fans think she should try.

"I need to go where my community is but I would love it to be on YouTube because that's where I feel the most connected," Pansino added.

On the Money airs on CNBC Saturdays at 5:30 am ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.