$6.5M in Ad Revenue with <2M Social Followers
(8 min read) Rishi Jethi on the volatility of Facebook, reinvesting in video, and outsourcing to India
Rishi Jethi - Illumeably
Rishi Jethi’s Illumeably is a viral machine - or, more precisely, a collection of viral machines - that brings in $6.5M in annual revenue.
Illumeably - whose mission is to spread positivity - has a team, tactics, and tools that span four continents, dozens of people, and quite a few companies.
Let’s get into it!
Rishi’s path as a Creator has been something of a rollercoaster.
He started making videos on Facebook in 2017, got millions of views, but didn’t make any money. At the time, Facebook video wasn’t monetized.
To top that off, Facebook ended up decimated by fallout from the 2016 election scandal.
He pivoted to launch his website, Illumeably.com, with listicles and other viral formats built off search-friendly topics and monetized through display ads.
It grew independently, with very little cross-promotion, and its content - pop news a la Buzzfeed - is still very different than the scripted morality tales found on his Facebook and YouTube pages today.
Today, the website business is close to autopilot.
The website generates $5M a year at 20% margin; that $4M / 80% cost, though, is what enables Rishi to focus and reinvest the remaining $1M / 20% profit on his real passion: video storytelling.
Today, he generates $1.5M in video ad revenue between Facebook and YouTube, and is about to launch on Snap.
Despite making seven figures in profit, he only just moved his video production operation out of his parents’ house. That’s discipline.
He sees reinvesting his profits into his video business as the right move, not only because it’s his passion, but because video is now his fastest-growing revenue stream.
Facebook is his number one revenue source for video, but is highly volatile.
YouTube is more stable, but less lucrative.
As a result, Rishi and his team have to be very comfortable sitting in uncertainty.
Execs take note - Creators pay attention to layoffs, and make business decisions about how to use Creator products based on the uncertainty those layoffs create.
As a result, of the volatility from their biggest, fastest growth video revenue source, Rishi and the team are investing in growing their footprint in three ways:
1) They’re planning on growing their distribution footprint by expanding to Snap.
2) They’re growing their monetization footprint by exploring other revenue opportunities, like brand deals and merch.
On brand deals:
This has always been my biggest gripe with on-demand merch providers - the product is garbage. Seems like an opportunity….
3) They’re growing their content footprint by expanding to other languages as well as animation.
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Website - Wordpress
Hosting - Digital Ocean
Revenue Attribution -Google Analytics + Assertive Yield
Content Distribution Network - Cloudfront
Ad Networks - Google, Index Exchange, PubMatic, Rubicon / Magnite, Xandr
Dashboard - Built in-house, pulls the API from these services together
Rishi runs Illumeably.com like a relatively sophisticated digital media company. He has an engineering team in India, but less technical Creators can still garner lessons from his approach:
Revenue attribution + Content optimization
Most Creators probably aren’t going to hire a tech team to leverage big data, but the takeaway here is that - even with the data in the backend of YouTube, Snap, etc. - you can make strategic decisions based on how each piece of content is performing.
Figure out the patterns in what’s making you money and do more of it.
Figure out what is bringing your content’s earnings down and do less of it.
Rishi has the Jeff Bezos / MrBeast mentality - ride the line and reinvest every dollar for maximum growth.
Paying attention to how each piece of content is doing and planning accordingly, while complicated, could meaningfully reduce the risk around that approach.
Email - N/A
Membership - N/A
Project Management - ClickUp (India) + Monday.com (US) + Skype + Slack
Clever…since many companies price differently depending on market, he had his Indian website partner contract with them to get the lower price.
Probably not something every Creator can do, but a great trick if you can.
Representation - N/A
Now that Rishi is more open to brand deals, he’s more interested in finding a rep who can bring the right partners. Know anyone?
Video Production - US Team
Video Distribution - Rishi himself
This is how you know Rishi is a true Creator and not just a media entrepreneur.
He has final cut and pushes every video live himself.
Website Content - Idea Clan (based in India)
They manage the website
He serves as Product Manager
They also hire and run the Content team, with his oversight
Animation Content - Confidential Indian animation house
He doesn’t want anyone swooping his partner 😁
Operations - International Team
Rishi is running a truly global Creator operation.
India - Website
US team - Video
1 Audio person
Acting pool of 150 people with 5-10 consistently in videos
Brazil - Thumbnail Designer
Ukraine - Composer
Credit Cards - AmEx Gold
Payments - Meelio
Banking - Switching from Wells Fargo to Mercury
Wire transfer fees are extremely low for Mercury, which is a meaningful cost given the global nature of his business.
Accounting - Quickbooks
Rishi used to do his own books but now has a CPA.
Editing - Premiere Pro
Design - Photoshop
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