He may not be Lil Bub or Grumpy Cat, but Henri Le Chat Noir–the Internet’s most existential feline–is making some serious bank. Even without hundreds of thousands of subscribers or tens of millions of views, Henri makes enough money to support his owner, Will Braden.
If you’ve never seen Henri Le Chat Noir, prepare yourself for a YouTube cat that must be Jean-Luc Godard‘s favorite. Henri’s videos mix generally pouty cat faces with a narration inspired by French New Wave films. The most popular installment, titled ‘Henri 2’, has received more than eight million views.
At a cat video panel at South By Southwest, Braden explains the various ways he makes a living off of Henri. As with many other YouTube creators, merchandise and brand sponsorships are key, as is a pledge to donate some proceeds to charity. “Charity is both ethically the right thing to do and good business,” explained Braden. “If you say 10% goes to charity, you’ll sell 20% more.”
Braden’s secret weapon, however, is Henri’s lucrative CPM rate on YouTube. CPM (cost per mille, a fittingly French term as far as Henri is concerned) measures the amount advertisers pay for each thousand YouTube impressions. The average CPM, before considering YouTube’s cut and impression frequency, is $7.60. According to Braden, Henri’s channel has a $10 CPM. Even if YouTube and impression infrequency cut into that total, it is still a very big number.
The secret to Henri’s success lies in demographics. As Braden explains, his cat’s typical viewer is a woman between the ages of 49 and 65. Braden doesn’t believe other YouTube cats hit the same audience, since the highbrow jokes about French New Wave are more likely to draw in a “college professor” crowd. This is a very hard group to reach on the Internet; Braden speculates that some older viewers learn how to share videos on Facebook just to show Henri to their friends. Therefore, advertisers are willing to pay much more for the chance to consistently target pre-roll videos against this hard-to-reach demographic.
Henri’s success provides a lesson about sparse demographics on YouTube. They are hard to reach, but creators who manage to connect with them will strike gold. Hanging out with a furry companion is always a nice starting point.