Are We Too Old to Be Digital Stars?

Why 50+ is a real challenge on the internet

Meme by Gerda Friedel (2019)

My friend Christine and I are enthusiastic Instagrammers and Facebookers, and we keep each other updated on lifestyle issues on the internet. Recently, we came up with the idea of starting a blog or a YouTube channel, something like the European version of Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop.

Our qualifications are good: Christine is a fashion designer, and I am a writer—so why not? Christine and I have posted and blogged for fun for some time, but now we want to get serious and really rich.

But as I started researching how to succeed, I soon came across a cruel reality: Making money on the internet does not go together with our age group and gender—and that’s quite frustrating.

Be male, be young!

For instance, Forbes magazine ranked the highest-paid YouTube stars in 2018, and all ten were male vloggers, gamers, and influencers under thirty, with yearly earnings from $14.5 to 20 million (US).


#9: PewDiePie
2018 Earnings: $15.5 million

Despite a backlash last year after a rash of anti-Semitic videos, advertisers have returned, shelling out up to $450,000 for a sponsored video.

— on Felix Kjellberg, alias PewDiePie (Forbes)

Demographics might explain where their followers come from. In the Pew report “Social Media Use in 2018,” the youngest adults stand out in their social-media consumption: “Some 88% of 18- to 29-year-olds indicate that they use any form of social media.” But of the Americans surveyed, the percentage went down for 30- to 49-year-olds (78%) , dropping to 37% for those 65 and over.

Women in different age groups

Meme by Gerda Friedel (2019)

Baking vlogger Rosanna Pansino, one of the highest-paid young female digital stars at 33 years old, didn’t even make the 2018 Forbes list. Still, she has 11 million subscribers on YouTube and 4.1 million on Instagram.

Meanwhile, older vloggers like Dominique Sachse or Monique Parent merely have 870,000 YouTube followers and 146,000 on Instagram—or 250,000 subscribers on YouTube and 26,000 on Instagram—respectively.

The number of subscribers and views count, because they determine the amount of income and attention from sponsors.

Is it our fault?

Meme by Gerda Friedel (2019)

The British blogger and YouTuber Helen Redfern has addressed ageism directly in A Bookish Baker with posts such as “Why aren’t over-40 bloggers as visible online?” One reason she names is a lack of self-promotion among older bloggers, because “promoting our blog posts and our videos feels boasty.”

Older bloggers, especially women, can feel intimidated, too, worried that the world out there isn’t really interested in their voices. In a recent post, “Is there ageism in blogging?,” Redfern writes:

“In blogging we have the really young women, possibly into beauty and fashion. Then we have the career woman forging a fantastic online career.  Then we have the parenting women; the new mums. But then what?

Establish a voice

Too old …are we? Photo by Gerda Friedel

Redfern puts it this way in another post: “You have to market yourself.”

As reported by Pew, 64% of those aged 50 to 64 are social-media users. In my view, that’s not far from the 88% of those under thirty, and it doesn’t justify a revenue gap of several million dollars.

If there’s a market for young influencers, then why isn’t there a community that addresses more mature issues, too?

It’s time for people like Christine and me to roll up our sleeves, be confident, and get started.


Gerda Friedel

Gerda Friedel lives in Erlangen, Germany, where she is a freelance English teacher and amateur painter. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in journalism and a certificate in biotechnology at Harvard Extension School. Her specialization is writing about Type 1 diabetes.

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8 Replies to “Are We Too Old to Be Digital Stars?”

  1. Very interesting and very true. I am in my early 30s and even I feel too old compared to some of the youtubers I see succeed that are in their early twenties.

  2. This was a really interesting article, Gerda. I say go for it. It sounds like a wide-open market just waiting for the two of you to take over! It also seems like such a great place because presumably the older you are, the more buying power you have. As of now, it’s oversaturated with 18-24 years old who all begin to look to same.

  3. As someone who wouldn’t mind making the kind of money cited in the Pew results, I do notice that people who are the most aggressive on the internet garner the most attention – the young males. And maybe aggression really does have something to do with it – aggression levels mirror the demographics you cited. Maybe it’s not so much about self-promotion ability but about some biological drive?

  4. Ahh great topic here Gerda. I will say I understand these numbers. But I do agree that everyone has a place regardless of age and a market to tap into. I love how Helen Redfern talks about older women being confident and then you ending with being confident. Thats a good wheel ending there.

  5. Thanks for posting this article! I think that everyone has a voice on the internet and hate that our society is telling us that we can’t be successful if we are not young. There is this “pop culture” belief that you have to be in your 20s to make it big online and I completely disagree. Also, you mention that you may be too old but then mentioned goop – Gwyneth is close to 50 and killing it online!! I don’t think this matters at all – it is never too late to follow your dreams!

  6. Gerda, get out there and make the market! You can do this. If you build it—well—they will come. Or, at least the people who are already on Instagram will. Check out other Influencers of Age, including: Diane Keaton, Jessica and Stefanie (@wearemidlife) and the Woolfers who founded “What Would Virginia Woolf Do?” (great place to publish your content and reach your audience). Or, this list: https://www.theshelf.com/blogger-roundups/influencers-bloggers-over-50

    The crazy and stupid thing about ageism in blogging (it IS real, I think) discounts that the fastest growing segment of the global population is people 65+: http://www.worldpopdata.org/

    Looking at the data, marketers would be savvy to focus their efforts on outreach to influencers like yourself! I say go for it. And, to the Influencer podcast’s point: make your content engaging—follower count is not the only measure of success brands are looking for.

    Do you think there’s a technology barrier here to getting attention from brands?

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