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YouTube channel funding Australian couple's million-dollar sailing boat and lifestyle

ABC News logo ABC News 24/11/2016 Ben Collins

An Australian couple, documenting their lives sailing around the world on YouTube, has struck a deal with a boat building company enabling them to pay for a million-dollar yacht with their social media income.

In just two years, Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu have become YouTube's most popular sailing vloggers, posting weekly videos of themselves visiting tropical islands and reflecting on their lives at sea.

"There's a lot of drama on the high seas and ... we get three million people watching a video every month, and each episode gets roughly 200,000 [views]," Mr Whitelum said.

Enviable income and discounted yacht

The couple have converted their popularity into dollars via the crowdfunding website Patreon, which is commonly used by artists and YouTube users to invite fans to donate money for each video posted.

"Some people are paying us $50 per video, some people are paying $2, there's people that pay $200, so it's really incredible," Ms Carausu, who is from Geraldton in Western Australia, said.

"It's no secret. On the internet now you can see we're making $7,800 (it says) per video, but that's not completely accurate," Mr Whitelum said.

"That figure includes patrons pledging per month rather than per video and it is a pledge; not every payment is successfully processed at the end of the month.

"We normally receive half of what it says, but I certainly wouldn't say that we're struggling anymore." As well as providing an enviable income, the couple's social media profile caught the attention of a French boatbuilding company.

Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu © Instagram/riley.whitelum Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu "We're the number one sailing channel at the moment on YouTube, so I guess that's what they saw when we emailed them saying, 'Hey, we love your boat'," Ms Carausu said.

Putting one of their luxury sailing catamarans at the centre of videos watched by three million people around the world each month enticed the company to offer a brand new million-dollar boat at a discount rate the couple could pay with their social media income.

"I guess they get a bit of advertising through our YouTube channel. Not that we have to push their product or anything; we just have to sail around in it," Mr Whitelum said. "Which we were going to do anyway," Ms Carausu added.

Hard work for the lucky, young and attractive

Before you throw in your regular job for a career as a YouTuber, Murdoch University social media and public relations specialist Catherine Archer has some hard truths about internet fame.

"There's only the very few that make big money from these channels because they have to have the right look, they have to have the right work ethic, and it doesn't just come as easily as it looks," Ms Archer said.

"You can't have much downtime; if you have downtime, you're going to lose viewers.

Your private life is your public life." Being young and attractive also appears to be an important part of social media success according to Ms Archer.

"You do notice the top ones on Instagram and so on are usually young and good looking," she said.

"There are the rare deviants from that but generally... I mean, this young couple are obviously a very good looking young couple.

"They're out there in the bikinis and the bathers, so that helps as well I would say."

Fleeting, fickle nature of social media fame

Just one year ago Mr Whitelum and Ms Carausu were yet to build their YouTube following and had to leave their boat in the Caribbean to return to Australia to try and raise money with regular jobs.

Ms Archer said internet fame could leave as quickly as it arrived, especially if that fame diminished some of the charm that originally attracted a following.

"Viewers accept that this sort of sponsorship goes on, but there also can be backlash that you've got to deal with," she said. "As we know, on social media the kids are fickle.

Instagram and Snapchat were big among young people [but] maybe there'll be a new platform in two years that no-one's even heard of."

The young couple acknowledge that becoming popular on YouTube and negotiating sponsorship deals took a lot of work.

"Between running the boat, keeping the boat afloat, checking the weather, and keeping up with maintenance, that's a big enough job as far as I'm concerned," Mr Whitelum said.

"And then all this YouTube stuff; we've never worked so hard in our lives."


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