If you rode a subway in New York City last year, you likely saw Bethany Mota's face plastered in stations and train cars. With nearly 10 million followers on YouTube, Mota is one of the brand's most recognizable faces, which is why the video giant featured her in an ad campaign.
It's content creators like 20-year-old Mota — who produces videos on hair, makeup and fashion — that have helped YouTube build its selection of channels with a new type of professional content, and grow to over a billion monthly active users.
"Six years ago, telling people you were a YouTuber, they looked down on it, and thought it was just kind of cute," Mota told CNBC at the MAKERS conference on Tuesday in California. Now, an elite group of YouTubers are pulling in big money for their content, and YouTube says the number of creators earning six figures is up 50 percent year over year.
Those videos are driving big ad revenue for YouTube, as well.
On Monday, Google's parent company Alphabet reported fourth-quarter earnings that far exceeded analyst estimates. Part of the quarter's strength, according to the company's CFO Ruth Porat, came from YouTube, which she said "continues to grow at a very significant rate." On the company's earnings call, Porat said YouTube's revenue was "up 7 percent year on year and 12 percent sequentially."
Google CEO Sundar Pichai also highlighted YouTube's strength, saying people are watching millions of hours of content on YouTube every day, and that "the time people spent watching YouTube in the living room more than doubled in 2015."
Mota, whose videos have racked up more than 800 million views, according to tracking site VidStatsX, credits YouTube with providing a creative landscape to jump-start her career. "I'm so thankful and grateful to YouTube, because without YouTube specifically, I would have never gotten to where I am," she said.
While Mota has branched out beyond YouTube, with a clothing line at Aeropostale, and appearances on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," she says her main goal when venturing into traditional media is to drive viewers back to YouTube.
"I'm totally open to new opportunities and doing things in traditional, as long as I can make sure it brings people back to the home base," Mota said. "They're really changing the way people consume content, so I want to continue to be loyal to YouTube because I feel like they've done so much for me."
YouTube's push to change the way people consume content took another step forward on Wednesday, when the company announced the premiere date for its first slate of four original programs on YouTube Red, its paid subscription service. The shows, which feature content from YouTube stars like PewDiePie and Lilly Singh, aim to help those stars "tell bigger and bolder stories" to their "massive audiences on YouTube," according to a blog post by YouTube's head of original content, Susanne Daniels.
YouTube's first four original shows will be available to subscribers starting on Feb. 10.