• Teens Prefer YouTube Stars to Hollywood Celebrities: Research

    Likely not to surprise anyone with a teen in the house, new research commissioned by Variety found that the 5 personalities with the most influence among American 13-18 year-olds are all YouTube stars. As well, half of the top 20 are also YouTube stars, with the other half well-known mainstream celebrities.

    1,500 teens were asked about 20 personalities (10 had the most subscribers on YouTube and 10 had the highest Q score among teens). Questions focused on approachability, authenticity and other measures deemed important to their influence. Answers were then scored on a 100-point scale to determine the final rankings.

    The top 5, in order, were Smosh (18.5 million YouTube subscribers), the Fine Brothers (9.5 million), PewDiePie (29.4 million), KSI (6.5 million) and Ryan Higa (12.7 million). Rounding out the top 10 were the late actor Paul Walker (#6), Jennifer Lawrence (#7), YouTuber Shane Dawson (#8 with 6 million subscribers), Katy Perry (#9) and Steve Carell (#10).


    As expected, the YouTubers were considered more engaging, extraordinary and relatable, exhibiting a more candid sense of humor, lack of filter and risk-taking spirit. No doubt, if you've watched videos from any of these YouTubers, you'd certainly agree. Respondents said that all of this contributes to a more intimate and authentic experience.

    Importantly, the survey concluded that the YouTubers' ratings highly correlate to influencing teens' purchase behaviors. This is perhaps the most consequential finding, as it suggests that top YouTubers may be sitting on a massive opportunity to monetize their fame by endorsing or promoting products and services, a phenomenon that's already taking root.

    Of course, the big risk for the YouTubers is not appearing as if they've sold out and are merely trying to cash in on their fame. That's a tough balancing act and will be one worth watching. However, if the endorsement model works, it would be an important breakthrough for YouTube itself, as the new revenue stream would help ease discontent with the platform's 45% share of ad revenues generated (on top of which there's also the MCN's share that comes out of the YouTuber's gross). More revenue potential would also help inspire future content creators to come onto to the platform.

    Stepping back, as I wrote last March, all of this underscores the outsized role that YouTube is playing in re-shaping the video ecosystem and the cultural zeitgeist. In particular, YouTube is dramatically loosening Hollywood's grip on tastemaking and consumer marketing. For teens especially, the days are past when a small group of TV shows on select networks was all-important. YouTube has clearly become teens' go-to destination, with stars organically and unexpectedly bubbling up. It's a brave new world for Hollywood to reckon with.

     
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