×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Survey: YouTube Stars More Popular Than Mainstream Celebs Among U.S. Teens

U.S. teenagers are more enamored with YouTube stars than they are the biggest celebrities in film, TV and music.

That’s the surprising result of a survey Variety commissioned in July that found the five most influential figures among Americans ages 13-18 are all YouTube faves, eclipsing mainstream celebs including Jennifer Lawrence and Seth Rogen. The highest-ranking figures were Smosh, the online comedy team of Ian Andrew Hecox and Anthony Padilla, both 26.

Despite having minimal exposure in the mainstream media, another comedy duo, known as the Fine Bros., Benny and Rafi, finished a close second, followed by the Swedish videogamer who has the most subscribers on all of YouTube, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg — otherwise known as PewDiePie. Interestingly, the highest-ranking non-YouTuber is Paul Walker, who tragically died in a car accident late in 2013.

SEE ALSO: New Breed of Online Stars Rewrite the Rules of Fame

The survey, conducted for Variety by celebrity brand strategist Jeetendr Sehdev, asked 1,500 respondents a battery of questions assessing how 20 well-known personalities stacked up in terms of approachability, authenticity and other criteria considered aspects of their overall influence. Half the 20 were drawn from the English-language personalities with the most subscribers and video views on YouTube, the other half were represented by the celebrities with the highest Q scores among U.S. teens aged 13-17, as of March.

A score was then assigned to each YouTube and mainstream star based on how they fared in respondents’ answers to the questions, and the resulting number was translated to a 100-point scale. The top five — and six of the top 10 — were YouTube stars.

Drilling deeper into the survey, Sehdev found that YouTube stars scored significantly higher than traditional celebrities across a range of characteristics considered to have the highest correlation to influencing purchases among teens. YouTubers were judged to be more engaging, extraordinary and relatable than mainstream stars, who were rated as being smarter and more reliable. In terms of sex appeal, the two types of celebs finished just about even.

Looking at survey comments and feedback, teens enjoy an intimate and authentic experience with YouTube celebrities, who aren’t subject to image strategies carefully orchestrated by PR pros. Teens also say they appreciate YouTube stars’ more candid sense of humor, lack of filter and risk-taking spirit, behaviors often curbed by Hollywood handlers.

That should sound a warning to YouTube celebs looking to cash in on their fame via the traditional Tinseltown infrastructure, Sehdev notes.

SEE ALSO: Survey: YouTube Stars More Popular Than Mainstream Celebs Among U.S. Teens

“If YouTube stars are swallowed by Hollywood, they are in danger of becoming less authentic versions of themselves, and teenagers will be able to pick up on that,” Sehdev says. “That could take away the one thing that makes YouTube stars so appealing.”

Better perhaps that Hollywood take a page from the YouTube playbook, Sehdev observes. By encouraging unvarnished individualism, studios and networks can help foster traditional celebs’ appeal among younger demographics.

Q scores were determined to be the most reliable indicator for the survey’s selection of mainstream stars, whose popularity can be fleeting among teenage demographics. In addition, many prominent celebrities well known to younger consumers may not necessarily be the most popular among them because their prominence is driven more by notoriety, as opposed to true appeal.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Richard Plepler HBO

    Former HBO Chief Richard Plepler Close to Signing Apple TV Plus Production Pact

    Former HBO chief Richard Plepler is close to signing an exclusive production pact with Apple TV Plus. Apple declined to comment and Plepler could not immediately be reached for comment. It’s understood that Plepler plans to launch a boutique production company designed to focus on a handful of high-profile projects. Among his advisors in pulling [...]

  • Sonos Spotify partnership

    Sonos Speakers Get Free Spotify Streaming

    Sonos owners just got access to another source for free music: The smart speaker maker has struck a deal with Spotify to stream Spotify’s free tier to its users, both companies announced Tuesday. Free Spotify streams are going live on Sonos devices with the latest Sonos software update, which also includes an updated version of [...]

  • looking glass display

    Looking Glass Factory Unveils 8K Holographic Display

    Holographic display hardware startup Looking Glass Factory unveiled its first real product Tuesday: the Looking Glass 8K Immersive Display aims to provide companies with a way to view 3D assets as holograms, without the need to use VR headsets. The product is being sold into the enterprise market, but the company also has plans to [...]

  • Star Wars The Mandalorian

    Why Wall Street Is Feeling Bullish as Disney Plus Blasts Off

    Bob Iger has presided over many launches during his 14 years as Disney CEO: a theme park in Shanghai, state-of-the-art cruise ships, “Star Wars”- and “Avatar”-themed immersive attractions and even a cinematic universe requiring billions of dollars of investment in Marvel movies. But nothing in his tenure has drawn the level of scrutiny that has [...]

  • Worldwide XR roster

    Team Behind Digital James Dean Forms New Company to Resurrect Other Legends (EXCLUSIVE)

    The team that helped resurrect James Dean with visual effects for an upcoming Vietnam war movie isn’t done creating digital versions of famous actors and other celebrities: Intellectual property licensing specialist CMG Worldwide has merged with immersive content creation studio Observe Media to form Worldwide XR, a new company that aims to bring digital humans [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content