×

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.

Popular on Variety

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.

More Digital

  • Loic Barche on Short 'The Atomic

    Loic Barche on Short 'The Atomic Adventure,' Upcoming Feature Debut 'Feu de Paille'

    “The Atomic Adventure,” a contender in UniFrance’s online MyFrenchFilmFestival, is the third short from Loïc Barché (“Goliath,” “Le Commencement”). Variety talked to the director about the short, and his feature debut “Feu de Paille.” “The Atomic Adventure,” produced by young French outfits Punchline Cinéma and Leonis Productions, is set in 1961 in Algeria, where France [...]

  • The Isle of the Dead

    UniFrance Puts Spotlight on Emerging French VR Sector at Rendez-Vous

    France has a burgeoning eco-system of virtual reality and augmented reality producers, and is one of Europe’s leading VR/AR hubs. The UniFrance Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in Paris, a showcase of French projects that wraps Monday, included a VR/AR showcase, with recent projects demonstrated by Wide Management VR, VRrOOm and Atlas V. UniFrance’s online MyFrenchFilm [...]

  • Blood Oath

    MBC Studios to Launch Arabic TV Series 'Blood Oath,' Written by Britain's Tony Jordan

    MBC Studios, the Saudi-owned production unit of top Middle Eastern free-to-air satellite network MBC Group is set to launch “Blood Oath,” an Arabic crime series written by Britain’s Tony Jordan (“EastEnders,” “Life on Mars”). The announcement comes as Dubai-based MBC Studios, set up in 2018 and headed by former president of NBCUniversal International Peter Smith, is [...]

  • Spirited Away

    Netflix Secures International Rights to Studio Ghibli Animated Films

    The iconic animated features of Japan’s Studio Ghibli will be available in territories outside the U.S., Canada and Japan on Netflix starting in February. The move is a further change of position for the studio which has repeatedly resisted the idea that its beloved cartoons would be released on digital platforms. Netflix, sales agent Wild [...]

  • ‘Drag Race’ Producers Greenlight Two Docu-Series

    ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Producers Greenlight Two Docu-Series for SVOD (EXCLUSIVE)

    “RuPaul’s Drag Race” producer World of Wonder has greenlit two docu-series: “God Shave the Queens!” and an “Untitled Trinity Taylor Pageant Project.” The announcement will be made Sunday at the first-ever DragCon U.K. convention, which is taking place at Olympia, London. “God Shave the Queens!” features the first-ever cast of “RuPaul’s Drag Race UK” and [...]

  • VRrOOm Launching VR Platform for Immersive,

    VRrOOm to Launch VR Platform for Immersive, Multi-User Streaming of Live Events

    French VR company VRrOOm is launching a six degrees of freedom (6-DoF) social VR platform that operates within the VRChat live platform, and enables multiple users to take part in live events, and includes the possibility of real-time photo-realistic representation. Louis Cacciuttolo founded VRrOOm in 2016 after working three years at THX in San Francisco. [...]

  • Any Given Wednesday With Bill Simmons

    Spotify in Talks to Acquire Bill Simmons' The Ringer: Report

    Spotify is in early talks to acquire The Ringer, the digital content and podcast network launched by ESPN alum Bill Simmons in 2016, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. A representative for Spotify declined to comment on the report. Reps for Ringer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Spotify’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content