×

Digital Star Popularity Grows Versus Mainstream Celebrities

YouTube creators get even more influential than last year among U.S. teens

YouTube stars have tightened their already impressive grip on U.S. teens since last year, demonstrating more influence than ever even when compared with mainstream household names including Taylor Swift and Johnny Depp.

Eight of the top 10 slots in a survey ranking talent conducted exclusively for Variety are now commanded by YouTube creators, more than the six revealed last year in a nearly identical survey. Although the top YouTube favorites have somewhat shifted — videogame whiz KSI has bumped off comedy team Smosh (aka Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla) as the top influencer — online luminaries are crushing traditional film, TV and music stars.

As executed last year, the survey compared the 10 YouTube stars with the most subscribers against the 10 traditional entertainment stars with the highest Q score among teens, a widely recognized measure of influence by advertisers and marketers. A sample of 1,500 people aged 13-17 were again asked how these 20 personalities stack up in terms of approachability, authenticity and other criteria considered aspects of their overall influence. Respondents’ answers to questions were assigned scores and translated to a 100-point scale.

YouTube stars, especially those focused around videogame content, rate high on all counts; one-quarter of the top 20 list, including the top three influencers ­— KSI, PewDiePie and Vanoss Gaming — hail from that content category. PewDiePie was named the biggest star online in Variety’s #Famechangers ranking released Wednesday.

Popular on Variety

Pop musicians Swift and Bruno Mars are the only stars to crack the top 10, with most of the mainstream celebrities, Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Steve Carell, Depp and Jennifer Aniston, clustered at the bottom of the top-20 rankings.

Celebrity brand strategist Jeetendr Sehdev, who has led efforts on both surveys, believes the viral nature of YouTube stars is contributing to their expanding power among teens. “YouTube has an inherent ability to create contagious content,” Sehdev says. “The level of advocacy teens have about YouTube stars is out of control.”

Sehdev predicts that within five years, YouTube stars will consume the entire top-20 celebrity influencer list, and aging teens will grow into a sizable fanbase for online talent overall. But that will require YouTube stars to remain genuine and relatable as they gain in popularity.

In other survey findings: Teens’ emotional attachment to YouTube stars is as much as seven times greater than that toward a traditional celebrity; and YouTube stars are perceived as 17 times more engaging, and 11 times more extraordinary, than mainstream stars.

More Digital

  • Jill Dickerson - Snap

    Snap Taps OWN's Jill Dickerson to Lead Unscripted Programming

    Jill Dickerson has left OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network after more than a decade to join Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, as a senior member of the Snap Originals team. A seasoned reality TV exec, Dickerson will help lead the development of Snap’s docu-series and unscripted programming and is based at the company’s Santa [...]

  • Deadspin - Jim Rich

    Deadspin to Relaunch Under New Editor Jim Rich, Following Mass Staff Resignation

    Deadspin, the irreverant sports news and opinion digital-media brand that has been dormant since last November, is going to get re-spun under newly hired editor-in-chief Jim Rich. G/O Media named the veteran editor and journalist, who formerly served as editor-in-chief of the New York Daily News, executive editor at Huffpost, and night sports editor at [...]

  • Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, California,

    Alison Small Set to Lead Training for Netflix in U.K. (EXCLUSIVE)

    Alison Small, CEO of The Production Guild of Great Britain, is in discussions to join Netflix as head of its training initiatives out of the U.K., Variety has learned. The Production Guild, whose members include line producers, production managers and location managers, among others, advertised for a new CEO last week. Its chair is Alex [...]

  • Picture by Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com 22/01/2020 -

    NATPE 2020: TV Biz Looks Back and Forward as Streaming Wars Ensue

    MIAMI — The atmosphere at the annual NATPE conference this year was a bit of old school and a lot of new school. In keeping with NATPE’s remit as a content market, hopeful stars of new fall talk show prospects pressed the flesh in a flurry of meetings and receptions with station buyers. MGM TV’s [...]

  • Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games -

    NBC to Produce Four Daily Tokyo 2020 Olympics Shows for Snapchat (EXCLUSIVE)

    NBC is again turning to Snapchat as part of monetizing its Olympics media rights — coveting the app’s millions of millennials and Gen Z users. NBC Olympics and Snap inked a renewed pact to present coverage of the XXXII Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo, as well as the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, to Snapchat users [...]

  • Adobe Premiere Pro_Productions

    Adobe Premiere Pro to Add Project Management, Multi-User Collaboration Tools

    Adobe Premiere Pro is about to get better at working on big projects — and letting multiple users collaborate on the same video production. The vendor is adding a new set of tools called “Productions” to its Premiere Pro video editing software. Those will provide features for managing projects and sharing assets among them, along [...]

  • Amazon Italy

    Amazon Moving Into Italian Originals With Multigenre Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

    Amazon is moving into Italian originals with a multigenre slate comprising “Bang Bang Baby,” a Milan-set mob drama with a young woman at its center, a comedy series centered around popular local star Carlo Verdone, and an unscripted food travelogue titled “Dinner Club.”  The streamer’s first forays into Italian scripted content were announced Thursday at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content