×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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.

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

  • Nancy Pelosi

    Facebook on Defensive Over Fake Pelosi Video

    Facebook faced growing criticism this week over its decision not to remove a video that was doctored to suggest that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was intoxicated during a recent public event. The video, which has been viewed more than 2.5 million times, had been slowed down notably, giving the impression that Pelosi was slurring her [...]

  • Little-Black-Mirror-Maia-Mitchell

    Netflix Launching 'Little Black Mirror' Video Series Starring Maia Mitchell, Lele Pons, Rudy Mancuso, Juanpa Zurita and More

    To promote next month’s premiere of “Black Mirror” season 5, Netflix is launching a short video series — “Little Black Mirror,” with a cast that includes an ensemble of Latinx social-media stars. The three “mini-stories,” aimed at Spanish-speaking audiences, are inspired by the tech-dystopian universe of Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones’ anthology series. “Little Black [...]

  • Twitter

    Twitter Permanently Bans Anti-Trump Krassenstein Brothers, Who Deny They Broke Platform's Rules

    Twitter permanently suspended the accounts of Ed and Brian Krassenstein — progressive political activists famous for trolling Donald Trump and his supporters — with the company alleging the brothers used bogus accounts to amplify their reach on the platform. “The Twitter Rules apply to everyone,” a Twitter rep said in a statement. “Operating multiple fake [...]

  • Snapchat

    Snap in Talks to License Music to Let Snapchat Users Embed Songs in Posts

    Snap wants to up Snapchat’s music game. The company has been in negotiations with music companies including the big three — Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group — to license song catalogs for the Snapchat app, according to two industry sources familiar with the talks, confirming a Wall Street Journal report. [...]

  • T-mobile - Netflix - John Legere

    T-Mobile Passes Netflix Price Hike Through to Subscribers

    T-Mobile is getting ready to raise prices for subscribers who have taken advantage of its “Netflix On Us” promotion: The mobile carrier will begin charging existing customers who have participated in the promotion an additional $2 per month to account for Netflix’s recent price increase. Consumers will see their bill go up starting on 6/2. [...]

  • Oona King

    Snap Hires Google Exec Oona King as First VP of Diversity and Inclusion

    Snap continues to fill out the ranks of its revamped leadership team: The Snapchat parent tapped Oona King, most recently Google’s director of diversity strategy and a former member of British Parliament with the Labour Party, as its first VP of diversity and inclusion. King, who starts at Snap on June 11, is also the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content