When it debuted in 2005, YouTube was just another platform for the individual with a yen to create video content to make free use of. A decade later, the proliferation of streaming media on all manner of devices including smartphones has also made YouTube super-star central.
There are literally thousands and thousands of user-created “channels” where individuals can command audiences on just about any topic or subject at hand. The content is free to watch in unlimited amounts so it stands to reason that viewers, especially the Millennials, have found YouTube to be their own version of traditional television.
As the viewership grew, so did the appeal of a certain set of YouTubers. The most famous and highly-subscribed to channel belongs to PewDiePie. Known as Felix Kjellberg in real life, he commands an almost-Beatlemaniac audience of over 42 million.
Other stars include Zoella, Gravy3yardgirl and Lilly Singh. These ladies have been getting write-ups in international publications and for what? They have millions of subscribers as well, but it is the affection with which the subscribers aka viewers watch and follow them that is most curious to anyone past the Millennial generation mark.
What is it that makes YouTube stars so popular? In the first place, it seems that the younger audiences have to have something for themselves –something that their parents just don’t understand. It is the typical young generation voicing itself and “rebelling” against the older generation.
Today’s youth tend to enjoy following these YouTubers because the content is free to watch and it comes in bite-sized viewing portions. This makes a five or 10- minute video perfect for any in-between moments. With a smartphone, these clips can be enjoyed while waiting for an appointment, a bus, a class and anything in between.
Because the video clips normally consist of nothing more than the star speaking into an iPhone camera, there is also an immediate sense of intimacy. It is like the viewer gets a casual, but meaningful one-on-one interaction where they can be entertained, informed and given secrets and tips that they feel no one else can hear.
The talent found on YouTube also typically goes outside the norm of what might be seen on traditional television. There are no limits to what can be done or said. This makes the viewing all the more addicting.
One thing that seems to be occurring with the rise of YouTube stars is advertising. This is seen as a sell-out by most subscribers. If their favorite star starts doing quick promotions for a sports drink or a particular makeup, it can often be a bad thing. That is, it is bad for the young viewer. Jukin Media is one such company capitalizing on the opportunity of advertising profits from viral videos, owning such channels as Fail Army and JukinVideoDotCom.
It turns out that product manufacturers are getting hip to the YouTube star trend. They realize the value the stars on YouTube have and are starting to see dollar signs.
Like any other medium, however, being a star takes a certain “something.” That magic is impossible to define, but it is an essential part of all the YouTubers who have millions of subscribers.