The Statistical Awe of YouTube

Every so often, YouTube releases data about its awesome reach. It’s a pure advertisement, but the size of that footprint is so big it’s hard not to marvel at its sheer gigantic-ness.

YouTube’s quarterly insight for brands blog does that for me. As the second biggest search engine, it’s pretty much true that whatever in the world that can be seen, or heard, is on YouTube in some way or another, and the whole world is watching.

For example, 9% of all youths 18-34 share or comment on a YouTube video every month, 10 times as much as they interact like that with other social sites. That’s a phenomenal engagement rate, but what interests me as much is how YouTube can put such a bold underline on social trends.

Since April, YouTube analysis shows 1.7 billion minutes of World Cup-related commercials was seen on YouTube, six times more than the Super Bowl ads this year. Any doubt soccer has taken hold?

When YouTube counts heads, it turns out that not-too-smart and not-too-old rules. Eight out of the top 10 “most commented on” videos all-time are “Epic Rap Videos of History,” which, really, are hilarious.

But to hold that status tells something about the relative age of online video and its viewers. Video is just a baby.  After all, it wasn’t very long ago that the list of top cable shows for the week was made up pretty exclusively of WWE football and “Rugrats” telecasts.

Extending that TV comparison, YouTube brags that YouTube reaches more 18-34s than any cable network. Wow, you think at first, until you recognize that’s a pretty bogus stat, like comparing a bushel of apples to all the oranges in the state of Florida.

But the underlying truth is right there. YouTube hits young audiences right where they live: Quick, scattered, curious, sexy, mobile: A phenomenal 98% of 18-34s use a smartphone everyday to watch video. Every day. 

So it’s also not at all surprising that PewDiePie is the top subscribed to YouTube channel in history, with 28 million fans.

And they love him. The Wall Street Journal reported that Felix Kjellberg, who is PewDiePie, makes $4 million a year. Forbes.com, commenting on the site, made some grown-up-grumpy complaints about its often-juvenile humor, and the author quickly found out what YouTube users know: People get personally involved with YouTube personalities. The Forbes piece included two make-nice updates after the author was apparently barraged by PewDiePie supporters.

“I have nothing personally against him. I don’t know him,” the author wrote. “I know he’s done good charity work, which is to be commended. I’m not a fan of his work, just like I’m not a fan of Lady Gaga or George W. Bush or anchovies. The point in explaining that I’m not a fan of his work is to illustrate that I at once admire his success and dislike watching his material. Both can coexist. So calm down.”

That’s not likely. YouTube does engender that kind of involvement and loyalty, and that’s powerful, as any number of cosmetics companies have pleasantly discovered. The quarterly insight report is often loaded with data that makes a reader go slack-jawed, and why not?  

pj@mediapost.com

Recommend (2) Print RSS
1 comment about "The Statistical Awe of YouTube".
  1. John Grono from GAP Research , August 14, 2014 at 9:46 p.m.
    To add a little perspective to the 1.7b minutes of World Cup advertising since April, consider the following. In Australia, which is a small TV market of 23m people (around 0.3% of the world's population) we watch a little over 3 hours TV per day of which around three-quarters carries advertising, meaning we rack up around 685m ad minutes per day every day. So since April, we've totalled just under 100 billion ad minutes.