That's The Sway It Is: Young Viewers Trust YouTube Stars Most Of All

I don’t think many kids or families resembled “The Brady Bunch,” but back when network television was pretty much all there was, they must have seem faintly like somebody kids recognized.

Fast-forward to today, and a new study from Defy Media pushes the affinity clock forward: YouTube stars are much more influential for 13-17s than TV or movie stars, and that attitude seems to stick even among older teens and young adults.

Defy's latest Acumen Report looked at 1,350 young people between the age of 13-24 in Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Atlanta who were surveyed over two weeks and had their social media use monitored.

The report says 62% of 13-year-olds would try a product suggested by a YouTube personality, but only 43% say they would be swayed by a TV or movie star. YouTube’s clout stays the same with teens stays just about constant with 14-17s (actually up a percentage point) and 18-24s. The study also says over half of 13-24s follow a YouTube star on social media.

The reason, of course, is because these viewers relate to YouTube stars, since many of them are exactly like them--students, living at home, buying stuff, playing games, hanging out, being awkward. A large part of the charm of YouTuber’s videos are that they are homemade. Literally. In the bedroom or the basement.

“YouTubers are described as: just like me, understands me, someone I trust, has the best advice, doesn’t try to be perfect, genuine, someone I feel close to, and likes the same things I do,” the report says. “YouTubers and TV/Movie stars are viewed equally as aspirational, meaning they have traits youth strive to achieve: someone I look up to / I respect / I’d like to be, does the things I want to do, and has unique or special talents.”

This study plays to Defy Media’s wheelhouse,certainly. It’s a huge multichannel network serving 13-34s. Defy claims to generate 500 million video views and attract 125 million viewers a month, with brands like Smosh, a YouTube channel that, beyond its bad-boyness, just seems like a bunch of young kids screwing around. YouTube’s lack of fake can’t be faked; Smosh is Exhibit A.

“ ‘Rebellion’ and ‘Reflection’ were themes we observed most often when youth described appealing content,” the report says. Rebellion is a check on the mainstream or a message that you don’t-have-to-grow-up. Youth in the study described this content as ‘random and hilarious.’ Reflection normalizes common events and engenders feelings of, “That’s me!” and youth described such content as ‘relatable.’ "

But, the report explains, “Rebellion and Reflection materialize as two ends of a spectrum rather than either-or. An ‘activity I could imagine doing with friends’ may seem Reflective, but if the activity is a stunt gone wrong (‘major fail’), it can look like Rebellion.”

Which, to me, is a long way of saying that every time someone young goofs up on YouTube, it’s a marketable event.

If this report is 100% right and if these teen attitudes don’t change, TV is in for a very bumpy ride ahead, though that's not news. The Acumen report says, once you add it up, young people spend 28.5 hours a week watching something online from sources ranging from YouTube to Netflix, and just 15.8 hours watching TV, live or on DVR. “The Brady Bunch” kind of television doesn’t mean much to them.
1 comment about "That's The Sway It Is: Young Viewers Trust YouTube Stars Most Of All".
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  1. Dane Golden from Octoly, March 5, 2015 at 6:43 p.m.

    Thanks PJ for reporting on this. I'm glad Defy did a study that backs this up with quantifiable data, but of course this has been intuitively true for a long time. YouTube is a very personal medium where fans feel an extremely strong connection to their favorite YouTubers, and in turn the best YouTubers don't even consider their fans as such, but rather as friends. Thanks for the article!

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