The mainstream press, or whatever passes for it, still has a bemused attitude toward YouTube. Millions of fans who have watched billions of short videos and made huge stars out of people you’ve no doubt never heard of, even if you’re one of those people who follows the stars.
Starting today, when as many as 21,000 people stream to Anaheim for this year's VidCon, you can count on a few stories about masses of people pouncing on these seemingly no-name YouTubers. And this weekend, when “Smosh: The Movie” starts getting around the country, we’ll see just how deeply YouTube culture has gone beyond smartphones and laptops and into the mainstream.
I think we might be surprised by that answer.
Jeetendr Sehdev, whose JAAM index is a scientific approach to ensure celebrity brand partnership success, conducted at USC's Annenberg School of Communication, would be the first person--I mean, really, really the first person--to tell you that to millennials and younger, what’s happening on YouTube, is that a new kind of star is being born.
They’re more authentic, more entrepreneurial, more personal, than what’s come before. Their followers are really followers--like a whole next-gen group of Deadheads.
In his new ranking of both traditional celebrity and YouTube stars, he finds young people “are far more likely to be influenced by candid, honest and relatable YouTube stars than more aloof and manufactured mainstream celebrities.” That’s even though--or maybe because--YouTube stars don’t do the star-making stuff.
Sehdev, in fact, says the duo who are Smosh, 27-year-old Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox, damaged their cred by walking the Video Music Awards red carpet last year. It was so not them. They didn’t damage it too much: They still have 35 million YouTube subscribers.
Here’s the JAAM index list of famous people teens find most influential:
3. Vanoss Gaming)
6. Marki Plier
7. Bruno Mars
8. Miranda Sings
9. Taylor Swift
10. The Fine Bros
11. Jenna Marbles
12. Bethany Mota
13. Sky Does Minecraft
14. Morgan Freeman
15. Shane Dawson
16. Jim Carrey
17. Michelle Phan
18. Ray William Johnson
19. Will Smith
20. Denzel Washington
All of the names you don’t recognize from “Entertainment Tonight” are YouTube stars, even the ones that don’t sound like they are. For example, Sky Does Minecraft is 23-year-old gamer Adam Dahlberg. KSI is a video game rapper who goes by that name. Vanoss Gaming is a person named Evan Fong. And so on.
Sehdev, who is British, is pretty sure YouTubers are the first millennial spawned celebrities marketers have to work with. “It’s a challenge for marketers to be authentic,” he says, in a way that doesn’t sound rude in a conversation as it reads in print. “Marketers have to be fully transparent about what they are doing.”
If, for example, a movie is being marketed, the millennial approach would be to just let the truth out. “Marketers want to tell people what they want to hear. They have to say, ‘This is who I am. I don’t care if you don’t like it. They have to be brave enough to be polarizing.”The YouTube fans are loyal to their YouTube stars, and vice versa. PewDiePie, the biggest YouTube star there is, wonders why people would think he would want to “do” TV or movies. In the eyes of a YouTube generation, the hierarchy video does not compute. What happens as they get older. “What is their shelf life? Sehdev asks. “Everybody has one.”