The Most Influential Person On YouTube Is... KSI?

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:

1. KSI

2. PewDiePie

3. Vanoss Gaming)

4. NigaHiga

5. Smosh

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.”

2 comments about "The Most Influential Person On YouTube Is... KSI?".
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  1. J S from Ideal Living Media, July 23, 2015 at 3:30 p.m.

    If you had an image for this article, I could share it on Facebook and Pinterest or wherever. Get with the 2000's, Mediapost (Pro-tip: It's actually 2015)! 

  2. David Mattson from Mr., July 28, 2015 at 11:03 a.m.

    Great piece.  The Yt celebrities are incredible -  a lot of them have more followers than 'successful' national cable networks.  yet, I do not believe the endorsements they do for brands are worth it. Fame of Jenna Marbles and Smosh etc is based in large part on their 'anti-corporateness'/anti-mainstream pov.  Messages for successful brands should still be conceived and produced by real creative shops, not people who are essentially actors (and also people who don't really care all that much about the brand). 

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