Felix Kjellberg is king of the YouTubers … transforming our concepts of entertainment, influence and celebrity

March 7, 2018

YouTubers, also known as vloggers – people who regularly post their own video shows on YouTube – have become the new celebrities, the most significant brand influencers, and multi-millionaires in the process. Whether it’s daily fashion tips from the bedroom of a teen girl just like you, or a review of the latest digital games and how to get the highest scores, cookery tips straight from somebody’s kitchen, or a travelog captured on a mobile phone, YouTubers are the masters of self expression in the digital age.

It might seem like vanity, to turn your phone camera towards yourself, and start telling the world what you think, but YouTubers are followed and listened to by millions. These are not highly paid celebrities, paid to say “I’m worth it”, these are people just like you. Their shows can be quite informal, fairly amateur in their camera skills and laid back in their chatting style, but that just makes them more authentic. For the YouTubers, their regular videos – or channel, as it becomes – can evolve into a vocation, combining passion and profit, even a route to global stardom and multi-million dollar fortunes.

YouTubers first came to my attention in the world of teen fashion and cosmetics, when I wondered what my two teen daughters spent their hours watching online. When they suddenly became incredibly knowledgable of the the latest brands, which they just had to buy now, I became more intrigued. Michelle Phan, for example, was an early YouTube superstar, initially broadcasting her beauty tips, and recommended products, but then deciding to take matters into her own hands, setting up a “beauty curation” brand  of her own called Ipsy. Zoe Suggs did the same for a younger demographic, and her Zoella brand was suddenly a best selling book, alongside the Zoella brand of cosmetics, accessories and clothing.

More recently, gaming and sports, comedy and music, have become the top genres of YouTubing. Whilst many see it as entertainment, vloggers have fundamentally challenged the marketing models of sectors from fashion to entertainment, and also the preference for watching a homemade video channel over a high production TV show. Males have become the most watched YouTubers, drawn from countries across the world. A recent book even asked “Are all YouTubers psychopaths?” … Here’s how the king of YouTube, PewDiePie responded:

To get a closer look into which stars rule YouTube, take a look at the SocialBlade rankings to see who had the most subscribers. This focuses on independent YouTube stars, disregarding YouTube channels like mainstream music artists. Here’s how the new generation of YouTube stars stacks up in 2018:

#1. Felix Kjellberg, Sweden, Gaming

Subscribers: 60.4 million

Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, is a boisterous Swedish video game commentator whose videos feature him playing various video games, while a box in the top corner of the screen shows his reactions to what’s happening. His YouTube account has over 60 million followers. The Brighton-based vlogger came into a negative spotlight last year after a Wall Street Journal report described anti-Semitic messages in his videos, leading Disney and YouTube to cut direct business ties with him (though he hasn’t been barred from YouTube). His 2017 estimated salary was $12 million.

#2. Germán Garmendia, Chile, Comedy

Subscribers: 33.1 million

Chilean YouTuber Germán Garmendia is Latin America’s biggest YouTube star. The comedian and musician has two channels in the top 20. He released a book in 2016 titled, “#Chupaelperro.” He became famous with his video “Las Cosas Obvias De La Vida” (“The Obvious Things of Life”). Besides HolaSoyGerman., Garmendia has another YouTube channel called JuegaGerman, which has 24.4 million subscribers and is focused on video games.

#3: Ruben Gundersen, Spain, Gaming

Subscribers: 27.3 million

Rubén Doblas Gundersen, better known on YouTube as ElRubiusOMG, is a 27-year-old Spanish YouTuber. He’s the most followed Spanish YouTube star. Like other popular YouTubers, Doblas Gundersen is a gamer who does walk-throughs, reviews, and more, peppered with funny commentary. He published an interactive book called “Troll” in 2014.

#4: Whindersson Nunes, Brazil, Comedy

Subscribers: 26.7 million

Whinderssonnunes, 23-year-old Whindersson Nunes, is a Brazilian YouTube star who does comedy and vlogs. He uploads parodies, songs, movie reviews, and videos about his daily life. He started making videos at 15.

#5: Konrad Dantas, Brazil, Music

Subscribers: 26.6 million

Konrad Dantas, the 29-year-old Brazilian music video director known as Canal KondZilla, has one of the fastest growing pages on YouTube. His first upload to the site came in 2012 with a music video for the Brazilian rapper Nego Blue.

#6: Cory and Coby Cotton, USA, Sports

Subscribers: 26.5 million

Dude Perfect is a channel from twins Cory and Coby Cotton and three of their college friends from Texas A&M, all of whom are former high school basketball players. They do sports tricks and comedy, some of which makes fun of sports stereotypes.

#7: Luis Flores, El Salvador, Gaming

Subscribers: 26.2 million

Fernanfloo — Luis Fernando Flores — is a YouTube star from El Salvador known for his gameplay videos and wacky antics. His dogs sometimes make appearances in his videos.

#8: Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla, USA, Comedy

Subscribers: 22.6 million

Smosh, started by comedy duo Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla, was one of the first YouTube sensations, becoming well known for the duo’s slapstick comedy videos that parodied video games and pop culture.Anthony Padilla left the Smosh channel in June 2017 to create his own solo YouTube account, which now has over 2 million followers. In 2017 they made $11 million.

#9: Evan Fong, Canada, Comedy

Subscribers: 22.3 million

VanossGaming (or Vanoss) is the YouTube name of Evan Fong, a 25-year-old Canadian. While not much is known about Fong, he posts comedy videos that show him playing various video games. What sets his videos apart is the quality of his editing — he frequently posts montages that compress his hours of gaming into one compact video of funny moments. In 2017 he is estimated to have $15.5m earnings.

#10: Samuel de Luque, Spain, Gaming

Subscribers: 20.8 million

Samuel de Luque is a wildly popular Spanish YouTuber who has become known for his voiceovers of gameplay videos for “Minecraft,” “Saint’s Row,” and “Battlefield.” His signature style is to create elaborate narratives and histories for the characters in his video games to make them “like a movie.”

#11: Mariand Castaned, Mexico, Beauty

Subscribers: 20.5 million

Yuya or Mariand Castrejón Castañed is a 24-year-old Mexican beauty vlogger. She posts makeup, hair, and other beauty tutorials, and has a secondary channel where she talks about her day-to-day life. Yuya’s beauty-tutorial channel has featured her in Vogue and on Mexican television.

#12: Ryan Higa, USA, Comedy

Subscribers: 20.4 million

Ryan Higa, who goes by the username NigaHiga, was one of the first major YouTube stars. Higa produces a variety of comedy videos, including sketches, music videos, and short commentaries on pop culture. His videos have high production value and a professional touch, with a quick, funny, and incisive sensibility.

These two recent documentaries dive deeper into the world of YouTubing:

So you now want to know how you can make millions by just chatting to your phone?

Hold on a second. A recent Bloomberg News study found that vloggers who dream of earning a fortune shouldn’t get too exciting. It said 97 per cent of those who aspire to follow her will not earn enough to rise above the poverty line. Mathias Bärtl, of Offenburg University in Germany, says that even channels in the top 3 per cent with 1.4 million views a month attracted annual advertising revenue of only $16,800.

Bärtl admits that the lucky few vloggers who reach the top still make a fortune. The most-viewed 1 per cent of channels earn more than $10,000 a month, he says. Whilst the above rankings are based on subscribers, revenues don’t always follow the same line. Forbes Magazine estimates that Daniel Middleton, the English gaming vlogger known as DanTDM, made $16.5 million last year. A YouTube spokesman said that the number of channels earning six figures was up 40 per cent on last year.

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