Traditionally, the planet’s rich and famous gain their celebrity status from the glamorous world of film and TV, music or even politics. But there’s a whole new breed of ‘celebrity’ making a name for themselves and they’re doing it entirely from the comfort of their own home. You guessed it, it’s YouTubers.
But, with 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, what does it take to get noticed? We analysed the YouTube profiles of the 50 most-subscribed-to vloggers to work out exactly what it takes to become a top YouTuber.
Today, over 1 billion hours of YouTube videos are watched a day and the top 50 YouTubers alone have a collective 1.2 billion subscribers and 409 billion views. On average, the top YouTubers have uploaded 1,526 videos in total each. That’s some serious dedication to the cause.
But, have wannabe YouTubers missed the boat to fame? Or can newcomers still climb their way to the top? Well, of the top 50 YouTubers on our list, over two fifths (42%) joined the platform between 2011 and 2013, suggesting this may have been the lucky window of opportunity to get seen. This isn’t to say new vloggers can’t succeed though. Popular child stars, Vlad and Nikita, joined the platform in just 2018 and now have the 6th most-subscribed-to YouTube channel on our list.
“But, what should I vlog about?” I hear you ask. When it comes to genres, some are certainly more popular than others. Among our list of the top 50 YouTubers, over a quarter (28%) of them fall under the gaming genre, while nearly half (44%) slot into the broader category of entertainment, including lifestyle themes, interviews, challenges and pranks, and comedy.
Subscriber numbers aren’t the be-all and end-all though. There may be more gamers than kids’ entertainment vloggers in the top 50 most subscribed channels, but when it comes to view counts, kids get eight times more views on the average video than gamers.
So, which genre to pick? If you want the loyal following of a huge subscriber base then gaming is a pretty good choice, but if you’re after the buzz of a viral sensation viewed by millions, kids’ entertainment is the one.
Since YouTube launched its monetisation programme for creators in 2008, the potential to earn big has been a key incentive for vloggers to grow their following. And boy does it pay off if you get it right.
In 2020, YouTubers in our top 50 list earn an average of $139k per video and $22.7 million a year. Topping the rich list is Like Nastya, who earns an astonishing $1.2 million per video - and she’s only six years old. In fact, YouTube’s youngest stars are raking it in. Comparing genres again, kids earn 15 times more than gamers!
It’s evident a high subscriber count doesn’t guarantee you the big bucks though, with top gamers such as PewDiePie and Elrubius OMG earning pennies in comparison to the children (though still an incredibly generous sum), taking home a respective $131.4k and $126.4k per video, despite ranking first and fifth in the list.
So, what exactly does a top YouTuber look like in 2020? Is there a formula for fame?
Of our top 50 most subscribed vloggers, 82% are male and the average age is 24. So, while the child stars are big hits, the platform is still dominated by young adults. In addition, 74% primarily speak English on their channel, followed by 12% Spanish, 10% Portuguese and 4% Russian. 44% are from the U.S., though 1 in 10 of the top 50 are also from Latin American countries, such as Brazil, Mexico and El Salvador, where it is evident YouTube plays a big role in modern life.
And, when it comes to the winning content itself, the average length of the top 50 YouTubers’ most popular video is 12 minutes and 4 seconds, capturing viewer’s attention without exhausting them. While gamer PewDiePie is the most subscribed channel, the most popular video of all time is 'HUGE EGGS Surprise Toys Challenge with Inflatable water slide' by Ryan's World, which, you guessed it, features Ryan opening eggs with toys hidden inside and playing on a water slide.
Beyond the kid’s genre, parody music videos appeared to be the most favoured type of content, ranking number one most popular among many of the top vloggers’ back catalogues. These often arise off the back of disputes with other YouTubers, coming in the form of ‘diss tracks’, because vlogger rivalry and manufactured drama is hot in the world of YouTube. Some of the most popular diss tracks, including PewDiePie’s “B**** Lasagna”, Jake Paul’s “It’s Everyday Bro” and Logan Paul’s “The Fall of Jake Paul” are the vloggers’ most successful videos to date.
Our research is based on a list of the top 50 most-subscribed-to independent YouTubers (excluding any created by already established celebrities, companies and brands). The list was curated using data from Nox Influencer and Cash Lady. We analysed various different factors that can contribute to the overall success of YouTube’s top vloggers, drawing conclusions and making calculations based on averages and comparisons.
Data on genre, primary language, date of account creation, number and frequency of videos, subscriber numbers and view numbers, were sourced from the YouTube channels of the top 50 vloggers. Data on nationality, age and income was sourced from Nox Influencer, with annual calculations made based on average earnings per video and the number of videos the individual posts on average a year. All data was collected in April 2020, which you can view here.