Sorry, film, TV, and music stars—today’s teenagers just aren’t that into you.
So which stars light up the sky for today’s teenagers? According to Variety, they’re all on YouTube.
The entertainment industry trade publication teamed with brand strategist Jeetendr Sehdev to survey 1500 people on the most influential figures among American teenagers. The results: YouTube stars are the real A-Listers as far as people ages 13 to 18 are concerned. In fact, the top five in Variety’s survey are comprised entirely of YouTubers. The comedy team of Ian Andrew Hecox and Anthony Padilla tops the list, followed by the Fine Bros., PewDiePie, KSI, and Ryan Higa. The first non-YouTuber to make Variety’s Top Ten was deceased film star Paul Walker in sixth place, followed by Jennifer Lawrence, Shane Dawson (YouTube), Katy Perry, and Steve Carell.
Respondents in the Variety survey rated 20 personalities on their “approachability, authenticity and other criteria considered aspects of their overall influence,” the trade paper said. Half of the 20 were YouTube personalities with the most subscribers and video views; the rest were celebrities with the highest Q scores—that’s a widely cited popularity indicator—among teenagers.
The fact that YouTube stars are dominating the attention of teenagers is not good news for the entertainment “old guard” of film, TV, and music companies. It indicates media giants are losing their hold on the all-important youth market—that’s the next generation of brand-conscious consumers. These are the people who buy movie tickets and music downloads, plus the many non-entertainment products that mainstream stars link their images to.
Adding to the sting: The teens surveyed rated YouTube stars “significantly higher than traditional celebrities” when it came to characteristics “considered to have the highest correlation to influencing purchases among teens,” Variety said. “Looking at survey comments and feedback, teens enjoy an intimate and authentic experience with YouTube celebrities, who aren’t subject to image strategies carefully orchestrated by PR pros.”
Given the untold billions at stake from future consumer sales, don’t be surprised if Hollywood responds by aggressively recruiting these and other YouTube stars for conventional film, TV and music projects. After all, the next generation of U.S. consumers is on the line. Of course, by trying to co-opt/commercialize specific YouTubers’ intimate and authentic connections with their teen fans, Hollywood run the risk of diminishing these stars’ marketability. Meanwhile, new stars will continue to arise on YouTube, confounding the entertainment industry with their unpolished appeal—and continuing to erode the entertainment industry’s seemingly outdated 20th century approach to making money.