The rise of the YouTube star

The digital age breeds a new type of celebrity

Picture of Ellen McLean

Ellen McLean

Zoella, Jenna Marbles, PewDiePieSmosh and a little closer to home, JackSepticEye are just some of the huge names coming out of YouTube. Many people will never have heard of them, but in the YouTube world they have a combined following of 87 million subscribers. In October 2015, Tubular labs reported that there were more than 17,000 YouTube channels with more than 100,000 subscribers, and nearly 1,500 with more than 1 million.

With more content going online in today’s digital age, is it any surprise the younger generation prefers YouTube personalities to A-list celebrities?

YouTube stars are accessible, with mobile devices now the main way we access the web, we can watch them at anytime, keep up to date with their content, and react instantly.

And crucially, they know how to interact with their fans, making them feel part of a real experience. In a survey of 13-18 year old teens published by Variety magazine, they found that ‘teens enjoy an intimate and authentic experience with YouTube celebrities. Teens also say they appreciate the YouTube stars more candid sense of humour, lack of filter and their risk-taking spirit, behaviours which are often curbed by Hollywood handlers’

But YouTube stardom isn’t just a hobby; it’s a serious business. PewDiePie pulled in $12 million over the past year, all down to his heavy commentary of videogames. Lindsey Stirling, the dancing violinist raked in $6 million last year, closely followed by Michelle Phan, a well-known beauty entrepreneur who earned close to $3 million. Most of these earnings come from advertising, but stars reinvest in themselves, creating product lines or writing books. The possibilities to make money are endless when you reach a particular level of YouTube stardom.


Earning a Six figure salary and holding your appeal to the masses is a major challenge, and with more and more brands trying to sponsor YouTube Stars videos, it’s important that they don’t appear to have ‘sold out’ and making fans turn off.  Some will struggle to stay connected to their fans as business takes off, but not all. 

Finding the blanace between allowing a Youtuber to mantain their individuality and integrity while still promoting a product or service is the new challenge for PR agencies. 

If you have a product or service that you'd like to get exposed to hundreds of thousands of highly engaged, well connected, young YouTube fans, talk to our sister company LK Communications, experts in talent identification and sponsorship.

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