Online Stars a New Breed of Celebrity Among Young Adults

The young comedians, musicians, and entertainers who made it big on YouTube, Vine, and other online platforms are changing the way audiences and entertainment companies define celebrity. Young adults and teens are watching more content online than ever before, and they have launched the careers of Vine stars and YouTube personalities, some of whom cross over into traditional media after gaining huge audiences. Teens also find online stars more relatable and engaging.

The online stars are rejecting the traditional model of making it big by finding viewers first and money later. Felix Kjellberg, the 24-year-old Swedish video game player known as PewDiePie, who happens to have the most subscribers on YouTube, made $4 million in ad revenue on his ad channel.

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He’s not the only one. Several thousand “channel partners” earn six-figure incomes through their YouTube content, according to Variety. Others make money by transitioning to traditional media, like comedic actor Lucas Cruikshank who signed a deal with Nickelodeon to produce three “Fred” movies and a 20-episode television series.

One survey conducted by Variety found that YouTube stars are more popular among teens than mainstream music, film, and TV celebrities. The survey found that the top five celebrities among teens are YouTube stars.

Smosh, the comedy duo of Ian Andrew Hecox and Anthony Padilla, were at the top of the list, followed by the comedic Fine Bros. Benny and Rafi, and PewDiePie. The mainstream celebrities that made the top 10 were Paul Walker, Jennifer Lawrence, Katy Perry and Steve Carrell.

The survey results also indicate that YouTube celebrities are more popular because they are more relatable.

“Teens also say they appreciate YouTube stars’ more candid sense of humor, lack of filter and risk-taking spirit, behaviors often curbed by Hollywood handlers,” reports Variety. The online celebs also have the highest connection to influencing teen purchases because they are engaging, extraordinary and relatable.

With that amount of fame, it’s no wonder that traditional media studios are trying to tap into this talent. Disney and DreamWorks have acquired YouTube startups in deals that are worth more than $100 million.

“The viewer is the new studio boss,” said Will Keenan, president of Endemol Beyond USA. “We can’t force content on people anymore.”