Love them or hate them, the stars of YouTube have gained a considerable foothold on the cultural current, especially for younger generations who grew up with the platform. What they do on their videos ranges from unpacking boxes of stuff to crazy pranks to infotainment.
And it’s no secret that if you are lucky enough to hit it big, the revenue from YouTube can make you into a millionaire. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows; when you put yourself out there as a personality, sometimes the people don’t like what they see. Here are 42 facts about just some of the many YouTube stars currently creating the online content that either mystifies older generations on enthrals younger ones.
“Surround yourself with people you like and make cool stuff with them. In the end, at least in my experience, what you do isn’t going to be nearly as interesting or important as who you do it with.”—John Green
1. And We’re Off
YouTube stars are big cultural movers these days, but the platform had humble and simple beginnings. The very first YouTube video was called “Me at the zoo” and it was posted by the site’s cofounder Jawed Karim on 23 April 2005.
2. Just a Paycheck
In 2017, the highest grossing YouTuber was Daniel Middleton, who goes by the handle DanTDM. His channel started with videos of him playing Minecraft and Pokemon. With more than 16 million subscribers and over ten billion views of his videos, Middleton made $16.5 million in 2017. Not bad, I guess.
3. Record Breakers
Dan Middleton, the top YouTube earner in 2017, is also a world-record holder. He currently holds two Guinness World Records. The first is for “Most goals scored in a game of Rocket League for a team of two” and the second is for “Most views for a dedicated Minecraft video channel.” Sure, they may be pretty specific, but hey, are you a world record holder?
4. Voice of a Generation
Dan Middleton has taken his success as a YouTube star beyond the social media platform and into more traditional venues. He lent his voice to an episode of the animated Netflix series Skylanders Academy, where he played a character named Cy.
5. A Novel Idea
In October 2016, DanTDM released a graphic novel entitled Trayaurus and the Enchanted Crystal, which features a number of characters from his various YouTube shows. The book earned the number one spot on the New York Times best seller list for graphic novels in Japan.
6. Different Platforms
A big, and controversial, name on YouTube these days, Logan Paul didn’t actually gain his early followers on the platform at all. Instead, he started on the now defunct Vine app where he performed a number of pranks with his friends in Los Angeles.
7. Look Ma, I’m on TV!
After gaining a big following on YouTube, Logan Paul made the jump to another small screen. In 2015, he appeared on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He also made an appearance on Fox TV’s series Weird Loners.
8. I Have This Screenplay
Logan Paul has recently started to try his hand at screenwriting. He wrote the screenplay for the as yet unreleased film Airplane Mode, which he describes as “Expendables with internet stars.” The film everyone has been waiting for!
9. Controversy Strikes
In November 2013, Logan Paul released a music video for his song “No Handlebars” which stirred controversy on two fronts. A number of people criticized the lyrics for being sexist while Jamie Laurie, frontman for the hip hop group Flobots, derided Paul for the unauthorized sampling of the beat from the Flobots song “Handlebars.”
10. A Terrible Idea
Logan Paul made international headlines in all the wrong ways in 2017 when he uploaded a vlog to his channel that showed a recently deceased man in Aokigahara in Japan, which is known as the “suicide forest.” A number of petitions were made on Change.org to have his channel deleted by YouTube, with the biggest petition receiving more than 500,000 signatures.
11. Young at Heart
Because YouTube is an open platform, anyone can potentially gain a huge following. Ryan ToysReview is a perfect example of that possibility. With the help of his parents, Ryan posts unboxing videos where he then reviews new toys. The young YouTuber has become one of the top earners on the website. Between 2016 and 2017 he made around $11 million in revenue from his videos. Did we mention that Ryan is just seven years old?
12. Real World Effects
With the millions of consumers who tune in obsessively, companies recognize the power that YouTube can have for generating sales. For example, Ryan ToysReview videos have had real effects on the sales of particular toys in the industry. Ryan even announced his own line of toys at the 2018 Toy Fair in New York, called Ryan’s world.
13. Extending the Play
YouTuber Olajide William Olatunji, known by the handle KSI, has used his success to kickstart a career in the music industry. In 2016 he released his debut EP, Keep Up, which went on to reach the number one spot on the UK R&B Albums chart.
14. Goal Fest
In 2013, YouTuber KSI got his name into the Guinness Book of World Records Gamer’s Edition. He broke the record for “most goals scored against a computer” in the FIFA game franchise. The previous record was 110 goals, which he broke in a video called “KSI VS FIFA // The Record Slam” when he scored 190 goals.
15. Humble Beginnings
With nearly 20 million followers and a burgeoning music career, KSI is currently one of the top YouTubers on the platform. To think, when he started uploading videos, all he was doing was talking about association football in England and playing FIFA.
16. Streamlining Service
As much as YouTubers occupy a number of genres, which include popular gaming channels, the biggest slice of the platform still belongs to music in general. Music videos receive 67% of all views on YouTube, especially thanks to VEVO, which brings in some of the biggest pop stars on the planet.
17. Major Beef
Online feuds between YouTube personalities are nothing new, but now those feuds are going offline and into the ring. A number of stars have begun participating in white collar amateur boxing. One of the first bouts to gain major attention was between YouTubers KSI and Joe Weller. The fight was held at Copper Box Arena in London, England and KSI one by technical knockout in the third round.
18. Meeting Your Heroes
KSI’s YouTube videos of himself playing FIFA video games have given him a number of dream opportunities due his popularity on the platform. A known Arsenal F.C. supporter, KSI was invited onto BT Sport to play with England and then Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
19. YouTube Red Carpet
With the success of so many stars, YouTube started a separate subscription channel, YouTube Red (now YouTube Premium), in 2016. Along with a number of original series and miniseries, the subscription service has seen 24 original movies starring a number of the platform’s stars.
20. Game Changer
YouTube is everywhere and popular videos have a huge effect on the real world. That’s why Time magazine named gaming YouTuber PewDiePie on their list of “The World’s 100 Most Influential People.” His videos of indie games have given big boosts to sales for small titles.
21. Who Needs a Degree?
With more than 65 million subscribers, gaming YouTuber PewDiePie initially pursued a degree in industrial economics at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. The Swedish internet personality dropped out in 2010, which allowed him to focus more time on his gaming videos.
After he dropped out of Chalmers University, PewDiePie lost the support of his parents and had to earn his own living while kick-starting his YouTube career. He scraped together money selling his Photoshop art and working at a hot-dog stand. Seems like it paid off, if you ask me.
In September of 2015, PewDiePie became the first star on the platform to amass over ten billion views for his videos, which often feature gameplay commentary on indie horror titles.
24. Cutting Ties
In 2016, PewDiePie got into trouble for a number of videos that included anti-Semitic jokes and Nazi imagery, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. Although the YouTuber claimed the jokes were not meant to cause offense, his company, Maker Studios, which is owned by Disney, cut ties with the star in February 2017.
25. By Degrees
YouTube personality Jenna Marbles has a strong educational background to support her video output. She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Suffolk University and a Master of Education in Sport Psychology and Counseling from Boston University. That’s not a bad CV!
26. Written in the Stars
Marbles got her start in the online world behind the scenes rather than in front of the camera. She started her career as a writer for the sister site of Barstool Sports, StoolLaLa.
27. Little Big Business
With the popularity of her comedy videos on YouTube that frequently feature her two dogs, Jenna Marbles created her own dog toy brand called Kermie Worm & Mr. Marbles. The toys feature the likeness of her real-life dogs.
28. Funny Because True
Two of the most popular videos on Jenna Marbles’ channel feature her comically discussing “How to Avoid” various social situations. “How to Avoid Talking to People You Don’t Want to Talk To” has around 36.2 million views while “How To Trick People Into Thinking You’re Good Looking” had over 5.3 million views in its first week alone.
29. Before the Dawn of YouTube
YouTube has capitalized on a growing trend of self-created content on the internet. Future YouTube stars Daniel Anthony Padilla and Ian Andrew Hecox, known as the comedy group Smosh, got their start on their own website, smosh.com, which was started in 2002.
30. A Gathering Place
The original Smosh website created by Padilla and Hecox became a forerunner for some of the work that would happen between YouTube stars. The website hosted a number of videos from other content creators including TomSka, who later also made it big on Youtube.
31. Breaking the Mould
Smosh created what was perhaps the first hugely successful video on YouTube when they uploaded “Pokémon Theme Music Video” in 2005. The received over 24 million views and was the most-viewed video on YouTube it was replaced by Judson Laipply’s “Evolution of Dance.”
32. You Sound Familiar
In 2016, comedy duo Smosh lent their voices to the animated flick The Angry Birds Movie, which was based on the video game franchise. The duo played Hal and Bubbles and it was the first film for the pair to see major release in theatres. Because if you’re making an entire movie out of an iPhone game, you might as well see the way the winds are blowing and cast YouTube stars.
33. Award Winners
As two of the original YouTube stars, Smosh have also won quite a few awards for their work. Between YouTube awards, Social Star Awards, Streamy Awards, and Webby Awards, the pair have won seven times and have been nominated a further 12 times.
34. Rough Start
Before YouTube began its partner program, which provides a revenue stream to its biggest stars, some found it tough to make ends meet. Phil DeFranco, for example, even had to sleep in his car and had to sell most of his possessions. He asked his viewers for donations to help make ends meet in those early times.
35. Ad Spots
Philip DeFranco exemplifies the kind of money that YouTubers can make with a bit of graft. As his news/entertainment channel has grown, he has been solicited to create videos promoting Carl’s Jr. burgers and television shows such as Lie to Me and Fringe.
36. Cashing In
HBO tried to cash in on the potential of streaming services with HBOLabs. As a promo for the new online service, HBOLabs launched a web-series called Hooking Up in October of 2008. The ten-episode series featured YouTube stars Philip DeFranco, Jessica Rose, and Kevin Wu. However, many savvy web-users saw the show as a cheap attempt to cash in on the new online video craze, and it was not well received.
37. Low Budget
Although The Philip DeFranco Show is now one of YouTube’s most popular programs, it was originally produced on a budget that makes shoestrings seem like a luxury. The original videos of the series were short and shot in black and white because all DeFranco could afford was a $20 black and white camera.
38. I Can Manage
Sarah Penna has become a major player behind the scenes of the YouTube community. She is the co-founder of Big Frame, which is a Multi Channel Network on YouTube. She started as Phillip DeFranco’s manager, and was one of the first managers ever for a YouTube personality.
39. Striking it Rich
To help foster its creator content, YouTube launched its Partner Program in May 2007. The program is based on AdSense which allows uploaders to share ad revenue made from the website. Around 55% of the ad revenue goes to content creators through the Partner Program.
40. Are You on the List?
Due to the success of some YouTube stars, many content creators are out to make it big with the service. Currently there are over one million members of the YouTube Partner Program, which divvies up ad revenue to content creators.
41. Under Copyright
One of the biggest hurdles for content creators are copyright laws and regulations. A report in 2010 showed that nearly one third of uploaded videos receiving ad revenue contained footage without permission of the copyright holders. Honestly, that number seems kinda low if you ask me.
42. The Force Awakens
In May of 2013, to begin fighting against copyright infringement on YouTube videos, Nintendo announced that it would begin a program to share revenue with video creators featuring Nintendo games. A number of YouTube stars, including PewDiePie, have criticized the monetization move for its adverse effect on gamers who were already featuring Nintendo games.