Media Portfolio: PewDiePie’s Rise to YouTube Power

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LINK TO PRESENTATION

VIDEOS:

A Funny Montage // http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRyPjRrjS34

Comments Update // http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8RjqMTHMcQ

If video killed the radio star, then YouTube reinvented the video star. Since its creation in 2005, YouTube has created a platform on which the “common man” to become a sensation. One of these people is Felix Kjellberg, or as he is more commonly known, PewDiePie; a 24-year-old YouTube personality from Sweden who now holds the record for the most subscribers in the entire history of YouTube (see: Socialblade.com). That number is currently 30,923,977 and is climbing daily. Although five years ago, the idea of making one’s entire living off playing video games and recording yourself doing it would have seemed laughable, he now makes at minimum an estimated 2.4 million dollars annually. What’s baffling about this is that most of the videos PewDiePie releases have a low production value and consist of him playing a horror video game, making rude jokes, and screaming (see: A Funny Montage).

As it goes when a person gains popularity, the love PewDiePie receives from his fanbase, “the Bros,” is rivaled and sometimes surpassed by the hate touted by large parts of the Internet gaming community (see: “In Defense of PewDiePie”). So then, why does PewDiePie have so many subscriptions, even when his videos are accepted by most people in the gaming community as low quality? Does this mean that quantity really does win over quality in the game of Internet fame? What is it about PewDiePie that got him more subscribers than YouTube itself?

One area of interest that may explain some of his popularity is the YouTube algorithm itself (see: YouTube’s Secret Algorithm) . YouTube tends to promote channels that have a large number of “views,” as can be seen at the bottom right of each video. The very nature of PewDiePie’s content, playing games in their entirety, is a prime vehicle for gathering a large amount of views. If the viewer starts watching, for example, PewDiePie’s playthrough of the indie horror game, Outlast, they would have to watch 12 separate videos. The sheer amount of videos PewDiePie publishes combined with how many of them are in a series like the one above accounts for the staggering 6.1 billion views he’s cumulated since his channel’s debut in 2010. Another factor that YouTube’s algorithm looks at when determining which videos and channels to promote on its main page is the length of time each person spends watching a video, and video game playthroughs tend to be much longer than comedy, beauty, or music videos do. These two factors may have a larger hand in his incredible amount of subscribers than the actual content does. In terms of the raw numbers, it may be that quantity is more important than quality, but there must be something about his content that is keeping his fans around. Or perhaps he actually isn’t? One way to explore this further might be to examine the turnover rate of the people who subscribe to him, because although his number of subscribers is increasing, an inability to keep the same subscribers consistently watching his videos may indicate that his popularity is merely a result of the number of YouTube users in total increasing coupled with YouTube’s promotion of his channel.

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