YouTube stars are becoming increasingly powerful.
A new survey from digital content company Defy Media digs deeper into why digital media stars have captured the hearts of young people.
In a multi-part study that involved in-depth interviews and social media surveys, Defy Media found 62% of Americans ages 13-24 like digital media just because it makes them feel good.
“One of the reasons that people are going to digital platforms rather than TV is that they just like the content a lot more,” Andy Tu, EVP of marketing at Defy Media, told Business Insider. “It’s easier to relate to, and it makes them feel better about themselves.”
Many young millennials (those in the 13-17 age group) said they admire YouTube stars even more than they do traditional Hollywood celebrities. Tu said the feeling comes, in part, from the idea that YouTube fame is relatively attainable.
“We had someone tell us, ‘I like Nicki Minaj, but I can’t relate to Nicki Minaj. All she talks about is making money.'” Tu said. “For YouTube, there seems to be this respect for them being who they are. When we asked them if they thought they could become famous on YouTube, a lot said yes.”
Defy polled 1,350 people ages 13-24 — who were evenly distributed in terms of ethnicity, race, income, and education — and interviewed 36 people who answered questions in pairs.
For the interview portion, each person was asked to bring in the person they interact with on social media the most, usually a close friend.
“With the buddy pair, you get much stronger responses,” Tu said. “They play off each other, call each other’s bluffs.”
Before the interview process even began, the surveyors observed each of the young people on social media, following them on YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Facebook, Snapchat, and Pinterest, in order to track their viewing habits.
Defy Media found that young people are watching 11.3 hours of free online video — YouTube, Vine — and 10.8 hours of subscription video — Netflix, Hulu Plus — each week. They spend 6.4 hours weekly watching free online offerings from cable networks, and 8.3 hours watching regularly scheduled TV.
The Defy study also found that young people look to social media stars for recommendations in many aspects of their lives.
63% of all respondents said they would try out a product or brand that a YouTube star had recommended. Only 48% said the same for TV and movie stars.
The young people surveyed seemed to feel a closeness with the YouTube personalities, at a level they hadn’t felt before with Hollywood actors.
“A lot of people pointed out that [YouTube stars] didn’t skip any days. They were posting videos on Christmas, on other holidays, every day of the year,” Tu said. “They had this bond or relationship with these YouTubers, almost like they were someone they already knew in their regular life.”
Defy shared this video of clips from their interviews.
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