So if you are of a certain age, you've probably wondered why YouTube channels Smosh and PewDiePie got mega-popular and hit the 1 & 2 spots so quickly. Remember, Smosh has been around since the early days of YouTube, but their channel only recently saw huge jumps in subscribers. PewDiePie has been around since 2010, but he also saw an unusual acceleration of subscriber love fairly recently. The Game Theorists did a video on July 20 (when PewDiePie was a measly 2nd on the charts) that maps out, perfectly, how this rise occurred.
This is not a sarcastic, "YouTubey" look (well, some of it is YouTubey, but it's more informative than obnoxious). This really delves into the heart of the mater.
The Game Theorists' 'How PewDiePie Conquered YouTube'
As the video shows, and what we've talked about before, YouTube will push certain channels that show strength on their own. PewDiePie has been uploading multiple videos, that his target audience loves, that are 15-20 minutes in length. Remember when the YouTube algorithm started favoring watch time? Not coincidentally, already-popular channels like PewDiePie and Smosh (which also added to their arsenal with Smosh Games), which release tons of videos throughout the week, started dominating this new watch-time emphasis. YouTube sees the watch time, pushes the channels, the channels get more views, subscribers, and watch time, which in turn leads to YouTube noticing this and pushing it more, and so on.
With PewDiePie, there's a pretty much unseen extra push he's been getting. Since he's considered "international" and speaks English, he first got pushed in his native Sweden (because YouTube starts local first) and all of the English-speaking countries. A move to Italy kickstarted some more pushing to even more places.
It can be discouraging sometimes to see the top 10 YouTube channels and wonder if there's any room for you. First, you don't need to be in the top 10 to be successful, and there are a ton of "smart" channels getting millions of subscribers, and you don't even need that many to be a success. Second, "lowest common denominator" might rule YouTube, but it isn't the only thing thriving. Of course, disregard what I just said if you want to make videos like them. Have at it.
PewDiePie and Smosh show YouTube popularity on steroids. They have the perfect content to reach millions of young people. But the way they've done it is a good blueprint to follow when seeking out YouTube success: Get people to watch, get them coming back every week (or every day), and solving that algorithm takes care of itself.