This year, we saw the ascent of Smosh to the #1 subscribed channel on YouTube. Smosh passed Ray William Johnson early this year, and not too long after, Jenna Marbles passed RWJ to become #2. Over 2013 Smosh was the first to achieve subscriber milestones of 7, 8, 9, and 10 million. It will be at 11 million in a couple of weeks. But by the end of the year, and possibly in a matter of months, Smosh will no longer own the crown. It'll be PewDiePie. Many of you may not know the channel. But what it does is leverage one of YouTube's top draws: video game play-through commentaries. And PewDiePie comes out with lots of content.
PewDiePie's 'Secret' to Success
A short six months ago Greg Jarboe wrote about the "Best and Worst Channels of 2012," and in a snapshot of the top 10 channels, PewDiePie sat at 3.1 million subs. He's at 9.3 million now, and getting a whopping 50,000 subs a day, more than twice what Smosh is currently getting (and Smosh continues to grow at an awesome rate). One of the interesting points brought up in Greg's piece came from the YouTube Creator Playbook, where it says:
Your channel’s activity is summed up by your channel feed, your main line of communication with your subscribers. A powerful communication tool, your feed should promote the content important to you, stay updated, and never overwhelm your subscribers with too much content.
But that's sort of what PewDiePie does. He's got 3 times the videos of Ray William Johnson, 9 times the content of Jenna Marbles, and 4 times more than Smosh. And his main draw are these type of videos (some bad language):
The fact is, video game walkthroughs are huge on YouTube, and he's got that kind of personality where people might subscribe just based on the "how is he going to react next?" aspect of it. You don't even really have to like video games, you just might like seeing him freak out or make comments. And he uploads a video practically every day. Once you're a big channel, almost all of your uploads are going to attract attention. If you're a popular channel and play a popular video game over a multi-part series, like he's currently doing with the survival horror game The Last of Us, every one of those videos is guaranteed to hit a million views (and currently, he has 13 episodes just for that game). The game was released on June 14 worldwide, so he's been able to tentpole that for a couple of weeks now.
So the question is, "Is overwhelming your subscriber feed really a bad thing?" It's an interesting study: the more videos you upload, the less amount of subscribers-per-video you're likely to get, but in the meantime, the actual number of subscribers is going crazy high. In that same article, we find that Machinima (another video-game-centric channel) has a very low ratio: they upload tons of videos a day but don't get lots of subscribers per each upload. But they're the #7 most-subscribed channel on all of YouTube and collect around 10 million views a day. There's something to be said for efficiency I guess, but 10 million views a day, and currently 15,000 subs a day? You're doing something right, even if you are overwhelming your subscribers' feeds. And with Machinima, the cost of all that content has to be low: so much of it is from independent creators who are part of their network.
How much is really too much? Is there a line? Is efficiency the goal? I look at SourceFed as a channel that throws mounds of content at their subscribers every day. It's clearly one of the most successful channels, thanks to Philip DeFranco, but also thanks to their personalities and constantly throwing content out there to see what works. In a little more than a year, the channel has close to a million subs with nearly 1,800 videos uploaded. The efficiency there is 541 subs per video. But it has over 377 million views overall.
There are clearly times when a channel's content can overwhelm a subscriber feed, like in the case of Machinima, but many times I think people just skip over what they don't want to watch and are glad there are a lot of choices. And they subscribe based on the fact that you don't seem to be going away any time soon. You aren't a channel that's going to come out with one random video at some random time. It's nice for some creators to be able to come out with one video a week and become a top subscribed channel based on that, but some creators have more in mind, and I think that's clearly okay. Whatever works, right? In the case of PewDiePie, it's going to vault him to #1 in subscriptions.
Thanks to VidStatsX for reference during this article.