The Pew Research Center has published a fascinating insight into what makes YouTube’s most popular channels tick. By observing said channels for the first week in 2019, analysts were able to track some interesting trends for creators with over 250,000 subscribers.
This is no small undertaking. For the week that Pew analysed the content, the top channels pushed out nearly a quarter of a million videos, coming to some 48,486 hours – or around five and a half years’ of video. “To put this figure in context, a single person watching videos for eight hours a day (with no breaks or days off) would need more than 16 years to watch all the content posted by just the most popular channels on the platform during a single week,” the report notes.
So what were the main findings? Well first of all, not every one of these videos was a hit, even with the large subscriber base. In total, they got over 14.2 billion views in the week, but it was far from uniform. While the average was 58,358 views per video, half got fewer than 3860.
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But there are some things that unite the most popular videos: gaming and children.
Videos featuring games accounted for 18% of all uploads – the second-highest category behind the catch-all “Misc./other” – and received the highest median views per video as well as a mean average of 120,000 per video.
Videos featuring children, on the other hand, got nearly three times as many views as other videos. More worryingly for YouTube, which officially isn’t aimed at children, is this line: “The very small subset of videos that were directly aimed at a young audience and also featured a child under the age of 13 were more popular than any other type of content identified in this analysis as measured by view counts.”
That’s awkward, because the terms of service say the site isn’t for children under the age of 13, with the company creating YouTube Kids for that demographic. Given the most popular videos in the category featured titles designed to appeal to the search algorithm rather than readers (“SUPERHERO BABIES MAKE A GINGERBREAD HOUSE SUPERHERO BABIES PLAY DOH CARTOONS FOR KIDS” got nearly 14 million views), it looks like YouTube will have to keep one eye on child safety, whether it wants to or not.
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