Swedish gamer Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, or should I say his online Alter ego, PewDiePie, has hit the headlines this week after it was revealed that he earned more than $4 million in ad sales in 2013 alone, thanks to his devoted fan base of 27 million subscribers on You Tube.
To put these figures into perspective, if you look at the listener figures for the radio Breakfast shows here in the UK, Radio 2 (Chris Evans) – 9.85m, Radio 4 (Today Show) 7.1m and Radio 1 (Nick Grimshaw) – 6.2m, you can quick see that he has more subscribers than the all 3 of the top radio station shows here in the UK combined.
With these kinds of figures, it is easy to see why PewDiePie signed a deal with the online content producer Maker Studios and why Maker Studios themselves later sold itself to Walt Disney Company (which is the parent of ABC News) for a whopping $500 million, with another $450 million possible if it meets performance thresholds.
Sure his videos are pure marmite and although I personally find them incredibly annoying in a Fred the Movie 2.0 kind of way, I understand that this market is not aimed at myself, but if you are a 12 year old gamer, I completely see the appeal.
This is helping resolve a problem for the entertainment industry as millennials have proved elusive for advertisers for some time now as they continue to turn away from the humble television set and spend the majority of their time online in alternative and niche communities.
Pewds himself recently told the Wall Street Journal, “Unlike many professionally produced shows, I think I’ve established a much closer contact with my viewers, breaking the wall between the viewer and what’s behind the screen,” he said. “What I and other YouTubers do is a very different thing, it’s almost like hanging around and watching your pal play games. My fans care in a different way about what they are watching.”
The landscape is changing and advertisers need to adapt to a world where social reach and content is king as people no longer respond to the traditional methods or marketing.
Erin McPherson, chief content officer at Maker Studios summed up these changes perfectly by giving the advertising industry a wake-up call by saying “Stop making ads, start making content”
However it is somewhat interesting to see a company like Disney using someone like PewDiePie as a poster boy when his shows feature him swearing like a fisherman’s wife, much to the delight of 12 year olds who are irresistibly attracted to this naughtiness, but hasn’t this always been the case? Sure my dad didn’t understand my love of the Young Ones TV show or choice of music when I was a kid so much of the pointed out grumpiness can probably be attributed to the generational aspect of what kids and their parents like.
I know full well that if I was a millennial growing up in the modern world that there would be nothing worse than having my whole family seeing what I get up to on Facebook and listen to Coldplay in my room and watching CSI like my dad.
This is one of the many reasons why content created by people that don’t care about target audiences and simply create videos for fun with a certain amount of innocence is taking off in an increasing number of niche communities.
So, in answer to the critics of PewDiePie and their ilk, you are quite right that much of the material is dumbed down, annoying, crass and too loud, but as a 12 year old that was brought up on Tiswas and the Young Ones, this is exactly the reason we loved these shows. So let’s try not to look into the past with rose tinted glasses and try to remember that some things will never change.