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Swedish YouTuber Felix Kjellberg, 30, had the most-subscribed channel on YouTube from 2013 to 2019. WIKIMEDIA PIC
Swedish YouTuber Felix Kjellberg, 30, had the most-subscribed channel on YouTube from 2013 to 2019. WIKIMEDIA PIC

EVERY time my 4-year-old grandson, Houd Akili, comes over to my house over the weekend, he’ll ask for my handphone to watch YouTube. It appears his favourite YouTube channel is Ryan’s World; it features an 8-year-old boy from Texas, United States, who reviews toys.

Houd Akili and millions of children the world over are not the only ones who enjoy watching Ryan’s toy reviews. Many adults do, too, like yours truly, in some funny way. Ryan has become a YouTube sensation since 2015 through his family-run channel. He is the youngest and current highest-paid YouTube star, who captivates audience with his wit. He even brings his adult audience down to the age of innocence.

The fascinating thing about Ryan is that his videos have generated 22.8 million subscribers. The boy is said to have earned US$22 million last year alone. One of his videos, “Huge Eggs Surprise Toys Challenge”, released in September last year, has gotten more than 1.9 billion views, putting it on the list of the 50 most-viewed YouTube videos of all time. In total, the daily videos that Ryan and his family posted to the channel have received more than 30 billion views.

Wow! That’s huge for a tyke that age. The only job that Ryan does on a daily basis is review new toys and games that have, to an extent, influenced the toy industry and generated sales in the US. Viewers just love his wittiness and honest opinions.

I notice a common trait that successful YouTubers share — a display of their innate passion. They love what they do and
say so on social media platforms. Not only that, they take advantage of the platforms they
represent. They monetise the passion and they make loads
of money out of it.

Like Ryan, almost all YouTubers who gained millions of viewers are consistent in posting novel videos on various subjects — from how to dish out quick meals to reviewing affordable accommodations and food in their travels.

They have become towering figures who are trusted by relevant interest groups and they have significant effects, especially on consumer behaviour. In other words, they are key opinion leaders (KOLs) in niche subject matters, sometimes in a funny and novel way like product reviews, how-to tutorials and even parodies. The contents may be silly and immature for some, but if they are delightful and engaging enough, subscribers and viewers will be glued to the small screen wanting to watch more of their antics on a daily basis.

With the pervasiveness of social media in this digital age, everyone seems to have the opportunity and equal footing to be an effective KOL. Most KOLs operate online, making their name and exerting their influence on social media, in blogs and on YouTube.

Once upon a time, the print and electronic media played a significant role as key opinion leaders, but that landscape has changed. It seems now the average Joe can become a KOL on a subject matter that he is innately good at. And, a KOL does not need to possess any requirement, academically or social hierarchy, to operate online or on a social platform. They are merely the “go-to” people for their subject of expertise.

The impact of these KOLs can be great. They can alter and influence opinions about subject matters that concern the masses, especially consumers among the millennials. They can change political landscapes, like bringing down governments and creating revolutions like the Arab Spring.

As I indicated earlier, video contents must be engaging and relate to consumers’ daily needs and wants. Sometimes, video contents are so delightful and compelling that they become a form of escapism for viewers.

I have come to learn that YouTubers who accumulate enough viewers and subscribers, say more than one million impressions, can generate a handsome income for themselves.

For instance, a YouTuber will earn US$1 for every 1,000 views through AdSense.

Look at a local Chinese who runs a channel by the name of JO Channel. According to a blogger who runs blog.silvermouse.com.my, JO Channel, “who is not even in the top 20 YouTube channels by total subscribers in Malaysia, ranks first with 38.1 million views registered, which translates into US$38,100 AdSense earnings in the last 30 days”.

For your information, this home-grown YouTuber consistently posts videos of his three children playing with toys. The videos are authentic, honest and family-oriented, enjoyed by millions of viewers.

Talking about authenticity, viewers these days are hooked on honest and authentic display of their personal self or their family in social media. I guess people love to watch the dynamics of happy families on YouTube that are neither scripted nor acted out. Like the spontaneity in Ryan and JO Channel, viewers can relate to the families or dream of having similar ones, instead of their own dysfunctional ones.

C’est la vie.

The writer is a former NST
journalist, now a film scriptwriter whose penchant is finding new food haunts in the country

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