YouTube is known for fostering a community of individual content creators, but as the years progress, corporate channels are becoming more successful. T-Series, an Indian music company, overtook PewDiePie for the title of the most subscribed to YouTuber April 14, 2019, ending a months-long internet war between PewDiePie fans and T-Series listeners. While this event was brought to the forefront in 2019, T-Series is not the only successful company on YouTube. 5-Minute Crafts, BuzzFeed, Screen Rant, Troom Troom, Cocomelon and WatchMojo are companies that found success on the video sharing service. YouTube is becoming more company-friendly, leaving the individual creators of the past behind.
One of the most well-known companies who found success on YouTube is BuzzFeed. With a total of 15 channels under the BuzzFeed brand, they have more than 60 million subscribers. Their daily videos receive hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of views, showing that they resonate with watchers.
Videos produced by corporate channels, which include music videos, are featured on YouTube’s trending page more often than individual creators. YouTube is promoting company channels by pushing them to the trending page, allowing them to receive more views and impressions. The trending page can only feature 50 videos, thus promoting company channels directly leads to individual creators getting snubbed. According to content creators across the site, YouTube’s algorithm—the system that recommends certain videos to users—favors channels who produce 8-10 minute daily content. Company channels have essentially ‘won’ the algorithm by producing a large volume of high-quality videos, hence why they are promoted so heavily.
Viewers of YouTube have likely heard of the demonetization epidemic, which is where ads, the primary source of revenue for creators, get turned off for a specific video. However, demonetization rarely, if ever, affects company-run channels. Their videos get demonetized less often, and even if a video receives no ads, companies are unaffected due to the fact that they have money to spare. WatchMojo, a corporate channel with 22 million subscribers, made $7.3 million in 2018, while T-Series made $100 million.
It can be difficult for new channels to gain a following due to the high saturation of content already present on YouTube. Because of the competitive environment, individual creators often feel pressured to make their content look as professional as company-produced videos.
“When I started my YouTube channel, I didn’t want to [upload any videos] because I don’t have a camera, I don’t have lights… I definitely felt the pressure to make [my videos] look good,” freshman Kennedy Hack-Juman, who began her YouTube channel in 2020, said.
Other content creators turn to becoming incorporated themselves. Mr. Beast, a YouTuber with more than 44 million subscribers, is just one of the many examples of a freelancer becoming a company in order to continue producing content. Many of these channels do not actively broadcast their company status.
“Effective brands have a strong identity that consumers can relate to,” psychologists at the University of Southern California said. If these creators promote their company, viewers may not feel as connected to them. “I can kind of tell that the passion changes once [content creators] start getting money from YouTube [via brand deals and sponsorships],” Hack-Juman said.
Individual creators cannot last on YouTube if they continue to be demonetized and corporate channels receive more promotion. YouTube is divided; is it better to push the idea that anyone can be a YouTuber no matter their equipment or support the revenue-bringing corporate channels that expose YouTube to a larger viewer base? It is up to the viewer to decide which channels to subscribe to.