YouTube, a video-sharing website, revolutionized the media landscape more than ten years ago. It is amazing to see the sheer volume and diversity of content uploaded on YouTube. It is a popular platform for artists, businesses, and commentators from all walks of life. YouTube, like many other platforms in the digital ecosystem, has become a focal point in debates about issues such as online harassment and misinformation, and the effect of technology on children.
Amid this growing focus, and in an effort to continue demystifying the content of this popular source of information, Pew Research Center used its own custom mapping technique to assemble a list of popular YouTube channels (those with at least 250,000 subscribers) that existed as of late 2018, then conducted a large-scale analysis of the videos those channels produced in the first week of 2019. The Center identified a total of 43,770 of these high-subscriber channels using a process similar to the one used in our study of the YouTube recommendation algorithm. The data collected provided a number of insights into content on YouTube.
YouTube produces a lot of content.These channels posted almost a quarter-million videos within the first seven days, totaling 48.486 hours. This figure is to be understood in context. A single person would need to watch videos for eight hours per day, with no breaks or days off. It would take more than 16 years just to view all content from the most popular channels. These channels averaged 12 minutes in length and received 58 358 views during their first week.
These videos were viewed more than 14.2 billion times over the first seven days of being on the platform.We recommend Get Fans to boost your subscribers.
YouTube is a global phenomenon, and its most popular channels posted a substantial amount of content in languages other than English.The Center used a combination hand-labeling with machine learning to classify videos based on whether they had any audio or text in a language other that English. This analysis shows the worldwide nature of YouTube. 56 percent of these channels posted videos in the first week of 2019. The majority (72%) of these active channels posted at least one video in another language. Only 17% of nearly 25 million videos in this analysis were in English.
These channels post the majority of their content from a small number of active creators.This is also true for many online platforms, such asTwitterA relatively small number of channels contributed the majority of content during the study period. Only 10% of the most popular channels were responsible for 70% of all videos uploaded by these channels in the first week. The 10% most popular channels that received the most views during this period also contributed 79% to all views of new content posted by these channel.
In the second half 2018, there was a dramatic increase in the number of high-subscriber channels.The Center’s mapping process identified 9,689 channels which crossed the threshold of 250,000 subscribers between July 2018 and the Center’s last conduct.An analysis of YouTube dataThe data were updated in December 2018 for this analysis. This represents an increase of 32% in popular channels during that time. The average number of subscribers to popular channels identified as of July 2018 grew by 27% in the same time frame.
Pew Research Center conducted an additional content analysis of English-language videos uploaded by these channels during the first week in 2019. In total, 37,079 videos were included in this analysis. The Center used human coders in order to identify the primary theme or category of each video, such as video games, consumer technology, current events or politics. It also looked at keywords used in descriptions and video titles to find words that are more commonly used and have higher views than other videos. These are some of the most important findings from the analysis:
Video content aimed at children was very popular. So were videos featuring children younger than 13 years old – regardless of intended audience.Based on consensus among human coders, only a small percentage of English-language videos uploaded by these popular channels over the study period were intended for children. However, those that were included in the study received more views and were longer than general-audience videos. Videos featuring children under 13 years old – regardless of whether they were aimed at children or adults – got nearly three times the average number of views than other videos. The videos targeted at young audiences were a small minority.AlsoThe most popular content that featured a child younger than 13 years old was the one identified in this analysis, as measured by views.
YouTube clearly states that YouTube is not for children younger than 13. YouTube provides a YouTube Kids platform with enhanced parental controls and curated video playlists, but the analysis in this report focuses on YouTube as a whole.
These popular channels posted English-language videos about current events and politics. They tended to be more international than U.S.-focused.The majority of English-language videos that were uploaded during the study period included videos related to politics or current events. This represented 16%. The majority of these videos did not include any U.S.-related issues, events or opinions. The channels that featured U.S. politics or current events videos were especially active, posting on average 63 videos per week. However, U.S. politics or current events videos accounted for only 4% of all videos posted by popular channels.
YouTube’s most popular channels featured video game content.During the study period, 18% of English-language videos uploaded by popular channels were related to gaming or video games. Video games were the most popular content, as measured by the number of views over the seven-day period. These videos also had a higher average length than other videos.
Increased views were associated with certain video title keywords.Analyzing the titles of English-language videos, it was found that certain keywords had higher views than other videos during the study period. These numbers point to the platform’s focus on entertainment. Videos that included words such as “Fortnite,” prank, or “worst”, received five times more views than videos without these words. Others were more substantial in nature. The use of “Trump” as a title in videos about American politics or current events was associated with significant increases in median views. During the study period, 36% of American current events and politics videos posted by these channels included the words “president” or “Trump” within their titles.
Cross-promotion of videos via other social media channels was widespread and was associated with an increase number of views.These videos featured seven-in-ten other social media platforms in their descriptions (either as links or text), and received more views than those that didn’t link to other platforms.
The above findings are based on an analysis of YouTube channels with at least 250,000 subscribers and the videos they posted over the week of Jan. 1-7, 2019, building in the Center’s previous study of the YouTube recommendation algorithm. We used a variety of recursive, randomized methods to search millions of YouTube video recommendations and identify as many unique channels possible. 1,525,690 channels were found as of January 2019, with 43,770 having at least 250,000 subscribers. These channels are considered “popular channels” for the purpose of this study. Researchers collected all videos published on these channels in the first week of 2019, and then tracked each one for seven days.
Definition of the most popular channels Center set a minimum threshold for channels to be included in the analysis at 250,000 subscribers. This cutoff allowed the analysis to be focused on the most popular channels while also keeping the analysis to a manageable amount of channels that could easily be tracked and monitored in a timely fashion. It is possible, however, that a lower threshold or the inclusion of more channels could have produced different results.
YouTube is always changing.This report analyzes videos posted by channels that have a certain amount of subscribers in a given time period. Many channels have lost or gained subscribers since then. The publishing habits and viewing habits of popular channels have also changed. YouTube has been around since.Several changes were made to its policies information about what content is acceptable to be published. These and other continuously changing factors mean that the results presented here may not reflect the activity of other channels at different times in the future, present, or past.