Advertising & Marketing

YouTube Personalities Wield More Power with Key Audience

Millennials Ages 13-24 Declare It’s Not Just the Cord, TV Content Doesn’t Cut It – Digital Delivers More Relatable and Entertaining Programming

Third Annual Acumen Report Finds YouTube Personalities Wield More Power with Key Audience – Nearly Half Open Content Featuring these New Celebs and over 60 percent say they Influence Path to Purchase

DEFY Media, a leading independent creator and distributor of digital content focused on the influential 13-34 demographic, today announced findings from its third annual ACUMEN Report: Constant Content. The report, conducted in partnership with Hunter Qualitative and KnoWhy Research, focused on an under-researched segment of teens and young adult Millennials to uncover what’s driving their content consumption, as well as the factors compelling viewers to stop, watch and share.

“We focused this year’s report on a younger viewing audience often overlooked by researchers in terms of their actual content habits and preferences, yet, such a powerful force driving the massive shifts rapidly taking place across the industry”

According to the report, digital content has become king and online personalities reign as the most relatable and influential, with 13-24 viewers revealing a considerable 11.3 hours weekly watching “free” online video and declaring the internet the dominant platform delivering the experience and content more suited to their lifestyle. A large driver of that consumption was that for the 62 percent majority, digital content just makes them feel good about themselves vs. 40 percent reported for TV.

The study included both quantitative and qualitative research methods, including a unique peek into youths’ social media feeds, to provide a comprehensive and thoughtful view of millennials media behaviors and influencers. ACUMEN also delved deeper into the real appeal of digital celebrities who show greater influence among this set compared to the biggest names in TV and film.

“We focused this year’s report on a younger viewing audience often overlooked by researchers in terms of their actual content habits and preferences, yet, such a powerful force driving the massive shifts rapidly taking place across the industry,” commented Andy Tu, EVP Marketing, DEFY Media. “While it should come as no surprise that this generation is spending more time online than any other medium, the study shows how wide the divide is – and importantly, ‘why’ these consumers are creating a deeper connection with digital content.”


The web just gives them what they want. According to the survey, 69 percent state digital delivers the content they want to watch and that they can relate to (67 percent) vs. TV which garnered 56 percent and 41 percent, respectively. Sixty-six percent say they turn to digital content to relax, while only 47 percent turn to TV to chill out.

These feelings correlate to their actual viewing behaviors. The findings show Millennials watching 11.3 hours of free online video and 10.8 hours of subscription online video weekly – that’s nearly twice the time reported for free online TV offerings from broadcast and cable networks (6.4 hours) or 8.3 for regularly scheduled TV. More important – while 96 percent of those surveyed say they watch online video, only 57 percent watch free online TV and 56 percent watch recorded TV with no differences across the age range.

Perhaps that’s why videos on YouTube and similar sites are rated “entertaining” by 76 percent of 13-24 year olds, compared to just 55 percent for free online TV offerings from broadcast and cable networks.


Thumb-stoppers are qualities that get youth to stop scrolling through their feeds and actually click to view a piece of content. According to the study, it does matter if you LIKE it. The findings showed the top thumb-stopper is content “liked” or viewed by a lot of people (59 percent) and second at 58 percent was content sent by “someone I respect.” For 49 percent, content with a cause or message converts to viewing.

While YouTube has long attracted a large audience for the homegrown, as the industry becomes more sophisticated it appears so does the tastes of millennials. For 13-17 year-olds, 46 percent stated they are more likely to open content that looks professional and polished – the figure jumps to 57 percent for the 18-24 set.

The study also found YouTube talent exerting that “thumb-stopping” influence, with the presence of a YouTuber motivating 43 percent of 13-17 year-olds to open and view digital content.

Sixty-three percent state that TV has too many advertisements vs. 41 percent for the web. When you break out 13-17 year olds, this figure jumps to 66 percent. Advertisers beware – neglect ‘thumb-stopper’ virtues in your content and today’s youth may likely skip it.


In August 2014 Variety released a study showing YouTube celebs’ influence on 13-17 year olds far exceeded the appeal of current top “Q” score ranked celebrities. DEFY Media’s SMOSH landed on the top of that list along with other big YouTubers, and while the data substantiated the growing popularity of these digital personalities, ACUMEN dug deeper to uncover what’s driving this movement.

For the millennial set, YouTubers ARE the modern day role models. Among the younger 13-17 segment, 32 percent responded they are more likely to look up to a YouTube personality over traditional celebrities, while the older 18-24 set reported a slightly higher affinity towards TV and movie stars (36 percent vs. 26 percent for YouTubers). Interestingly, 52% of that same group reported they still “feel closer” to their favorite YouTubers and nearly half (46 percent) stated “they like the same things I do”, while that figure jumps to 61 percent for 13-17 year-olds.

Not only do these millennials find YouTube talents more accessible and appealing, they represent a path that appears more achievable than becoming the next Seth Rogen. When asked if “I Could be a YouTube Star” – across all age groups, more than half agreed. Thirteen year-olds showed the most confidence at 56 percent with 14-17 year-olds close behind (55 percent) and 51 percent for 18-24 respondents. When asked if they could be a TV or movie star, the figures fell to an average of 40 percent.

And, the gap is even more evident when it comes to purchasing influence. A whopping 63 percent of all respondents stated they would try a product or brand recommended by a YouTube personality, while only 48 percent reported that TV and movie star power matters, irrespective of age.

These digital talents are undoubtedly today’s new superstars to an influential generation and are paving their own way onto Hollywood’s hottest red carpets. While the internet remains core to these newfound celebs, the industry has seen a number of top YouTubers attracting film and TV opportunities. It seems the millennial audience thinks they can easily replace traditional talent. When asked whether YouTube stars could be successful TV or movie stars, 13-17 year-olds responded with an overwhelming 69 percent – YES THEY CAN!

Andy Tu added, “Whether you’re a marketer or a content creator, the results magnify the growing influence of these millennial consumers and further affirmation that traditional media is falling short with this audience.”

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