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zoella and bookZoe Sugg, a YouTube blogger known as Zoella, posing with her debut novel, “Girl Online.”REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
  • YouTube personalities like PewDiePie and Zoella are seeing a massive slowdown in subscriber growth and views, according to social stats analysed by Business Insider.
  • YouTube stars have seen years of growth as vlogging has exploded, but it looks as though the golden days are over and the most business-savvy creators will need to diversify.
  • Popular creators like H3H3Productions have blamed YouTube’s algorithms for an apparent slowdown in subscribers or viewers.
  • There’s no official explanation, but YouTube has had to tweak its algorithms a lot in 2017 to tackle inappropriate content.

The internet is a fickle mistress.

Popular YouTube stars like PewDiePie and Zoella are seeing a huge slowdown in their online subscriber growth, signalling that even the top earners will need to look beyond video to maintain their popularity and income.

Business Insider analysed statistics from SocialBlade, a website that tracks channel statistics for YouTube and other social networks, and found a trend of slowing subscriber growth and channel views.

Famous YouTubers experienced years of massive growth, but it’s slowing down

PewDiePieFelix Kjellberg, a YouTube star known as PewDiePie, at the launch of his book “This Book Loves You.”John Lamparski/Getty

Let’s look at PewDiePie, one of the most successful and established YouTubers, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg.

As PewDiePie, Kjellberg built a base of fans who enjoyed watching him play games, though he quickly branched out into goofball comedy and, increasingly, philosophical musings about the news, his fame, and YouTube as a platform.

This graph shows that Kjellberg’s total number of subscribers has been increasing over time, which isn’t much of a surprise — he’s one of the highest-earning YouTube stars of 2017, according to Forbes, and has almost 60 million subscribers.

PewDiePie subscribersKjellberg’s number of subscribers has increased since 2015.SocialBlade/Business Insider

But the picture isn’t so positive when we look at the number of subscribers a month.

Since January, the number of people subscribing to Kjellberg’s channel each month has slowed.

PewDiePie subscribersThis graph suggests Kjellberg hit “peak YouTube” in late 2016.SocialBlade/Business Insider

There’s a finite number of YouTube watchers in the world who will be interested in PewDiePie — and after seven years in operation, Kjellberg’s channel may have hit peak subscriber growth. In other words, anyone who wants to watch his videos regularly has most likely already subscribed.

This is fine if Kjellberg can maintain or increase his monthly views. That would mean that even though he’s hit peak subscribers, his audience is still loyal and engaged.

But his monthly views are slowing, too.

The graph below shows that through 2015, Kjellberg’s channel regularly hit at least 300 million views. Fast forward to October, and the picture is one of decline.

PewDiePie viewsIt looks as though fewer people are watching Kjellberg’s videos each month.SocialBlade/Business Insider

The picture is similar for other big-name YouTubers.

Zoella is seeing slowing growth across her 2 main channels

Zoe Sugg, known as Zoella, is probably the most famous female YouTuber in the UK.

She has noticeably branched out into books, events, beauty products, and a (poorly received) advent calendar. That’s a lot of product diversification.

And if you look at Sugg’s YouTube stats, it’s easy to see why she’s trying to build a brand empire.

The first chart shows how, like Kjellberg’s, Sugg’s total monthly views have been falling, meaning fewer people bother to watch a new video when she uploads one — even as her subscriber count increases.

Zoella views and subscribersThis is a huge slowdown.SocialBlade/Business Insider

Sugg’s channel for superfans, MoreZoella, is seeing the same pattern.

MoreZoella YouTube statsSocialBlade/Business Insider

Even the super popular ‘Minecraft’ vlogger DanTDM isn’t immune to the slowdown

dantdmDaniel Middleton, known on YouTube as DanTDM.YouTube

Daniel Middleton, or DanTDM, is a British YouTuber who vlogs about gaming, particularly “Minecraft.” He’s hugely popular among the game’s fans, and DanTDM is one of the most popular British YouTube channels.

He also topped Forbes’ list of the highest-paid YouTube stars in the world, with an estimated income of $16.5 million (£12.3 million).

But his stats over 2017 should probably prompt him to look beyond YouTube. He’s doing that already with shows around the world where his fans can pay extra to meet him.

Like Suggs and Kjellberg, Middleton saw a slowdown in subscribers and monthly views through 2017 compared with 2016 and 2015.

DanTDM statsSocialBlade/Business Insider

There are some notable exceptions to the trend

Philip DeFranco, YouTubePhilip DeFranco.YouTube/Philip DeFranco

Philip DeFranco — the fast-talking host of “The Philip DeFranco Show,” an opinionated and popular daily news show on YouTube — was featured in YouTube’s Rewind 2017, an annual recap of the year’s viral videos and vloggers.

DeFranco has a network of channels, and Business Insider looked at his main one.

DeFranco is also seeing slowing subscriber growth, but his monthly views have been increasing. In other words, people don’t necessarily want to subscribe, but DeFranco still captures lots of viewers.

Philip DeFranco statsSocialBlade/Business Insider

Husband-and-wife team H3H3Productions also bucked the trend

Ethan and Hila Klein are a couple who produce videos under the name H3H3Productions. They’re known for YouTube “reaction videos” satirising other YouTubers, but also for general commentary on internet culture and comedy sketches.

Like just about everyone else, they had something of a slowdown in subscribers in the latter half of 2017. But they largely had a good year.

They also managed to boost their monthly views through 2017, meaning their later videos are most likely landing better with their audience.

H3H3Productions YouTube statsSocialBlade/Business Insider

High-profile YouTubers have complained about site glitches affecting their stats

It isn’t clear why this is happening, but it is a lesson for creators who have carved out a living producing videos for YouTube.

In November 2016, Ethan Klein said in a video that the site was mysteriously unsubscribing some people, including Kjellberg. At the time, he speculated that subscription glitches were due to the site’s changing algorithms. Other YouTubers weighed in, saying their views had been “really bad.”

After several scandals about inappropriate content on the platform, YouTube is having to be a lot more careful about what it promotes through its algorithms.

In November, BuzzFeed uncovered an autocomplete bug in which users were prompted with the search term “How to have s*x with your kids” if they typed “How to have” in the search box. And advertisers including Mars boycotted YouTube after The Times found paedophilic comments underneath videos with children.

It’s possible that this, plus a wider crackdown by Google, YouTube’s parent company, on fake traffic from bots, may be affecting viewing figures. Regardless, it looks as if it’s likely to be a tough 2018 for YouTube’s creators.

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