Hackernoon logoDo YouTube Subscribers Matter Anymore in 2019? by@kennymuli

Do YouTube Subscribers Matter Anymore in 2019?

Kenny Li Hacker Noon profile picture

@kennymuliKenny Li

Investment Analyst @ SenseTime. Founder of Worthyt. MIT Sloan 2020.

The answer is “it depends” but many times, no, it doesn’t matter.

YouTube subscribers is equivalent to followers on Instagram or Twitter. These types of metrics are some of the first things people start listing off when it comes to measuring the success of their social media channels. Beyond the measuring contest, though, gauging success based on YouTube subscriber count falls short of accurately measuring anything other than your pride. Sorry to be so blunt. But I’ll explain why I stand by my claim.

First of all, ask yourself what you’re trying to grow subscribers for. Maybe you want to monetize (from ads, freebies, sponsorship, etc.), or become YouTube famous. In either of those cases, your subscriber count will do very little to impact your eventual success.

YouTube Subscriber Count Doesn’t Matter for Monetization

Every once in a while, I see people asking this type of question on Reddit or Quora:

How many subscribers do I need to make tons of money on YouTube?

The question itself is impossible to answer because the person asking is looking at the wrong measurement: subscriber count. If your goal is to maximize the amount of money you can make on YouTube, whether it’s through YouTube ads, sponsorship, or even answering questions through Worthyt, it becomes obvious that your YouTube subscriber count doesn’t matter.

In order to effectively monetize, the big number that matters is your views count. After all, YouTube monetization doesn’t pay you every month based on how many subscribers you have; instead, it pays you based on the eyeballs that consume advertisements on your video. Even if you have a million subscribers, getting only ten views per video will net you with pennies per month.

And before you start trying to argue that more subscribers equals more views, take a look at this channel. I’ve redacted all the information except the subscriber counts and view counts for the creator’s privacy. They have over 30,000 subscribers at the time of writing this article — pretty impressive! But that’s where the hype ends. Take a look at their view count.

Over the past two months, their most popular video got 983 views. Well, unfortunately, YouTube monetization is counted in thousands of views(usually expressed as something like I make $1 per 1,000 views on average). So over the two months, this creator was not able to leverage their YouTube subscribers at all, resulting in earning maybe a dollar or two through YouTube monetization.

Of course, there are other ways to monetize, such as by fielding and answering questions from your fans on Worthyt. But the success of most of the additional ways of monetization depend on video view count, not YouTube subscriber count.

So what should you be measuring instead?

In YouTube Studio, within the analytics section, you should be looking at your Views first. Views show you how many people have watched your videos. By default, it’s set to 28 days, so you have the total views count across all your videos over the past 28 days.

I personally think that 28 days is a great time frame to measure, because it is over essentially a month. To maximize monetization, views count is one of the numbers you should get higher. Of course, increasing your YouTube views count requires you to get creative; after all, if it was really that easy then everyone could do it. But it’s not complicated, either. Some primary things you should focus on are:

  1. YouTube video tags — tags are very important. When you’re writing out tags, think of everything your viewer might search to find your video, and write that in as a tag. For example, if you are doing a video on what cryptocurrency is, don’t just tag it as cryptocurrency, but also tag it as what is cryptocurrency because that’s what viewers will be typing into the search bar.
  2. YouTube video titles — titles are a great way to boost your appearance in searches, too. Again, opt for text that your audience will be searching for. Not only will they know that the video is relevant to what they’re looking for, but it will also help with appearing in search results.
  3. Your video image — take ten minutes and actually design a good-looking one that captures your audience. Look up successful videos in your genre and see what types of images they create. Don’t copy their image, but use it as a way to inspire yours. For example, if your video is teaching business people how to give a public presentation, and you noticed all the other videos have images of Steve Jobs and sans serif, professional-looking fonts, maybe you shouldn’t use bubble letters for yours.

YouTube Subscriber Count Doesn’t Matter for Getting Famous

If you think it does, then you’ve got it backwards. YouTuber creators don’t get famous a result of their huge subscriber counts; they get huge subscriber counts as a result of being famous. YouTubers get famous because they create content that a particular audience enjoys tremendously. No one gets famous due to their subscriber count.

Even Pewdiepie, who has the largest YouTube subscribers count in the world, isn’t known for it. YouTube stars got famous after focusing hard on their channels — making a commitment to producing content, investing in equipment to motivate them to work on it, shamelessly share their videos with communities… To get views, not to just get subscriber counts. YouTuber Shan Boody said this about views count:

1000 looks ridiculous but 12,000 views is “you know this might be okay”.

Still Don’t Believe Me?

Just take a look at how much YouTube itself values subscriber count. Here’s the front page of my dashboard (yes, I am a huge Zelda fan; yes, I secretly want to grow a lush beard; and yes, I would love to watch a squirrel steal an airplane):

Nothing on this page tells me anything about subscriber count. All it shows is views count. As a viewer, therefore, one of the metrics I use to gauge the quality of content isn’t how many subscribers a YouTuber has, but instead how many times people have watched the video. Apart from that, I check the titles — are they interesting? Relevant? If so, I might just click it. I certainly clicked the squirrel one.

In 2019, whether you’re trying to maximize monetization or become famous on YouTube, you’ll need to buckle down and focus your efforts on growing the right metrics to lead to your success. YouTube Subscribers do not matter as much as other metrics like views count and serves as more of a distraction than anything. Don’t lose sleep over it.


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