“A” List, “B” list, etc on the internet?

Shane Dawson finally starts to get it
Shane Dawson appears twice in the top ten. Like all of the most successful channels Shane allows free rating and comments. Like many of the most successful YT artist he cultivates muliple channels which cross refer to each other. The largest category in the YouTube A list is Comedian. Even though hot women get high views, they don't get the same viewer loyalty as the laughsters do.

The terms “A list”,  “B list“, etc – in short just about any letter of the alphabet plus “list”, all the way down to  “ZZZ list” followed by the word celebrity is used in modern speech as a way of categorising the degree of stardom a person in the media has achieved. So they can be said to be on some letter’s list all the way from being only slightly well-known right the way through to being a major international star, or an ex-star who has wained and gone back down the letters again. 

People seem to know who is “A list”, “B list”, etc, although I am not sure that there is any objective criterion for the measurement of this stardom. The most objective you can get for traditional media like television is who draws the most ratings. Even the criterion of makes the most money is not the most objective criterion as there are people that don’t make that much money despite the fact that they are extremely recognisable and extremely popular. Look at the Pope for instance. He is certainly an A-lister even though as a monk he is consigned to earn nothing and live in destitute poverty in the Vatican surrounded by priceless art works and attentive flunkies bearing gold, frankincense and grappa.

With relation to the new media thinks like you tube particular and also if you like the blogosphere what could in fact agree on a much less arbitrary way of measuring who is what list or who has made what list.

I thought of a system which I myself used to categorise various YouTube stars in my own mind, and that is based on subscribers other could also be based on views.

If we take the idea that anyone who has the greatest number of subscribers on you tube is automatically a list of the YouTube is concerned, and in the good old days you could go and find out who the most subscribed channels were – which still is actually possible only they have the module well hidden these days. The place is http://www.youtube.com/charts but nothing on any of the main pages seems to link there, you have to know it.

Let me produce – as once again the info isn’t available on YT without researching it out, the top ten subscribed channels and their subbers list, and views so far:

  Highest Subscribed Channels of All Time – YouTube as per 20/11/2010  
  Channel name Style (in own words) How many videos? Since Country Thousands of Subs Millions of Views
1 nigahiga Asian 72 2006 USA 2871 605
2 RayWilliamJohnson Comedian 146 2008 USA 2295 567
3 ShaneDawsonTV Comedian 140 2008 USA 2090 427
4 Fred Improv 78 2005 USA 2047 644
5 smosh Comedian 144 2005 USA 1958 516
6 MysteryGuitarMan directors 108 2006 USA 1530 179
7 machinima trailers 12330 2006 USA 1454 1620
8 ShaneDawsonTV2 Comedian 153 2009 USA 1451 210
9 realannoyingorange Comedian 48 2010 USA 1362 345
10 sxephil directors 601 2006 USA 1348 449

So nobody would deny that these guys are YouTube A listers. The least of the top ten, Phillip de Franco, has 1.3 million subscribers, ie declared fans. He has been watched 1,5 times for every person in his country. The chances are that if he spends on hour in a public place, he’s been recognised at least once and probably much more.

The tenth in the list has only half the success of the first. In YouTube terms, even if sxephil had only a quarter still of his success, that would still be a big success. 

I decided to assume that if anyone has subs that are up to 10% of the subs number of the biggest member of the population, then that’s enough to be in the A list, which means that in YouTube anyone with in my opinion over 300,000 subbers is an A lister. How many of them would there be? Well, using the link above, right now there are 132 such channels, with simonscat being about where the cut-off is. Many people below that level may not be A-list on the worldwide scale, but are certainly youtube A list for their own country, even Germany‘s second most subcribed is not above that number. Not every channel has an identifiable face, some are also teamwork channels, so in the end you may have about 100 faces that could appear as the YouTube “A list” of celebrity.

Should the B list be much larger than the A list? Of course, but how much larger? The statistics go as far as 500 channels and the 500th channel has 102 thousand subscribers, and owing to repetitions and non-face related channels in those 500 you could say that there are three times the number of B listers as A listers, and the cut-off to be a B lister is three times lower in terms of subscriber numbers than to be an A lister.

After the 500th video, we don’t see the stats anymore. youtube may well have them and analyse them but don’t seem anxious to publicise them, so we are cast back a little bit on assumptions and guesswork. So with my reputation as a class-A business meddler, sorry, modeller, I’ll have a crack at modelling what is going on there, and to do so I’ll make  the assumption that this observed triplication of population at each third of the previous hurdle holds good, and then we get the following analysis:

Name of list lower threshold # subbers Number of channels in the group Cumulative number of channels
A 300 000 134 134
B 100 000 366 500
C 33 333 1 098 1 598
D 11 111 3 294 4 892
E 3 704 9 882 14 774
F 1 235 29 646 44 420
G 412 88 938 133 358
H 137 266 814 400 172
I 46 800 442 1 200 614
J 15 2 401 326 3 601 940
K 5 7 203 978 10 805 918
L 2 21 611 934 32 417 852
M unregistered 64 835 802 97 253 654

This extrapolation suggests that there are about 32 million accounts going on YT and that 97 million people (close to the population of internet users, hence not entirely implausible) have been viewers of YT.

It also suggests that if like me you have subber numbers in the low 3000s, then as far as YT over all is concerned, you can see yourself as an F lister, with the chance to be an E lister if the subber number hits 3,700 before the goalposts change upwards. That’ll have to be my ambition for 2011, as it doesn’t look set to happen for me in 2010! Hoever, you can give yourself one letter up the ladder for your list status in your own country if it’s a big country, other than the US. So as an Englishman I could be seen as E list among the English already. For a medium sized country like Poland you can add two letters, and so the likes of me and Alan Heath being on the list for Poland would probably make the D list. But if we were in a small country, say Slovakia or Denmark, then someone with that subscriber number might well be classified as C list. 

At the end of the day if 3000 people have subscribed then probably three times that number would recognise you, and having 9000 out of 5 million people knowing you is presumably the equivalent for a Slovak or 600,000 people out of 300 million recognising you on the scale of the USA.  And if in America you have 200,000 subscribers, then you’re already firmly B list by the above reckoning.

There’s nothing official about this, it’s just the way I view it, in order to keep a bit of perspective and realism – there must be, by this analysis, at least 15,000 people on YouTube better known than me.

But the model would predict that only 2,000 people on YouTube are better known than me in Poland, which is also quite possible. Now and again, even I get recognised in the street. And I was invited to appear on Polish TV.

Let me know what you think of the analysis and how it works out in your case if you’ve got a channel.

Applying the same rules to A-list, B-list etc bloggers is something I won’t do today, but I might come back to it in the future.

2 thoughts on ““A” List, “B” list, etc on the internet?

  1. Hi Viktor,

    For once in a while I have to say that I disagree with you. For me the value of YouTube is that it caters so well for minority and specialist interests. It is possible to search YouTube on just about any subject and find that somebody has made a video of it. For example, in addition to learning the Russian Language, I have researched church organ playing, permaculture and fan assisted wood-gas stoves. None of these subjects would attract large audiences and so are not likely to appear on broadcast television, where mass market appeal is the driver, but with YouTube they can be played selectively and on demand by anyone who is interested. Within a particular subject, of course it is possible to rate the quality of a contribution for content and presentation. Huliganov’s series on the Russian Language and Uncle Davey’s Gold List Method are definitely A-list in their field for me. I do watch Huliganov’s other material occasionally because it gives a fascinating insight into Huliganov’s background, just as I take an interest in other people in my life, but this is secondary to my main reason for visiting, which is learning Russian.

    For any YouTube session there are two ends involved, the provider and the viewer. I think that to use your tables to evaluate providers is only telling half the story. What about the viewers? Probably it is true to say that most viewers of YouTube have common interests in comedy and sex and that is why there are so many comedians in your a-list. It is a measure of the fact that comedy is a common interest to so many viewers, it is not that the comedians are better providers than any of the other content providers on YouTube. Probably these a-list providers supply only a tiny portion of the total content on YouTube. It is the huge diversity of subjects on YouTube that gives it strength. Even though a subject may potentially have a small number of interested viewers, those viewers who do find the specialist content they are seeking are well served.


  2. Peter,

    Thank you for the kind references to my work and saying that it’s A list for you. I can’t disagree with that! I was really only talking about the issue of celebrity and youtube. Celebrity has really very little to do with intellectual quality, and in fact I did not even go into whether this is something I particularly wanted for myself.

    The idea here is to give to someone, if what they are looking for on YouTube is not to become, say the most respected on-line expert in a small field of study, but to be actually known and recognised in restaurants (which is a two-edged sword, that’s for sure), then what for such a person are the possible markers of his success and at what point can he or she be said to have moved up from one level of exposure to another level of exposure? That was really all I was talking about here, and not whether what Shane Dawson does is better than what I do. If I wanted to do the things Shane Dawson or these others do, then I would move more in that direction.

Your thoughts welcome, by all mean reply also to other community members!