It was a beautiful day when YouTube was created. Since its creation in 2005, the company, now owned by Google, has become a mainstay in our culture. YouTube contains everything from movie and TV clips, music videos, educational content, video blogs (or vlogs), and an almost unnatural amount of cats. YouTube has become a platform not only for amateur videographers but also politics, news, and social revolutions. It is used to pass the time by procrastinating college students, but also used by households to watch something as important as the 2012 Presidential debates or live media coverage of the Arab Spring Revolution.
Earlier this year, President Obama even met with top YouTube officials to figure out ways to better reach the “YouTube generation.” Offering a comprehensive list of what channels you should be watching is difficult as the content of every channel on YouTube is unique to the channel itself. Sometimes it does help to go with the most popular and then work your way to other channels that host similar content. This list is a place to start if you are interested in everything from comedy, to gaming, to makeup, to philosophical inquires.
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Brotherly duo John and Hank Green may not be in the top 100 most subscribed (currently ranked 282nd) but with over 2 million subscribers, the brothers and their loyal Nerdfighters are a channel worth talking about. In 2007, John and Hank, who lived in different parts of the country, decided to take to YouTube and create daily vlogs for each other for one year, instead of regular textual communication. When the year was over, the Green brothers had such a significant following that they continued to vlog. To date, they have created other successful channels such as the Emmy winning The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, educational Crash Course and Sci Show, and HankGames. In 2010, the brothers also launched VidCon, the largest in-person gathering of YouTube personalities in one place. It has since become an annual event.
The Vlogbrothers are worth watching not only because of their videos, which range from the silly giraffe love videos to serious conversations on American Health Care, but also because the community that has sprung up around them and moved beyond the YouTube frame, to places like Reddit. The so-called Nerdfighter community is so large that this past year, when the Vlogbrothers hosted their annual Project 4 Awesome charity event on YouTube, they raised over $720,000 in part by simply watching and commenting on videos.
7 Michelle Phan
Makeup tutorials are common on YouTube, but there are few specialists who do it with the expertise of Michelle Phan. With over 6 million subscribes, Michelle is the 48th most subscribed channel on YouTube. Her videos are not simply “how to,” but rather she specializes in creating a mood and an atmosphere while showing you the proper technique for applying mascara. She works costumes, music, and set design into her videos flawlessly, making it seem as though she is creating a look for a Hollywood movie, not her average viewers.
Michelle is best known for her Lady Gaga make up tutorials, including one for Bad Romance. Some of the other highlights on her channel include watching her transform into a Mexican Day of the Dead Skull, various Disney Princesses, and Daenerys Targaryen, the Mother of Dragons on Game of Thrones.
YouTube can be more than gaming, comedy or random cat videos. Sometimes popular channels are educational or philosophical. Vsauce, hosted by Michael Stevens, is one such channel. With over seven million subscribers, it is currently the 36th most subscribed channel on YouTube and gains, on average, 4,000 new subscribers a week. More serious than some other channels on our list, Vsauce asks deep universal questions like “why do we kiss,” “is anything real?” and “what if everyone jumped at once?” The information provided by Vsauce is well researched and has led to publication of the videos in certain magazines and newspapers. Vsauce’s videos are informative and thought provoking. If you need a break from the more comedic channels on YouTube, Vsause is a great alternative.
5 5. ERB (Epic Rap Battles of History)
Ever wish you could watch Barack Obama and Mitt Romney rap out their political differences? Well, with the ERB channel, now you (sort of) can. ERB is currently the 25th most subscribed channel on YouTube with over 9 million subscribers. Each video is presented as two individuals—fictional, non-fictional, living, dead—who have some sort of ideological difference. The audience then gets to enjoy cleverly written raps between the two; the performers are not only musically talented but also manage to recreate the way the real person would speak with certain cadences and catchphrases. The comments that follow dictate who won the battle and who should rap it out next. What makes this channel are the cleverly written lyrics and raps that are actually quite funny and enjoyable.
With his 12 million subscribers and an average of over 4,000 new subscribers a week, Nigahiga is the 16th most subscribed YouTube channel. Known for his “how to be” series (including emo, a gangster, and a ninja), his clever advertisements (the ShamWOOHOO will have you giggling for hours), and silly music videos, Ryan Higa’s channel was once the most subscribed channel on YouTube until 2011. There are plenty of comedy channels on YouTube, but Higa has a talent for being funny without being extremely annoying or resorting to crude behavior. His most viewed video, “Nice Guys,” is a catchy music video about how nice guys don’t always finish last. Teehee!
3 Jenna Marbles
Jenna’s first video, “How to trick people into thinking you’re good looking,” had over 5 million views in its first week, shooting the vlogger into YouTube fame. While, often times the makers of these viral videos become one hit wonders, Jenna’s next video “How to avoid talking to people” was part of an article in the New York Times and then ABC News, cementing her as a YouTube personality. To date, that video has over 33 million views and has inspired many gifs and catch phrases on the Internet. Jenna’s channel is the top channel operated by a woman and she is currently the 12th most subscribed channel on YouTube with over 13 million followers. Her videos tend toward the comedic with Jenna trying to explain how men and women see the world and how the genders differ in their view on everything from driving to makeup. Jenna’s videos are a fun and entertaining way to pass a few hours.
The Smosh duo of Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla have experienced several spans of being the most subscribed channel on YouTube, the most recent one being from January to August 2013. Smosh is currently ranked the 9th most subscribed channel with its 17.6 million viewers and they still average about 8,000 new subscribers in a week. Smosh began as a comedy lip-synching video channel until their lip dubbed “Pokémon Theme Music Video” went viral. The hit comedy song eventually became the most viewed on YouTube for about six months. Following this success, the channel branched out and became skit based until they eventually added more channels for games, trivia, behind the scenes, and vlogs. The humor is a little off beat and certainly not for everyone, but their most popular video “Beef’N Go” has almost 100,000,000 views, so they must be doing something right.
There are plenty of gaming channels on YouTube, but PewDiePie has the distinction of being the 6th most subscribed channel overall, with well over 26,000,000 subscribers. Some gaming channels on YouTube attempt to teach you how to play the game, but PewDiePie cares more about the reactions people have. While watching him play mostly horror and action video games, the audience is treated to PewDiePie’s commentary on the game, which mainly consists of jokes and screaming at what is happening on screen. While it might sound less than appealing, the result, oddly enough, is highly enjoyable. If you’re in doubt, check out his most viewed video, a montage of some of his funniest moments. It’s guaranteed to make you laugh.