Sometimes I look back at what's happened over the last two years and just think F**ck I'm a lucky boy.
1. Joe Sugg and Caspar Lee are two guys in their 20s who share a flat together in London. They are also members of an exclusive group of YouTube superstars breaking through into Britain’s mainstream media.
Despite a combined age of just 42, they have a larger potential reach than many TV programmes. They and their peers have changed how younger audiences consume media.
Sugg, 22, has 2.7 million subscribers on his YouTube channel, 1.15 million fans on Facebook, 1.2 million on Twitter, and 1.4 million followers on Instagram.
Lee, 20, is about to hit 3 million subscribers on YouTube and 2 million followers on Twitter.
2. Last week, it was announced that Lee and Sugg will guest-host a Radio 1 show on Sunday evenings, along with other online personalities.
The pair seem ready to cope with their meteoric rise, having placed what appears to be an extremely diligent talent agency in charge of their media appearances.
3. So let’s take a look at the two men changing the way presenters are being discovered in the UK.
4. This is Joe Sugg.
He apparently used to work as a thatcher, and has named his YouTube channel ThatcherJoe in tribute.
He is the younger brother of fellow YouTube star Zoe Sugg, who goes by the name Zoella.
5. Sugg told BuzzFeed he remains puzzled as to why his videos have received so much attention.
He conceded that his initial success was down to his sister, and said he hates to think that some people now see him as a celebrity.
“When people who aren’t aware of the whole YouTube thing see my following and stuff for social media they usually say ‘Oh my god you’re famous!’ and it makes me cringe every time,” he added.
“I would never say I’m a celebrity, I just make sure I have the responsibilities of one when it comes to setting an example and being a role model to my viewers.”
6. This is his first ever YouTube video, posted on 7 August 2012.
His ease on camera is obvious, as is his winning combination of goofiness and natural humour.
His impressions have also contributed to his success online, as seen in the first video above.
7. His fifth video involved his sister. It has so far been watched 2.6 million times.
The 24-year-old Zoe is the original star in the family. With 5.7 million subscribers, she has been billed by The Telegraph as “arguably the biggest star on the British YouTube scene”.
8. Her channel focuses on lifestyle advice, but she also regularly pops up in videos by her brother, as well as her boyfriend – fellow YouTube star Alfie Deyes, aka PointlessBlog – and other members of the UK YouTube scene.
She has also signed a two-book deal with publishing house Penguin. Her first novel, Girl Online, goes on sale in November.
Sugg said his sister helped him out a lot initially and introduced him to people making amusing clips.
“But as soon as I got my own equipment and started to understand what videos went down well, I went off and did my own thing,” he added.
9. Within a year of his first video going live, Sugg was travelling the world creating more and more elaborate videos. Here he is flying to Los Angeles to spend time with Simon Cowell.
Within 15 months, he had accumulated over 1 million subscribers.
And last year, in September, he appeared on Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills’ show to take part in a game of Innuendo Bingo.
The invitation came after he developed his own riff on the game, YouTuber Innuendo Bingo.
10. To top off a remarkable rise to fame, he has now been signed up by Sky 1 to present an online show to accompany Got to Dance.
11. This is Caspar Lee.
The 20-year-old South African currently lives in a two-bedroom flat in London with Sugg. He says he began making YouTube videos at the age of 16, although this video from the start of 2012 is the oldest one available to view on his current channel.
Like Sugg, he has a sister who regularly appears in his videos, Theodora Lee. She has over 100,000 subscribers on YouTube and gives lifestyle advice on topics such as relationships and sex.
His mother has also featured in his some of his work, her yoga classes providing the perfect setup for his tomfoolery.
On the whole, Lee’s videos are slightly more adult-themed than those of his British roommate.
12. His video with porn star Asa Akira, for example, sees Lee playing the immature clown while creating content clearly aimed at an older audience.
He appears willing to broach topics his squeaky-clean roommate wouldn’t.
And that can attract controversy.
13. In a video from January 2012, he “jokingly” contemplates and acts out methods of suicide.
He says in the video: “If you know somebody who has committed suicide, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to offend you. I needed to contemplate this topic the way I wanted to contemplate it, and if you don’t agree with the way I contemplate things then you’re a control freak because it’s my head.”
His one-line disclaimer of “please don’t take this video seriously” did little to stop the backlash in the comments section.
However, perhaps as a sign of maturity, two years later he was doing videos on the dangers of addiction.
14. Lee seems happy to share every element of his life with his viewers, and in January introduced them to his girlfriend, Gaby.
Six months later though, in arguably his most personal video to date, “Pros and Cons of being a YouTuber”, Lee revealed there were some significant downsides to being an internet star.
“Yeah, as I said earlier I needed to tell you something that happened in my life that wasn’t great recently,” he said in an almost confessional way. “Me and my girlfriend Gaby have decided to separate.”
However, he maintains the pros dramatically outweigh the cons.
He revealed to BuzzFeed: “Yes, some days the pressure doesn’t feel great and a negative comment might stick in your head, but on the whole I’m usually very happy about my situation.
“I don’t regret exposing myself to my viewers. I’m not ashamed of anything that I’ve exposed, and think about what I say before I say it.”
15. As such he remains hugely relatable to his young fans, and is about to hit 3 million subscribers on YouTube.
With almost 2 million followers on Twitter as well, his notoriety continues to spread, and now high-profile figures such as Games of Thrones actress Maisie Williams are appearing in his videos.
He told BuzzFeed that he puts his success down to “starting at the right time” and making “videos for the right people”.
On his incredible following, he said: “I don’t see myself as a celebrity and that is not my goal. It’s really cool that you no longer need to be a celebrity or politician to have a voice any more. The internet has given your average Joe (Sugg) a voice.
“It doesn’t matter if you live in LA or Narnia, the playing fields have been evened and that is very cool.”
16. While it all appears fun and natural, there’s a serious business side to all this. Sugg and Lee are signed to the Gleam Futures talent agency, which represents almost all the major UK YouTube stars.
The agency appears on first impressions to be extremely cautious, making sure every media appearance by their young clients is carefully stage-managed.
BuzzFeed tried on multiple occasions to speak to the two men following the publication of this story. It took around a month of constant dialogue to finally get the pair to answer questions about their incredible success.
What this highlights is not only how their representatives want to carefully manage their potentially extremely lucrative careers, but also how the pair do not need to rely on the media to promote their brands.
17. Like pop stars and actors on social media, they have millions of teenage fans hanging off their every tweet and picture.
19. Their fans’ commitment borders on obsession.
31. And this success appears to be just the beginning for Sugg, Lee, and other young online personalities working in Britain.
The money that can be made from YouTube videos is well documented, but for the first time we are now seeing these amateur filmmakers catching the eye of the mainstream British media.
These personalities are a marketer’s dream: young, funny, attractive, and fully embedded in social media.
It appears that those in charge of our major broadcasters have finally worked out how to engage with younger audiences – by finding people who speak their language.