BBC Radio 1 Hires Leading UK YouTube Stars In A Battle To Stay Young And Relevant
Keen to counteract the fall in young listeners, the BBC is turning to some of the country's most popular YouTubers to add some digital sparkle.
Radio 1 has a very big challenge: to grow a young audience and fulfill its mission of being a genuine national youth station in a digital age. One possible solution is to hire people who are big on YouTube.
The station announced today that nine YouTubers and one duo will take turns presenting a weekly show.
The new one-hour show, which first airs on 1 September at 9pm, will be broadcast as a video on the Radio 1 website at the same time as the radio broadcast.
Regular DJs Dan and Phil will host it, but the stars will be the assembled YouTube glitterati. But they will only be guesting, so what's the point?
Well, between them they have 27 million YouTube subscribers – almost three times the number of listeners Radio 1 attracted in the first three months of the year – and nearly 15 million Facebook likes.
Compare that to the 1.8 million likes the official Radio 1 page has on Facebook and its 1.4 million YouTube subscribers.
So who's taking part?
1. TomSka, aka Thomas Ridgewell – 3 million subscribers. He describes himself as a "twentysomething British comedy person" whose videos range from sketches to cartoons and general weirdness.
2. Tyler Oakley – 5.1 million subscribers. Of his channel, he says: "Here you'll find plenty sassiness and beauty and fabulousness."
4. Marcus Butler – 2.8 million subscribers. This video of him and Tyler Oakley (see above) singing after inhaling helium has four million views.
5. Troye Sivan – 2.5 million subscribers. He's an Australian musician with a record deal and a just-released EP, TRXYE.
6. Thatcher Joe, aka Joe Sugg – 2.7 million. Zoe Sugg's younger brother, he says on his YouTube channel: "My name's Joe, a 22-year-old who likes to make a fool out of himself on camera for your entertainment."
8. Sprinkle of Glitter, aka Louise Pentland – 1.6 million subscribers. She posts videos about "beauty, babies (particularly mine), and shopping".
9. Patricia Bright – 444,000 subscribers. She runs "a female fashion beauty and hair channel with tutorials and videos to help with your beauty and fashion needs".
10. Jack & Dean – 360,000 subscribers. They say: "We make funny videos to avoid getting a proper job."
This is more than a gimmick for Radio 1. The station is under huge pressure from the BBC Trust to keep attracting young people.
In the most recent stats from radio measurement firm Rajar, covering the first three months of 2014, Radio 1 had 10.5 million listeners, a decrease of 400,000 on the last quarter but marginally up year on year.
But crucially, the station managed to increase the number of its listeners under 24 by 130,000, and decrease the number of over-25s by more than 500,000. It had been accused of straying too far into Radio 2's audience age range and controller Ben Cooper has been tasked with lowering the average age.
This is a battle to stay relevant – YouTube has 40 million visitors a year in the UK alone, and a new generation of young stars are building bigger audiences and creating more interesting and dynamic content than countless mainstream brands.
Nor are these pure amateurs: Many of their careers are highly stage-managed, with PR and talent agencies in place. Invariably, they have a business email address and, as with Vine, are quick to see a business opportunity too (Zoe Sugg has just signed a two-book deal with Penguin).
Radio 1 and 1Extra have invested in turning radio broadcasts into videos – big interviews tend to be livestreamed online and turned into popular videos. But there's a whole ecosystem on YouTube built for and by young people that is hard for any media executive in their 30s or 40s to fully understand.