One of the most popular video formats on YouTube are unboxing videos — from beauty products, gadgets, and toys, viewers flock channels to see vloggers opening up different products, examining them, and then giving reviews that will tell the viewers whether the item is worth buying or not. It’s especially popular with kids — even if they can’t buy the toys for themselves, they’ll be content watching another kid play with it. It’s for this reason that 7-year old Ryan of Ryan ToysReview has become so popular.
Last August, we shared that Ryan, who is one of the top 10 highest paid YouTube stars with over 10 million subscribers — he earned US$11 million in 2017 — has expanded his reach offline by launching his own toy line. Now, Forbes has reported he is this year’s highest-paid YouTube star, earning US$22 Million (around Php1.16 billion). The figure does NOT include revenue from his toy line, which will likely add more millions next year.
How did he become so popular?
Ryan’s parents (who now have their own channel called Ryan’s Family Review with three million subscribers) started their son’s channel in 2015. They were like home movies, complete with jerky camera movement. Ryan would unbox the toys, try them out and record his reactions. At first, the channel didn’t get many views. But according to The Washington Post, the channel saw a surge in viewership when his parents uploaded a video of him opening a giant egg surprise containing more than a hundred vehicles from Disney Pixar’s Cars movie.
And three years later, Ryan has a total of nearly 26 billion views (yes, billion) — and an endless stream of toys.
A quick look at his parents’ channel, where they vlog about their family’s daily lives, will show you how their kids (Ryan and his sisters, twins Emma and Kate) play with different kinds of toys — Ryan is an expert at laying them on the ground and showing them off to the camera.
His recent videos show that Ryan already has an idea of how to capture his audience. “I wonder if there’s anything else in the tent,” he teases in his latest video and slowly pulls out a ride on toy in the shape of Dusty Crophopper from the movie Planes. “Did you see the propeller spinning?” he says, before making it move again.
Scripted or not, viewers, who are mostly elementary-age kids, are still tuning in — the video had over 500,000 views in less than 24 hours.
“Unboxing videos provide the proxy for actually experiencing the joy of receiving and opening something you really desire; this is especially true for items that are out of reach or unattainable,” explains Chas Lacaillade, the founder and CEO of Bottle Rocket Management, which represents many unboxers, to Forbes. “The next best thing to owning one is experiencing it virtually, seeing someone else play with it.
But while unboxing videos are fun for kids, it’s heavy on commercialism, says this Common Sense Media review on Ryan’s YouTube channel.
“The unscripted videos are funny at times, and they often show Ryan and his parents enjoying freeform playtime together. That said, they also serve as direct marketing for the toys and games featured, and the sheer quantity of toys Ryan receives at one sitting (often every action figure or accessory in a themed toy line) can be overwhelming for adults and misleading for kids,” the review reads. “If your youngsters are prone to the 'gimmes,' then not much good can come from seeing Ryan's unrealistic fortune in video after video.”
But if your kids can handle seeing the toys, and they know that they won’t be getting the same things for themselves, (nor to ask for it), then it’s pretty harmless (but mindless) entertainment, according to Common Sense.
Ryan expands his business and influence
Though Ryan’s parents have their own YouTube channel, they still try to maintain a semblance of privacy by disabling comments on all their videos and keeping their last name a secret. Still, they’ve continued to expand their popularity by having Ryan launch his very own toy and apparel collection, Ryan’s World, sold at Walmart and Target. It includes slimes and putties, Ryan action figures, T-shirts, toy cars, dinosaurs, and, of course, mystery eggs.
Here’s a quick look at some of the toys:
With all the success he’s getting, it’s hard to predict whether Ryan is going to stop vlogging any time soon. But as Lacaillade says, “he’s got enough money for 100 lifetimes.” Whatever he decides, Ryan has already made a mark in the world.
This story originally appeared on Smartparenting.com.ph.
* Minor edits have been made by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.