The baffling brilliance of PewDiePie, YouTube’s biggest star: 10 billion views and counting

The baffling brilliance of PewDiePie, YouTube’s biggest star: 10 billion views and counting
Felix Kjellberg’s videos range from game reviews to conversations between him and his girlfriend

The Washington Post

'PewDiePie' - the first person to ever hit 10 billion YouTube views.  Photo: SCMP Pictures
‘PewDiePie’ – the first person to ever hit 10 billion YouTube views. Photo: SCMP Pictures

If you don’t know Felix Kjellberg, you may be in the minority.

In the past three months, the 25-year-old YouTuber has scored a lengthy profile in ESPN and the cover of Variety. He’s written a book for teens that is already among’s most popular – a full month before its release.

And on Sunday, he added a new record to his resume: He’s the first person to ever reach 10 billion YouTube views.

Despite all this, Kjellberg isn’t exactly a household name. The majority of his fans are teenagers with a keen, pre-existing interest in video games. When another YouTuber asked adults to watch Kjellberg’s YouTube channel for a reaction video in 2012, he caught a mix of incredulity, bewilderment … and annoyance.

“The humour, I just don’t understand it,” Kjellberg’s own mother once said. “I’ll see in the comments, ‘Check out 4:26. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.’ I’ll go there and don’t find anything that resembles a joke.”

Kjellberg, who goes by the moniker “PewDiePie” online (“pew” for the sound laser guns make, “die” for death, pie for … no particular reason), was born in Gothenberg, Sweden, in 1989. His parents are both high-powered corporate executives.

While he did study industrial engineering for a time, Kjellberg far preferred making art and playing video games. Dropping out to play games full-time on YouTube was, he has said, “not easy” to discuss with his parents.

From more or less the beginning, though, Kjellberg’s videos were a hit. He founded PewDiePie in 2010 and began uploading videos of himself playing horror games, which he would narrate in absurd, exaggerated ways.

By 2011, he had attracted an international following. By 2012, he had moved out of his parents’ house and begun dating one of his fans, an Italian woman named Marzia Bisognin.

Since then, Kjellberg has built YouTube’s largest audience and signed to Disney-owned Maker Studios. In 2014, Kjellsberg made more than US$7 million – so much that he felt he had to justify it in an explanatory six-minute video.

That video, published two months ago, makes a good example of Kjellsberg’s range – someone whose appeal lies in his lifestyle and camera-ready demeanour.

His short, under-produced pieces can pivot from first-person game reviews, to conversations between him and girlfriend Bisognin, to lengthy, stream-of-consciousness updates about his pugs and his personal life in Bristol, England.

To many people, Kjellsberg’s mother included, this makes for a baffling performance. Kjellsberg isn’t a particularly witty or nuanced comedian. His commentary on gaming isn’t all that incisive.

Instead, he embodies a cultural value that’s particularly important to the YouTube generation: He comes across as 100 per cent authentic.

“YouTube breaks the barrier between the audience and the creator,” Kjellberg told Variety, when the magazine named him its No.1 digital star over the summer. “They feel a connection to the one they’re watching.”

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 September, 2015, 2:34pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 September, 2015, 10:53pm


Published by

Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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