Traditional media has the upper hand over creators on YouTube's trending tab

Traditional media has the upper hand over creators on YouTube's trending tab

It looks as though established media outlets are having an easier time hitting YouTube's trending section than creators loyal to the platform.

That's according to a study by YouTube channel Coffee Break, which found that YouTube makes it more difficult for its own creators to get seen in the trending tab on Youtube's home page.

The trending tab essentially serves as a spotlight on the platform. It can bring in thousands of view and eyes in a short space of time, which can be incredibly positive for independent creators.

The study amassed data from 40,000 videos uploaded between November 2017 and June 2018. The data was then organised in order to separate videos made by both traditional media and independent YouTube creators. 

It found that creators such as Logan Paul need to rack up around 11 million views on a single video before it'll appear in the trending tab. However, clips from TV shows such as The Tonight Show will appear after only hitting a few hundred thousand views. 

“No matter how often [Paul] uploads, he’s a lot less likely to trend frequently than someone like ESPN, whose barrier to Trending is about 500,000 views,” says Stephen, owner of the Coffee Break channel.

Stephen also highlights YouTuber Lele Pons in the video, pointing out that she has trended "around 10 times on the trending tab". He also states that it took her around four million views on average to get there.

Controversial suppression 

Stephen also takes a deeper look at PewDiePie, the biggest independent channel on YouTube by a substantial margin. PewDiePie has over 96.2 million subscribers. PewDiePie's channel amasses millions of views every day but has only ever hit the trending tab in the US once.   

However, while only ever trending once in the US, the PewDiePie channel trends frequently all over the world, including 40 times in Mexico, 42 times in Germany and 45 times in Canada. 

"If this is a simple algorithm, it's bizarre that the US would be the one place does so poorly," Stephen added.

Following this, Stephen looked into other 'controversial' YouTubers and found that most of them have only trended once or twice in the US at most. Channels such as Philip DeFranco and Jake Paul trended twice, while h3h3productions and KSI have never trended in the US despite having millions of subscribers and views.

This could suggest that YouTube is actively stopping those potentially 'problematic' creators from appearing in the tab using human moderators. In a bid to constantly attractive and appease advertisers, YouTube could be actively burying content made by creators that have caused controversy in the past. PewDiePie is a solid example of a problematic creator, as is Logan Paul

Favouring news

According to Stephen's study, 95 per cent of all news reports on the trending tab comes from traditional media. 

Philip DeFranco is an example of an independent creator covering news on YouTbe, and it took him 1.4 million views to appear on the trending tab twice. Comparatively, The Associated Press showed up the tab seven times, after just 10,000 views. That result suggests an overwhelming bias towards traditional media outlets. 

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki recently addressed creator concerns regarding the trending tab. Wojcicki acknowledges that the trending tab isn't reflecting what users want to see, and states that the platform's goal is to have at least 50 per cent of trending tab filled with work from independent YouTubers. She also mentions that YouTube will "continue to ramp up Creator on the Rise and Gaming Creator initiatives".


Danielle Partis is editor of and former editor of She was named Journalist of the Year at the MCV Women in Games Awards 2019, as well as in the MCV 30 under 30 2020. Prior to Steel Media, she wrote about music and games at Team Rock.