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Does the YouTube Subscriber Count Matter in 2023?

Well all want more subscribers on YouTube, right? After all, subscriber counts act as social proof and can possibly help you generate that ad revenue. But how much does a subscriber count really matter on YouTube in 2023?

Although one of the prerequisites of the YouTube Partner Program is 1,000 subscribers, it’s probably not as vital as you might think after that point.

Sure, you can keep your eye on getting a silver, gold, or diamond play button. But at the end of the day, the number of subscribers doesn’t really impact the channel as much as it used to.

Why Doesn’t the Subscriber Count Matter on YouTube?

Back in the day, more subscribers nearly guaranteed that your channel would make money. But thanks to changes in YouTube’s algorithm, the explosive growth of short-form content, and how Google prioritizes videos in search, subscribers are not as important as they were in the past.

Let’s take a look at some of the vital elements that YouTubers deal with today.

Watch Time vs Subscribers

You can have nearly 5,000 subscribers and yet not be a part of the YouTube Partner Program. This is because you also need to have 4,000 hours of watch time over a concurrent 12-month period.

This means you need to sustain at least 10.96 hours of watch time every day to qualify and maintain being in the YPP. In a 28-day period, it means you’ll need 306.88 hours of watch time.

Low Watch Time

Depending on the type of content you create, this is much more difficult than it sounds.

Also, consider that videos with a higher average watch time are prioritized over others despite the subscriber count of your YouTube channel. This is why you’ll see much smaller channels being suggested over larger ones.

Well, that and having binge-worthy content. I’ll go over that in a moment.

At the end of the day, the success of your YouTube channel relies more on your watch time than it does on subscribers. If you can keep people watching your videos and on the YouTube platform, your videos will be shared far more often. And this has very little to do with how many people subscribe to your channel.

Appearing On Home Feeds Anyway

How many channels appear on your home feed on YouTube of which you’re not a subscriber? Approximately three-quarters of the videos shown to me on the home page are of channels I don’t constantly watch or have not subscribed to.

Home Feed

But because I’ve watched a couple of videos throughout the day, YouTube thinks I need more of them. So, regardless of whether I’m subscribed or not, those videos are still front and center.

That is the power of having binge-worthy content. At that point, the YouTube subscriber count doesn’t matter as long as you’re still generating watch time.

I have a theory that this aspect is YouTube’s way of combatting subscriber fraud while rewarding creators who put in the work to publish quality content. In fact, I don’t see channels I’m subscribed to in the feed unless they recently uploaded a new video.

Otherwise, it’s full of channels to which I haven’t subscribed.

From Shorts to Long-Form Videos

Earlier this year, YouTube tried to claim that Shorts views don’t impact long-form video feeds. In reality, Shorts that you come across and watch will prompt YouTube to show long-form content of those channels on your home page.

I’ve seen a massive shift in channels I don’t normally watch appearing on the feed. This includes channels that have fewer than 20 subscribers. It’s all connected through the relevance of the topics I’m either searching or watching.

In this regard, producing more Shorts could help even the smallest of channels get seen by a larger audience. And yes, this is an experiment I am planning in the very near future.

The bottom line is that a YouTube channel with an extremely low subscriber count can still get seen by more people by utilizing Shorts. This is in addition to trying to get seen in the “Suggested” column of long-form video content.

Having Binge-Worthy Content

One of the most impactful things you can do to get YouTube to show your videos more often is to create binge-worthy content. This is when the viewer is compelled to watch more than one of your videos.

The more the person watches in succession, the better it is to trigger the algorithm. After all, YouTube wants to keep people on the site for as long as possible. And if you’re able to keep people viewing for hours on end, YouTube will continue to promote the content.

It doesn’t matter what your subscriber count is for binge-worthy content on YouTube. As long as people keep watching, the videos will reach further and further to gain more of an audience.

Watch Time Over Subscriber Count

This is why it’s more difficult for educational or tutorial channels to succeed on YouTube. When someone learns what they want to know, they often move on to something else.

YouTube Subscriber Count Still Matters, But…

There is less emphasis on the sheer number of subscribers you have on YouTube. Regardless of the count, the platform will continue to push content that it deems as quality.

However, there is still a need to increase the number of subscribers you have. For one thing, a lot of tools are locked behind 100 and 1,000 subs. For example, the YPP requires 1,000 subscribers. After that, it all comes down to watch time.

You’re also able to customize the URL of your channel after hitting 100 subs. Not to mention the social clout that comes with having higher numbers on your channel.

So, having subscribers does matter in the long run. It just has less of an impact than it used to simply because of how the algorithm works nowadays.

As long as you’re able to produce great videos that a lot of people want to watch, you should be able to gain both subscribers and watch time relatively easily. Unfortunately, some channels will have a much harder time hitting some of those numbers.

Don’t forget that niche, topics, and engagement all play a role in whether someone subscribes or watches your videos.

Watch Time is More Important, Overall

The most important metric you should concern yourself with is watch time. As I pointed out earlier, videos with a higher degree of watch time are promoted far more often than those without.

This means putting in maximum effort to produce content your target audience wants to watch.

Besides, views and watch time are what drive AdSense income. It doesn’t matter if you have a million subscribers. If no one wants to watch your videos, you won’t make very much money, if any at all.

It’s part of why some channels will make vastly different amounts of money after monetizing videos. It all comes down to how many people are actually watching the content.

Some topics and niches are just more prominent for building a massive and engaged audience than others.

If you can generate some good numbers for watch time on YouTube, the subscriber count will naturally go up. In reality, it’s possible to hit the 4,000 hours of watch time before you even come close to 1,000 subscribers for the YPP.

Paying for Subs Is a Waste of Money

Lastly, don’t pay for subscribers and “views.” As I said before, the algorithm pushes content it thinks people want to watch. In that regard, it doesn’t matter how many subs you have.

Besides, those who sell subscribers can’t guarantee that you’ll make money from viewership. Remember, YouTube promotes videos that are actually being watched by organic interest.

Also, remember that it’s against YouTube’s policy to artificially inflate the subscriber count. Paying for those services could wind up getting your channel banned and shut down.

Cultivating an engaged audience is simply the best way to go about building your YouTube channel. Those people are more likely to keep watching your videos over the long term.

What Metric Do You Monitor Most?

YouTube Analytics can show you a lot about your channel. It can help you decide what to create next while showing what is working with your audience. Using this data is perhaps the best way to grow the subscriber count on YouTube.

That is as long as you’re producing content that works best for your target audience.

Out of all the data available, what’s your most-viewed metric on YouTube?

Michael Brockbank

Michael Brockbank

Michael has been managing YouTube channels for the better part of a decade. He's continuously working to find the best methods that work for various types of content from gaming to website tutorials.

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