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Caspar Lee: A web star unknown in his own country

Nearly nine-million YouTube views in less than a year, 168 000 subscribers, 118 000 Twitter followers. Those are fairly impressive figures, the kind of numbers that most brands would kill for. So how come nobody in South Africa seems to have heard of Caspar Lee?

I was first alerted to the existence of this baby-faced 18-year-old by @MartinYoung — a fellow resident of Lee’s hometown of Knysna in the Western Cape. I asked the interns at digital agency Quirk if they’d heard of him. Nobody had a clue who he was. That’s when Lourie Campher and I started doing a bit of digging — and what we found surprised us.

Let’s reflect on those stats again.

  • 49 videos
  • 177 659 subscribers to his YouTube channel
  • 9 170 659 views
  • 743 439 views of his most popular video
  • 118 687 Twitter followers
  • 137 413 views of the video he put up a day ago
  • Two percent number of fake followers according to Status People.

So why hasn’t anybody in South Africa heard of him? Possibly it’s because his followers and fans appear to be mostly based in the UK.

His approach in a nutshell:

Platforms: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and tumblr, where he sells branded Caspar Lee T-shirts.

Conversation topics: Anything teenage girl-friendly. A discussion about UK pop band One Direction with his young niece and nephew scored the highest number of views of any of his videos.

Tonality: Deadpan, insouciant.

Look: Bieberesque.

Strategy: What’s the secret to Caspar’s success? How did he build up such a huge following in such a short time?

We were hoping to get comment from Lee himself on this, but to date he has played hard to get, so we’re going to have to base our conclusions on what we’ve observed.

For a while, Campher and I were mystified by the sheer scale of the numbers. But through careful investigation, Campher worked it out. Lee picks up subscribers and Twitter followers by cross-promoting with other YouTube stars like Jack’s Gap and Marcus Butler — both of whom have more subscribers and more views. The video Jack Harries made with Caspar educating viewers on “How to speak South African” has over 824 000 views to date.

As it turns out, there’s an entire obsessive vlogger subculture, where the same girls fantasize about the same group of Bieberesque boys, screeching and swooning in tweets whenever one of them deigns to follow back. With his deadpan, permanently dazed expression, artfully wild hair (hair seems to be very important) and piercing blue eyes, he clearly has the type of look that sets thirteen year old hearts a-flutter. Sex appeal has a lot to do with his popularity. Blogs like this and this leave little doubt as to what drives interest in Caspar Lee and others like him.

What’s interesting about Lee and others is that they’re exploiting the kind of matinée idol niche that used to be accessible purely to pop singers and movie stars. Now that YouTube has given a channel to anyone with an ego, a video camera and internet access (which means almost everyone), anyone can be a star.

Kudos to Lee for generating such a huge following and creating a brand in such a short space of time — and doing it without attracting any attention from the usual arbiters of online success.

Perhaps South African Tourism should give him a call.

31 Comments

  1. azz

    October 9, 2012 at 10:13 am

    He literally got athe bulk of those subscribers from appearing with jack, Marcus, and SAM PEPPER (big brother star , as well as. Youtuber) all their subscribers checked out Caspar , liked him, ( cuz he’s a slut ;]) and subscribed, followed etc.

  2. azz

    October 9, 2012 at 10:14 am

    The*

  3. Joanne

    October 9, 2012 at 11:47 am

    He’s attractive. And funny.

  4. dani small

    October 9, 2012 at 11:48 am

    I love his videos, he’s a champ.

  5. Lizzy

    October 9, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    that is so true, i wouldnt have know him if it wasnt for jack

  6. Ja Son

    October 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    “playing hard to get” hehehe

  7. Shaun van Staden

    October 9, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Caspar lee is moving to the uk at the end of this year!

  8. Shaun van Staden

    October 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    He is Leaving for the UK aat the end of this year.

  9. Edwin Watson

    October 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    I have been following Casper for a while now. His success prompted me to stop making tutorials on how to use Sites like google+.Pintrest and facebook and start talking to the camera.

    Casper actually had a different youtube account before discasp,so he has actually been around a little bit longer than his current account says he has. His success is mind blowing to me. I think the first time I got hold of one of his videos he had 5000 odd total views on his first channel.

    What a rocker.

  10. Alexandra M

    October 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    “Bieberesque” LMFAO
    Oh, Caspar <3

  11. Ciara

    October 9, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    ahaa jason xD

  12. HOLLY

    October 9, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    hes a slut.

  13. Hai

    October 9, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Bieberesque… Really? No. Just no.

  14. Modupe

    October 9, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    Caspar, i have been here since the beginning and i will be here till the end. stay fabuloussss :) @whackmodupe

  15. DuffyDecTV

    October 9, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    9 170 659 million views… umm take out the million!

  16. //

    October 9, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    Caspar*

  17. MzBieberLevell

    October 9, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    You can’t really watch Jack, Sam, Marcus, Alfie, Or Maz, without finding Caspar. (I saw him in Jack’s video and have loved his videos since.)

  18. Ruby

    October 9, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Oh HELL no, I’ve known Caspar since he had less than 5 000 subscribers and I’m South African. Also I’m 16. But the rest of the stuff… About his awesomeness… Dead on.

  19. Olivia

    October 9, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    he is so funny :)

  20. mwah

    October 10, 2012 at 12:52 am

    caspar, the media has caught on to your sluttiness

  21. Kim

    October 11, 2012 at 10:32 am

    He’s a slut.

  22. justkickingit

    October 12, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Pretty classic

  23. Jo-Ann Bekker

    October 14, 2012 at 10:38 am

    I interviewed Caspar Lee for the Mail & Guardian August 24-30 2012 (page 4 of “Friday” – print edition only, sadly). My shorter CXpress article can be found at http://www.cxpress.co.za/showArticle.asp?aid=8448.

  24. Pingback: Caspar Lee: the kid behind the viral phenomenon | memeburn

  25. Helloooo

    November 4, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    I don’t watch his videos because he’s good looking!!!!! HE’S FUNNY!!!!!

  26. kayla freaking george

    December 14, 2012 at 9:56 am

    this is complete bullshit. i’m south african. i know him.

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  28. Mtoni

    April 11, 2013 at 7:45 am

    He’s cute and a cute slut. HAHA. =))) I love Caspar. But I stll go for Finnegan. ;)

  29. ayanda

    May 4, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    caspar has alot of fans in south africa, we all know of him, im south african and all my friends jnow and love caspar

  30. Pingback: 5 signs you might be getting too old for the internet | memeburn

  31. rhoderickgates

    August 31, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Known of?

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