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Like any social media app, many people find themselves mindlessly scrolling and searching through YouTube. DemandSage reported that there are around 122 million daily YouTube users and over 2.6 billion users as of 2023. Some people use YouTube as a source of education, but others use it solely for entertainment and a break from reality. There are two types of entertainment channels that have exploded in popularity over the past few years: reaction and commentary YouTube channels.
While these types of videos are similar, they are not the same. So what is the difference?
Reaction YouTube Channels
So why do these channels get so many views? Maybe because watching a person react to something sad or funny is relatable to everyone. It’s in human nature to want to read people and understand emotions, and these videos give just that!
Basically, reaction YouTube channels consist of a person or multiple people showing their reactions to different types of videos. There are so many different genres of videos you can watch, such as unboxings, celebrity drama, or film and TV show reveals. The creators mostly just show their facial reactions or laugh if the video is funny.
There are some channels, such as “REACT,” that receive over 900 million views through reaction videos alone. Who knew that something so simple as expressive, reactionary highlights would generate so many views?
Top reaction YouTube channels:
- Subscribers: 14.7M
This channel is known for their comedic reaction videos. Some of their videos include reacting to” emoji makeup,” “dumbest people on TikTok,” and “people who think they look like celebrities.” Over 51% of Reaction Time’s audience are young adults (18 to 24 years old) watching this channel’s content for an easy laugh.
- Subscribers: 1.7M
This channel focuses more toward a slightly older, predominantly male audience. Many videos feature dark TV humor, and his reactions generally play off that. A few of his video topics include “family guy dark humor,” “American dad out of context clips,” and others like “top scariest ghost videos.”
- Subscribers: 1.95M
Although Tyrone Magnus creates many types of videos on his channel, his main videos are funny reactions. Magnus reacts to movie trailers, funny videos from other YouTubers, and celebrity news.
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- Subscribers: 364k
Rob Squad Reactions is a hilarious husband and wife duo that does reaction videos for different types of music. They react to heavy metal music, rap, pop, and every kind of genre of music that you can think of. In the about section of their page, they state that they created this channel because they wanted to make a change in the world and help bring people together with music.
5. No Life Shaq
- Subscribers: 3.91M
This is the perfect channel to go to if you’re in need of a laugh or just some mindless entertainment. The creator that goes by “No Life Shaq” has over 3 million subscribers for his reactions to rap music videos and funny videos circling the internet.
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Commentary YouTube Channels
On the other hand, commentary YouTube channels often include some type of reaction aspect, with the additional layer of opinion and broader personal or social connections as they watch as well. Usually, these videos can be more educational or breach social issues. Commentary YouTube channels also praise or express disdain in their content.
Commentary YouTube channel creators may also do a lot of research on the topics they’re discussing. For example, D’Angelo Wallace is a very popular YouTuber who does commentary on all sorts of things ranging from smart masks and Elon Musk all the way to pop culture like the new movie Karen. Wallace goes into depth about these topics, pulling in different impacts and opinions, while also making it entertaining and funny to watch.
People enjoy watching these YouTubers give their personal opinions while also displaying an educated take on the content. However, sometimes commentary channels are more simple, light-hearted, and funny. These may just make funny comments about “cringe” YouTube videos or any drama that is going on in the social media world. Cody Ko is a prime example of this type of commentary channel, specifically his “That’s cringe” series.
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Top commentary channels:
- Subscribers: 1.59M
Anthony Fantano is best known for giving his reactionary commentary on music, headlines, and even sometimes politics. In all of his videos, he splits the screen with his own recording setup and microphone on one half and the video itself on the other..
2. Eddy Burback
- Subscribers: 1.27M
Next on our list of commentary YouTube channels is Eddy — a modern day pop culture commentary channel. He reacts to new trends and sometimes even follows these trends for a few days to provide feedback on them. All his videos are funny and entertaining, as well as pretty informative on the rapidly changing trendscape. His targeted demographic is younger adults that want a good laugh.
3. Tiffany Ferg
- Subscribers: 762K
Although funny, Tiffany Ferg has more serious undertones to her commentary videos. She mostly focuses on large social issues, as well as internet trends and hot takes. She does show her initial reaction to things, but her videos are heavy on the commentary aspect.
The Popularity of Reaction and Commentary YouTube Channels
As stated above, these types of channels receive millions of views and are all around very popular. Scientists have looked into and studied why these videos are so intriguing to so many. Their conclusion: it’s in human nature to want to watch other people experience things, which in turn makes the viewer feel some kind — often the very same kind — of emotion.
According to ARStechnica, a USC neuroscientist explained that mirror neurons are the reason people enjoy watching others react to things. These neurons help us to feel empathy and have a higher social understanding. In addition, these videos are usually simple and easily digestible for a range of viewers.
The science behind reaction and commentary YouTube channels help to explain how these types of channels have gained so much popularity throughout the years. Creators continue to add reaction and commentary videos to their channels since they are so low input and high response/view oriented.
For the most part, reaction and commentary videos are very similar. They both have empathic elements and receive millions of views. However, the major difference is the depth that these channels reach.
While commentary channels have a broad range of seriousness in their videos, often expressing societal issues, reaction channels are more simple. Reaction channels don’t delve into serious dialogues, so they often remain lighter and free of intense commentary — which is not to say they can’t show heavy topics. Commentary channels show the creator’s reactions and thoughts or opinions on many different topics, making them a bit more invested.