As part of the research we do for our YouTube Millionaires column, we keep close tabs on YouTube channels that have recently surpassed the million-subscriber benchmark and note others that will soon achieve that feat. Over the weekend, the list of million-subscriber channels passed a significant milestone: As YouTube analytics site VidStatsx shows, there are now more than 2,000 channels with seven-digit subscriber counts.

The value of a subscriber is a hotly-debated topic within the YouTube community, and many within the industry feel as if other measures — such as watch time — are more important indicators of digital success. Nonetheless, the increasing number of million-subscriber channels is indicative of the exponential growth YouTube has experienced since its 2005 inception. A trip in the WayBack Machine tells us that on February 23, 2010 — YouTube’s 5th birthday — there were only five channels with at least one million subscribers. Two years later, that number was up to 68; two years after that, 594; and now, two years and five weeks later, there are 2,000 “YouTube millionaires.” In the past year alone, more than 850 new channels have claimed that title.

The exponential rise of million-subscriber channels can be attributed.to a number of factors. The December 2009 launch of VEVO led to a larger number of music videos on YouTube; now, there are hundreds of million-subscriber channels managed by the Google, Sony Music, and Universal Music co-venture. In general, the increasing corporate nature of YouTube has allowed channel to gain more subscribers, faster. Stephen Colbert’s official Late Show channel needed fewer than ten months to go from its first video to one million subscribers.

The presence of the Stephen Colberts of the world among the ranks of YouTube’s top channels has rankled some within the site’s creative base, but there are still plenty of independently-minded go-getters in the seven-digit club, and we have spotlighted many of them in our Millionaires column. If the current growth rate continues, YouTube will add hundreds more million-subscribers over the next few months. I hope there are enough gold play buttons to go around.

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