Once upon a time before PewDiePie ruled YouTube, another king existed. A guy who singlehandedly help grow YouTube from a struggling start up to one of the most visited websites on the planet. The original king of YouTube, Ray William Johnson. Rays story is fascinating because he created such a massive online presence, the first YouTuber to reach 5 million subscribers and had the most subscribers for two years before Smosh surpassed him.
Despite all of this, many young people today would most likely have no clue who he is. So if like me, YouTube was something that became apart of your everyday life 10 years ago, you may have regularly watched his content. Ray was a pioneer during the early days on YouTube and some of his videos can still be found on the platform today. He was reviewing memes before ‘memes’ was even a word.
His Rise to Fame
He became the first YouTube millionaire and his comedic series ‘Equals Three’ became iconic despite its simplicity. In each episode, he reviewed three funny viral videos and entertained fans with his commentary. If you rewatched his older videos now, you might think it’s outdated but this was the first regular series that attracted millions of viewers. Although review/reaction channels did exist back then, they couldn’t replicate Equals Three success. You could even speculate that PewDiePie took inspiration from Ray William Johnson’s format for his own review videos. In this sense, Ray laid the foundation a decade ago for these type of review shows that are now everywhere on YouTube.
The show lasted five years – from 2009 to 2014 and each clip featured in the show would regularly hit over one million views. This is was impressive considering that Ray only had 8-1o million subscribers. He was hitting similar viewing figures per episode to what PewDiePie does on Meme review despite having close to 10 times less subs.
He created his main channel RayWilliamJohnson back in 2008 which has been renamed to just ‘Ray’. His early success halted his initial plans to become a lawyer as he chose YouTube as his preferred career path. The insane growth of his channel led to him signing with now the defunct Maker Studios. They moved the show from his apartment to a studio in LA and hired a team of writers to help write the scripts. With Maker Studios backing his channel, the series continued to skyrocket in popularity.
Unfortunately, the good times didn’t last as Ray ran into contractual problems with Maker Studios and parted ways. This meant that the massive power behind him was now gone and he also lost control of ‘Your Favorite Martian’. Another factor that led to his downfall was the court case with Jukin Media. Jukin Media claimed Ray William Johnson was using video clips without their permission. Equals Three ultimately lost the case and had to takedown all of the clips they uploaded. He continued Equals Three but later retired as host of the show. New hosts were hired but the series never returned to its former glory and slowly died off.
What Happened to him?
A lot of people were worried Ray vanished off the face of the planet but he’s still around today. Nowadays, he prefers to keep a low profile, working on entertainment-related projects including stand up comedy, acting and producing. His YouTube account still has 10 million subs but the content they produce is very different from his original show that put him on the map. No matter what he does from now on, he will always be remembered as the first king of YouTube!
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