Lydia Sweatt is a writer, bookworm, and bass guitar enthusiast. When she goes outside, a bicycle goes with her.
Why Your YouTube Subscriber Count Sometimes Looks Wrong
There used to be a time when YouTube users could see the exact number of subscribers to a channel. Viewers and creators alike would log onto YouTube, see one definitive number, and instantly know where a creator was heading numerically.
And for a while, everyone was on the same page during this golden era. Live celebrations for reaching a massive subscriber count were the norm, and fans would tune in to watch the count go up and down in real-time: 999,982...999,999… then, bam! 1,000,000 subscribers.
This YouTube feature is now a thing of the past. Instead of displaying a number that constantly updates, channel pages get an abbreviated subscriber count, like this one:
YouTube made the change to only show abbreviated subscriber numbers in 2019 and originally, it caused some confusion. On the public side of YouTube, a channel’s subscriber count appeared as an abbreviated number. But in the YouTube dashboard, a totally different number would show up.
We created a video around the topic so click below if you want to learn more:
So, which one is correct? Is it the public-facing number or the private one? Let’s take a deeper dive to find out.
Public Subscriber Counts vs. Private Subscriber Counts
Did you know that popular YouTuber MrBeast recently hit 40 million subscribers on his channel? He tweeted the good news on August 5, and around that time, we here at vidIQ were watching and waiting. We had no idea, however, that the process would give us such a headache.
You see, we were screen recording just to capture that special, 40-million moment. Unfortunately, it wasn't until several hours later that MrBeast, according to the public YouTube subscriber count, actually hit that landmark.
We recorded the screen below for 18 hours before his 39 million subscribers became 40 million. True story.
Originally, we had a theory on why the update took so long. Here’s what we imagined:
1. On the public side of YouTube, viewers saw an abbreviated subscriber count for MrBeast, perhaps 39,000,000.
2. When the actual, unabbreviated subscriber count reached a significant number, such as 39,953,786, YouTube rounded up to the next abbreviated count: 40,000,000.
We don't have access to MrBeast's private dashboard so we can neither confirm nor deny this, but we do have the next best thing: our YouTube channel.
How Abbreviated Subscriber Counts Work
In our YouTube Studio, the vidIQ channel displays 656,747 subscribers. That should be enough to round up to 657,000 subscribers, right?
Apparently not. We went to the channel homepage and discovered that YouTube doesn't round up public, abbreviated counts to match private YouTube Studio counts. So we disregarded that theory altogether.
Our next hypothesis sparked a different experiment. While logged into YouTube with the vidIQ account, our YouTuber-in-residence Rob Wilson set up a test channel with no content, three subscribers, and a lovely channel banner. Using the vidIQ account, he subscribed to the test channel and then updated this page:
In this instance, the subscriber count updated instantly to reflect the new sub and display a total of four subscribers:
But why did this happen? Why are we suddenly seeing an exact count instead of an abbreviation?
Apparently, YouTube doesn't abbreviate the count when a channel has under 1,000 subscribers. Take a look at this handy graph from the YouTube Help Center to learn more:
With this in mind, we returned to the test account to check the channel analytics dashboard. And still, it displayed three subscribers.
However, the vidIQ realtime stats bar at the top of the screen showed four subscribers. And if we tried to switch accounts, the figure in that menu option also reported four subscribers.
Why There’s a Difference In YouTube Subscriber Counts
To sum everything up, on the one hand, multiple sources showed the same subscriber number - even if abbreviated - for all users to see. On the other hand, the analytics dashboard shows a specific number only the creator can see.
To clarify things, we decided to ask YouTube why that is. Here’s what they said:
"The number of subscribers that you see in YouTube analytics is delayed by approximately 48 hours. Before we post the stats in analytics, we want to make sure they're 100% accurate, so we perform additional verification and spam reviews. That's why it takes a little longer."
So that’s the main thing to remember: Public subscriber counts will always be ahead of your channel analytics count, which is delayed. I know that's really annoying, but it's nothing to worry about. It's just how YouTube works.
The funny thing is, this subscriber count setup has always been the standard. We just didn’t realize it because no one used to pay attention to the channel analytics count. Before the 2019 update, channel homepages showed the exact subscriber count, which was all anyone needed to know.
Nevertheless, YouTube’s delay in analytics reporting is a good thing. Most creators don’t want spam accounts, fake subscribers, and bots to sully their analytics, and YouTube is making sure of that.
But we do have one loose end to tie up. These two numbers - the channel page subscriber count and the YouTube API real-time subscriber count - come from the same source. So how did MrBeast tweet his 40-million subscriber milestone before it actually happened? Our theory is that, well... maybe he cheated and tweeted the news early.
Hey - he was going to reach 40 million subscribers anyway, right?
Want To Get the Most Out of YouTube?
If you want to take your YouTube channel to the next level and get more views on YouTube then make sure to download vidIQ. Join over 1 million other users and use vidIQ to help you research YouTube, analyze videos, audit your own channel, and take actionable steps to succeed. Click here to install.
And if you’re really serious about growing your YouTube views and subscribers, sign up for exclusive access to the vidIQ Academy and learn how to launch a successful YouTube Channel.