About six years ago Ray William Johnson ran the most popular show on YouTube, Equals Three. Looking back now it may seem a little strange that millions of people tuned in every week to a watch guy give his comedic take on random viral videos on the internet. He was one of the first channels to create these kinds of videos, but his popularity didn’t last forever, at his peak his videos were generating five million views per video now he struggles to get 20,000.
The channels gradual demise left many viewers wondering what happened to him? To understand what led to Ray William Johnsons downfall we need to take a look back before he became famous. His YouTube journey started in 2009, uploading videos reviewing viral clips. As Ray will admit now, his early videos were very amateur in comparisons to today’s standards but he had an entertaining personality and his videos were easy to binge watch. Another key factor in his rise to success was YouTube’s feature which revealed the most viewed videos of the day. Ray’s videos regularly appeared in the top spot, helping to drive millions of views and subscribers to his channel.
This level of success was insane considering he was just a college student making videos from dorm room in New York City. He was studying to become a lawyer at the time, but it no made sense pursue a career in law as his earnings from YouTube skyrocketed. He dropped out of college and moved to California to focus on growing his channel. Surprisingly in 2014 he stepped down as host of Equals Three but found a new host to takeover as fans still wanted the show to continue. A new host named Robbie took over Equals Three and most viewers were happy with the change. Slowly the viewership of each episode started to decline but still received over a million views. Once Robbie left the show, things went downhill drastically. When the next new host arrived, fans all of a sudden were not too pleased with the change, the comments and number of dislikes made it clear how they felt. Sadly this was the final nail in the coffin.
Five things that contributed to Ray William Johnson’s Downfall
1. Trying to break into Mainstream Media
Every YouTuber that becomes big, nearly always want to branch out to TV or movies even though it rarely works out. I remember hearing Ray talk about how he was working on a pilot TV show but ultimately it never made it to air. A quick browse through his IMDB page, and you’ll notice he doesn’t have much to show for all effort, trying to get television networks to pickup up his shows.
2. Expanding his Operation
Ray was doing well shooting videos out of his apartment but once he became successful he believed he needed to become more professional and rented an expensive studio in California. Ray spared no expenses and hired a full crew of people to help him produce the show. When the views declined, the business model became unsustainable and it was unlikely the channel was profitable. In the early days he was making good money and barely had any overheads to cover. In hindsight he should have continued to work from home and just hire some extra help to write and edit the show.
3. Joining a YouTube network
Joining Maker Studios seemed like a brilliant idea at the time but they were only ever interested in making money. Maker Studios didn’t care too much about the content they uploaded, they wanted to capture enough views to receive a return on their investment.
4. Losing his Court Case
Equals Three were sued for using copyrighted content by Jukin Media for illegally using clips and lost the lawsuit. The settlement was a big blow to the channel and hurt the profitability of Equals Three, a channel whose views continued to dwindle.
5.He Abandoned his Show
Ray left Equals Three because he wanted to work on new projects and didn’t want to continue purely to make money. What disappointed most fans was the abrupt way he ended the show. Instead of quitting, he could have made the show once a week and let his team write up all the content. By leaving abruptly not only did Equals Three popularity decline but so did his other YouTube channels.
Sadly he stopped receiving media attention and fans forgot about him. Go to his channel today and you will notice how he hides his number of subscribers since it looks bad beside a recent vlog with roughly 50,000 views. His most recent vlogs reveal he’s now a travelling comedian, performing in small venues throughout the United States. He seems happy, but it’s bizarre to think this guy was once the most watched person on the Internet.