YouTube tots pick top toys
A snaggletooth 8-year-old. A middle schooler with a punk rocker bob cut and big earrings. Tween siblings with a penchant for playing.
These are among the young power brokers who will determine the toys that will be under Christmas trees this year.
At a time when toy sales have stagnated for years at $22 billion, children who review toys on YouTube are wielding influence.
"Kids trust other kids more so than they would an adult," says Marc Rosenberg, a Chicago-based toy consultant.
Leading the pack of pint-sized YouTube personalities is Evan, 8, who has dimples and a few missing teeth. With over 1 billion views between his three channels, he's YouTube's most popular kid. He gets over 800 million views from EvanTubeHD, where he reviews the toys.
EvanTubeHD features special effects thanks to his dad, Jared, who runs a video production company full-time. Evan is known for telling kids how to play with toys.
In a review of Angry Birds Space Softee Dough playset, Evan apologizes for a noticeable lisp.
"Sorry if I'm talking a little funny today because I just lost my tooth."
Behind Evan are a few other young YouTube phenoms. Most of the children are identified by first name because their parents don't want to risk their safety:
Siblings Noah, 14, Jonah, 12, and Emma, 11 star in KittiesMama, which has nearly 400 million views. KittiesMama is a reality show that chronicles the kids' daily lives, including birthday parties. They also review toys and Emma shows kids how to look like characters from toy lines like My Little Pony.
Gracie Hunter, 11, pairs up with her mother, Melissa, in "Mommy and Gracie," which has close to 90 million views. Gracie searches for hard-to-find dolls with her mom. They've even traveled to Canada from their New Jersey home to find a Monster High doll.
RadioJH Audrey has over 60 million views. Audrey, 11, speaks to tweens, frequently saying "cool" and "awesome." She also streaks her bobbed hair in a rainbow of colors and wears big jewelry and studded tees. Audrey's trademark: reviewing mystery toy bags that are sold at places like Toys R Us.
Julie Krueger, industry director of retail at Google, which owns YouTube, says the channels have "huge followings of fans."
Toy makers, from Mattel to smaller ones, have noticed. In fact, Spin Master says Evan's reviews helped boost sales of its Spy Gear toys 65 percent this year.
"It gives the item more widespread exposure," says Jim Silver, editor-in-chief and CEO of TTPM.com, a toy review website.
Toy makers regularly send the young reviewers products. And some even paid marketing deals with them and their parents.
Evan's dad, Jared, says he works with partners that resonate with the audience. Jared, who says he invests the money the channels make toward his children's futures, says the success was unexpected.
"It's kind of surreal," says Jared, who started the channel with Evan in 2011.
Evan agrees: "I didn't think it would turn out like this when I first made the channel. I thought I would just get four views."
Critical thinking challenge: Why do toy makers care what kids think?