Youtube Tips

These are notes for myself, but I’ll make ’em public so they can help you too, right? By the way, check out articles like this – stating, with reasonably reliable source verification – that Ray William Johnson is making over $80,000 a Month (!!!) off his YouTube channel – that’s $1,000,000+ a year for you back row seat kids. And that’s without endorsements, movie deals, etc. – as the web takes over TV, or at least more entertainment is distributed online, we’ll see bigger numbers, bigger stars, and more cross pollination with conventional media.

I’m also predicting 2012 to be the breakout year for online video, led by a massive coming battle between Apple TV (relaunching, and spearheaded by Steve Jobs before his passing), Google TV, Playstation 4 / Sony [Update: Looks like Sony is out of this battle, but probably just waiting to see how the landscape plays out], and Microsoft (with it’s 360 / Kinect system). In short, we’ll see more websites consumed from the couch (easy navigation, big pictures, etc.), and a lot more video online. Add in Amazon’s Kindle streaming to pads, video on phones and tablets and PCs, and you’ve got more media choices than ever to pull you away from old-school “nothing’s-on” channel-surfing TV.

This is hands down the best time in the last century, in my opinion, to be a director / actor / etc. as an up-and-comer, as instability favors non-incumbents i.e. the bigger stars currently will give way to a new batch, just as happened with silent movies giving way to “talkies”, and black and white giving way to color.

Anyway, enough grandstanding. Here are some specific youtube tactics below. Think of these as “best practices for youtube” to maximize views.

If you haven’t already, be sure to study the YouTube Playbook here – it’s excellent, and compiled by youtube staff.

  1. The icon is generated based on 25%, 50%, and 75% of the timeline. Make sure it’s compelling. Adjust the outro-credit-roll, or call-to-action, etc. – add space to the end if needed. NOTE: The icon should contain promise i.e. should be visually arresting itself. See and you’ll see what I mean – those are the most-viewed videos of all time. Just as the movie poster was incredibly important at luring audiences into theaters 50 years ago, the icon is not to be overlooked in importance.
  2. Notice the red click-to-subscribe at the top of this video –
  3. The youtube playbook really pushes hard on making the first 10-15 seconds fun, funny, interesting, scary… in short, compelling. Everything is a click away. Once people get past that first part, they’re likely to keep watching, but they’ll bail quickly if the intro is weak.
  4. From watching plenty of Ray William Johnson videos (fun!) I think he’s adding the “next video” button to the top right, slightly before some dropoff point. This is done using annotations by the way, after the video is uploaded. At times it comes earlier, other times later, but seems to be on the older videos so clearly he’s going back and adding it. Example –
  5. In all cases the video needs to be compelling, in Ray’s case, he adds sound effects and graphics, but also finds very highly viewed videos and comments on them, which is a sort of proof it’s viral i.e. the original video gets tons of views, so he rips ’em off (I’m not talking about whether it’s right or wrong here, or even legal, but notice the pattern).
  6. In the case of FreddieW (currently #6 on ) he doesn’t have the same pops and graphic overlays, instead, he likes special effects and makes quick videos that are fun to watch, if lacking much of a story – but obviously his audience doesn’t care. Notice he starts with an annotation overlay of…<continued below / next item>
  7. Prompt people to subscribe by copying the URL of your own subscribe link, and adding it into the actual video via annotation after upload
  8. In ray’s case, he almost always asks a question that simple to answer, with a request to comment below. Comments help promotion, and also, humans like to feel heard so they feel like they’re actually engaging. It also feeds Ray a non-stop diet of comments, even if negative, to riff on.
  9. All have some time for outro, sort of like the “soft curtain” of a feature film, where it’s not the main content but still fun to watch – this is purposely done for people to decide what to do next, which, the producer hopes is engage in some fashion: comment, tweet, share, facebook comment, etc.
  10. Notice in this video the carefully formatted description text (everything below the video starting with “click to tweet”) – make it easy for people to engage.
  11. This guy – Ryan Higa – seems to have rose to #2 mainly through cross promotion, simple charisma, and tapping into a younger (and thus spending more time online watching youtube videos) audience. Cross promotion is, _after_ you have some compelling content that is *proven* to be viral, the fastest way to get a huge audience fast. The trick: Don’t blow it on weak content.
  12. Smosh styled the header to prompt subscribing, but the fully-styled page seems to only be offered to “full partners” i.e. an invitation-only status for established producers.
  13. FreddieW is excellent at content promotion at the end of all his videos – see at ~ 2:43 – he edits the promo-clip into the actual source (moving video can’t be done via annotation, but a clickable clear area can) i.e. the 2 clips of other videos he wants you to watch, creating a self-serving circle of content. I assume / hope he generally puts his best performing content there, which is then more likely you hook you in and cause you to subscribe.

Further Watching:

Excellent Interview at USC – prestigious film school by the way:

Additional general observations – this is like the internet in 1999, right?

  1. Notice the high percentage of musicians: this is presumably because people watch the video several times to listen to the music. Is this a viable revenue model for up and coming musicians? Who knows… surely the internet made a big difference in Adele going from zero to megastar practically overnight, as did Lady Gaga.
  2. The content is of more of interest to young people, but this is the future generation, and simply early adopters. As more people consume youtube from the couch, we’ll see this skew upward.