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Thoughtful Vloggers

For a long time now, I've thought that I'd need to start producing video content as regularly as I do audio podcasts in order to advance my career to a genuinely sustainable level. I've believed this to be the case for a few years now, but in the last couple of week's I've felt the inspiration to get a move on. I have acquired a very inexpensive HD video rig (a review of which will be one of the first videos I post on my new YouTube channel).

My podcasts have been quite intellectual, being comprised of long-form, big picture discussions with authors and other intellectually accomplished people. YouTube doesn't seem to have much appetite for that sort of thing. I was talking with Derek "Deek" Diedricksen of RelaxshacksDotCom the other day, and he said that his videos that are longer than 15 minutes get fewer views than his shorter videos. For many YouTube viewers, 15 minutes is more of a commitment than they're willing to make.

Clearly, I will have to learn to play a new game on YouTube.

I watched a video about the 10 most successful YouTubers in terms of total number of views, and 8 out of the top 10 were guys who played video games and commented on them as they played. The chief deity in this pantheon is PewdiePie, who makes millions of dollars a year by being genuinely interested in video games and being charmingly silly. The two non-game-oriented YouTubers in that top 10 list were people who "unbox" toys on camera and comment on them.

What does this tell me? I think it tells me that children, teens and young adults comprise the largest audience segments on YouTube and that it pays big to take their interests seriously. Still, I think I'm largely looking for adult viewers.

When it comes to video and computer games, I really only play three: Civilization IV, Plants Vs. Zombies 2, and Minecraft. The first two seem like non-starters. Minecraft videos are certainly lucrative, but I have no intention of trying to compete in that field.

I've watched a lot of videos about the business of making money on YouTube, and one piece of advice that comes through loud and clear is "know your audience." That presents a real challenge for me, because the audience that I've drawn to me over the last 9 years with the C-Realm Podcast is not the audience I expected to attract when I first got started, and I can't even say I have all that clear or accurate a vision of who my existing audience is. I'm pretty sure that I won't attract a large enough audience by pitching my YouTube videos at the existing C-Realm Podcast audience.

I need to be less serious, less cerebral and much more energetic on YouTube. I'm pretty sure that a segment of my existing audience will find my YouTube efforts to be undignified and unworthy, even if I fail to loosen up nearly enough to attract a sizable YouTube audience. I can't worry about that.

My questions to you are as follows:

Do you know of a YouTube vlogger who appeals to the intellect in a fairly dignified way who has more than 10,000 subscribers? I'm looking for some role models.

Do you know of any high-value discussion forums, sub-Reddits perhaps, where there are many hundreds or thousands of people engaging with substantial questions? I'm hoping to mine the content of those discussions for video content and then post those videos to the forums where lots of people are discussing those topics.

My new channel is called "Outta My Head," and the idea is to explore things other than (or in addition to) my usual abstractions and "weighty" issues. I'm looking for something with wider appeal than the stuff I've focused on in the past, but it needs to be stuff I can honestly engage with without feeling like I'm compromising my values. Do you have any ideas?


Someone responded via email with:

You asked on your blog about vloggers who have big audiences without watered-down content, a great one is Vi Hart:


Most of her best stuff is the "doodling in math class" stuff that is typically 3-6 minutes in length, though actual recording time must be immensely longer (she uses a lot of sped up video, plus I know from my own video making that you start with 10x the footage that you end up actually using...).

I've also really enjoyed a lot of how-to/project videos on youtube, e.g. the king of random:


No idea how you would make what you like work on youtube though - the singularity podcast guy (Nikola) spends a lot of extra time and money to make videos of his interviews (instead of just audio) but in my opinion it's entirely useless effort/expense, I would never watch a video of an interview, because basically all the content is in the audio anyway, and I need my eyes for whatever else I am doing... especially over those longer time-periods. To be compelling at an hour in length, video is a huge enterprise; that's why movies cost millions...

So I would say that one of the things to think about when transitioning to youtube is: why do people NEED the video (instead of just the audio)? You can see the answer clearly in both Vi Hart's stuff and King of Random's stuff(, and the video game vloggers stuff, and the unboxing videos), and hopefully whatever you make has a similar clear reason for being video... otherwise you're wasting time and energy on video that could be going into making more compelling audio.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 17th, 2015 12:40 am (UTC)
While I think you would make a great vlogger, I am skeptical of the "industry" as a whole. Those that make actual spendable cash do so by allowing ads to preview and overlay on their vids. Hence the multitude who go for gaming; it's universal, and game companies and related others synergize with the ads.

Do you know of a YouTube vlogger who appeals to the intellect in a fairly dignified way who has more than 10,000 subscribers?

Other than the Khan Academy, not really. Even erudite and interesting people I know personally (like S. T. Joshi's friend Wilum Pugmire) use their channels as outlets for voicing random concerns and (in Wilum's case) announcing when his new publications are available to his readers. Thus, the vids seem to be a way of getting word out about the paying gig, rather than a separate outlet for other material.

And actually, that would be a wonderful use for your channel. It could be a way to share snippets from the Vault, a way to build interest in the Vault's content in a manner that would generate future subscribers. I'm thinking here of just a few choice quotes from the guest, perhaps with animated or live video of the conversation (if available), or a mash-up of quotes with other visuals.

The channel could therefore be a meta-Vault, a way to meld or weave different content from different episodes into an overarching theme. This could direct people toward your paying gig without compromising a darned thing.

Just thoughts.
Aug. 17th, 2015 12:51 am (UTC)
Thanks, Jim. I've had thoughts along a similar line, so you've provided me with a bit of validation.
Aug. 18th, 2015 08:08 pm (UTC)
The only "vloggers" I follow have nothing to do with being erudite or thoughtful. They fall into two camps: hoopers/flow arts (mostly low budget instructional or happy fun, neither of which involve much advertising, unless it's to try and get you to attend their retreat/camp/seminar), and "vehicle-dependent expeditioners" (i.e. glamping by 4x4 or dirt biking across Africa, most of which tend to be peppered with product reviewing or "integrated advertising").

I like peristaltor's idea of using your channel as a sort of "Vault plus". If/as it takes off you can start doing longer-form stuff, too, but since your current expertise is with podcasting, it makes sense to drive your potential revenue stream there first.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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