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3 Months on The YouTube

In just under two weeks time it will be 3-months to the day that I posted my first video on YouTube, though I’d been considering starting to post YouTube content 2-3 months ahead of that as I considered thinking about a solo holiday.

I’d set Christmas as a review point in my head as I thought I’d be out of the Disney content by now and be needing a regular replacement. As it happens things have gone slightly differently on the basis I’m only halfway through the Disney World 2016 vlogs.

The idea of stepping back and reviewing is still a good idea. This is essentially a look back at how the ideas in YouTube Supply, Demand and Personal Growth has panned out.

The Supply Side ‘Success’

The focus of the first three months was the supply side: the idea that the need to supply YouTube with regular content would drive me to engage with my hobbies to create that content.

This hasn’t really happened. It’s been…different.

The YouTube channel has not seen me play computer or tabletop games. It’s not had me reading more books. While the role-playing group has started again on alternate Sundays it’s not really a YouTube driven thing. While I’m continually watching lots of media content anything related to them has not found its way to YouTube.

The reasons for this are a mixture of time, the fact I’ve not found a found a convenient or comfortable way to bring that content to the YouTube channel yet and I’m also much more confortable vlogging than I am doing stationary, studio (albeit there is no actual ‘studio equipment’ of any sort) filming. The vast majority of my ‘tripod scenario’ filming has been rejected.

The supply side has gone in different directions, namely getting out and about and filming in local, epic countryside locations. This is surprising as I didn’t see it happening. It was born out of a Sunday in which I was a bit maudlin and decided to get out and about and climb Roseberry Topping. I really enjoyed it, it looked awesome on video and it became a thing. I suspect this will continue into 2017 especially as the weather improves.

This is something I’d have NEVER done if it wasn’t for the existence of the channel.

The challenge on the supply side for 2017 is to fulfill my original goal and somehow find a way for my every day hobbies to feature on the channel and find an interesting way of bringing them to the format. This is a mixture of presentation, time, space and technical problems.

In summary, I rate the supply side as a success, it’s just been a different sort of success.

The Demand Side ‘Fail’

I’ll be direct and simple about this. While I didn’t have any goals for the demand side running up to Christmas, by any measure it can’t be called a success. The views, likes and subscribes have been harder than I thought they would be and this is from someone who thought they’d gone in with realistic, long-term and slow growth expectations. I was fully expecting any theoretical numbers in the hundreds to be measured in year(s).

I have the 10 subscribers and I think 50% are friends and family. The views are also low but at least they go from about 10 – 40 views.

While I never had any targets I’d have liked to be in the tens of subscribers now. I’m focusing on real subscribers, not purchased ones or easy swapping or zombies ones, but by that measure I do feel disapointed with the progress. I have to temper this as, in truth, I’m more interested in views, though I realise there is a ‘sort of link’ with the two.

I’ll admit to being a competitive person..sort of. I’m not competitive in the sense it’s all consuming and bad for my health (my dislike of competitive games proves that), but I do tend to identify my own, personal ‘competition’ pacemakers and I feel I’m falling behind on that basis. While I know this is wrong, I’m also a realist, so it’s more it niggles me and forces me to consider how to do better.

You can say I’m competitive with myself as if I do something I always want to do it well!

There is only two ways to deal with this. Concentrate on the demand side as that’s still delivering personal benefits. Identify the unique ‘sell’ of the channel as a proposition and then come up with a way to ‘market’ it. That’s not guaranteed to work, it may be the content is vapid, but doing nothing certainly isn’t going to change anything.

Big numbers aren’t my thing per se, but some sense I’m contributing to something is.

It’s Not a Disney Channel

The intention was to always launch the channel with my 14-day solo Disney World trip as a good stretch of front loaded content. There was a number of reasons for this.

I wanted to vlog on the holiday as part of the solo experience. This was a success as it significantly contributed to the holiday. I’d been inspired by a range of other vloggers doing this: KrispySmore, Adam Hatton, Ellie Steadman and Gillian At Home purely because those had been the ones I encountered while considering the trip (not so much the vlogging).

The content backlog would also give me the time to think through the rest of the channel.

I also felt the experience of a long, solo trip might be an interesting bit of content, after all, content on this is relatively small and is invarialy produced by the opposite sex, on vastly shorter trips and quite often someone from a younger generation (or all three of these). I also knew Disney vlogging was a thing and thought it would give the site a focus and potentially an initial audience.

I’ve come to realise the channel isn’t a Disney vlogging channel. The Disney vlogs are great. I enjoyed making them and I think they’re great content but in terms of the channel they are more the first bit of travelling I’ve vlogged rather than the start of a Disney focused channel.It’s also true I love theme parks so it was a great start and thoroughly within the remit of the channel.

I’m also not convinced I have the right attitude to succeed as a 100%, exclusive Disney-focused channel even if I was inclined to do so. I don’t cry when I see the castle. Hell, I don’t even like the Magic Kingdom that much. I tend not to do parades (now, I used to back in 1996 – 2004) or character interactions. I think a whole host of attractions should just be bulldozed and replaced (The Enchanted Tikki Room, Country Bear Jamboree, etc). I don’t do it as a couple which seems to be..the thing. I’ll probably not be going to a Disney meet-up in the UK. I don’t want to move to Florida, be a Disney staff member or view it as my home.

Basically, I see Disney as a fantastic theme park experience, but very much a theme park – I’m not 100% convinced on the ephemeral magic beyond the recognised exemplary nature of their staff and individual moments like The Tree of Life lighting up, etc. I suspect I won’t be going to Disney often enough. While I can afford to go I need new stuff and a reason to go, rather than going to experience the same things again.

It’s just not going happen as I suspect I’m not Disney…enough.

In a strange sort of way, technology aside, I’d have been the perfect Disney vlogger between 1996 and 2004. I probably had more of their ‘quintessential’ characteristics back then and it would have involved a couple, which is de rigour.

What I Have Learned?

I’ve learned a number of things from the first three months. I suspect none of it wasn’t expected to some degree, but it’s still different to experience rather than understand it in the abstract.

It takes a lot of time. The irony of YouTube as a supply side experiment is it can take a lot of time which then acts as a drag on your time to engage with the hobbies to generate the content! It takes some management, it’s taking a lot less time now than it was taking, but it is still a couple of evenings a week and some time on the weekend. This is for editing, rendering, uploading to YouTube and then doing the final touches on the site (largely configuring the outro). If I was to move to a more studio-like mode of filming rather than filming while I’m doing something else that would involve more time. It’s safe to say those looking at YouTube from the outside vastly underestimate how much time it takes.

Down in the shallow pool the rules don’t apply. I’m not sure all the rules you can read before starting your channel are critical when you first start. At the shallow end of the pool you don’t need to be an olympic swimmer. I made sure I entered the game with high production values, because it was the price of entry as far as I was concerned. You want at least HD footage and clear sound. You want it all to look nice and professional. Some things took a few iterations but the actually videos had a great technical quality from the start. It’s quite clear you can be more successful with ropey video quality and sound so bad you can hear only one of the people on the video. It’s also clear simpler set-ups with more focus work, but that’s another issue.

Unfocused content is a problem. I always knew one of the risks was my channel wasn’t razor-focused in its proposition. It’s not a Disney channel. It’s not a travel channel. It doesn’t just talk about trailers or films. It’s obvious from a marketing point of view that someone interested in Disney World isn’t necessarily going to be interested in games (not that such content has featured yet).

Basically I can’t say you get this one thing and then more and more of it. In a purely marketing sense not only should I reduce my channel down, to say, gaming it should be narrowed down to tabletop gaming and then possibly board games alone.

That’s how focused you have to be, really.

I’m not going to do that, at least not consciously as a marketing decision. The goal is to have the channel move to representing the ‘entirety of me’ even if that means I suffer due to a lack of razor sharp focus. I realise this causes a lot of problems in terms of obtaining viewers, but if I did it any other way I wouldn’t enjoy it and that would be pointless. Should a narrower focus find itself, then that’s fine, but I can’t see it happening as of yet. I really do realise this thing, even ignoring anything else, could be the killer, but at the moment I see no other way forward that would be enjoyable.

You need to publicise a lot. I mean to embarrassing levels. Not only that you have to expect the vast majority of that publicising to get zero results. As you’d expect a lot of it comes down to social media. The wrinkle with all this should be obvious to anyone? A lot of people are doing exactly the same thing so it can end up being a series of Mexican stand-offs. Everyone wants you to subscribe, no one overly wants to subscribe.

This is a very elusive part of the process. What makes some blatant channel growth social media messages work? What gets you in a community rather than feeling external to it? It is two-parts frustrating and three parts challenging and interesting.

The Channel and 2017

I will freely admit to having my first ‘why bother’ YouTube blip at the 2-month point. I did get over it. I’ll also freely admit to hearing some of the most sensible comments on this sort of thing from a pre-teen vlogger. She has more sense than many adults.

On the basis I’m really enjoying it I’m going to see what I can achieve through 2017. I’ve got some time off over Christmas and I’m going to review how I approach the channel in terms of marketing, penetration and content, while continuing with the Disney content as I’m only halfway through the holiday and have at least two months left.

I suspect I’ll re-focus on the vlogging approach to the channel rather than a ‘studio’ set-up. The thought I’m putting in over Christmas is to re-assess how I can use engagement with my hobbies to generate content. The original idea. I just want to do it in a way that doesn’t just tell people what I did but shows people what I’m doing. I’ve seen too many vlogs that are essentially ‘I did this, then I did this, I also did some of this’ and that’s fine, hell some people get lots of views with them, but I can’t bring myself to deliver that as content.

It’s been a great learning process over the first three months, which was exactly the point. Do. Learn. Fix. Try again. Looking forward to 2017 and we shall see how it goes. Till next time. And you know, hop on over and subscribe, I’m told I should be directly asking that..ALL the time!

About Ian O'Rourke

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