Category: YouTube

We’ve Been Making YouTube Videos for over 5 Years!

Hilah Cooking 5 year anniversary

When I decided to start making videos for the internet, I didn’t have an amazing plan in place. In fact I had no plan. Other than the video production side of things, I really had no idea what I was doing. But I was fascinated by the possibilities of creating videos for YouTube.

So we went for it. We figured things out as we went along. We made lots of new friends. It became our full-time job.

Now, we’ve been making videos for YouTube (primarily) for over 5 years. Pretty crazy. This anniversary made me realize that I’ve been making Hilah Cooking videos longer than I’ve actually held down any of the “real” jobs in my career.

The anniversary also drove home the fact that I was feeling a little bit burned out. So was Hilah. As of January 1st 2015, we had made 375 videos for the Hilah Cooking channel. That doesn’t include all the videos we’ve made for companies like Tastemade and Ulive.

Since the beginning, I had been obsessed with creating the perfect show format. A format that was quick to produce and that could almost be automated. We made small tweaks to the format over time but had pretty much turned the operation into a video making machine. We did everything exactly the same way every time we shot and could produce the episodes very quickly. This allowed us to at times launch 3 videos per week.

This is something I always recommend people do when developing a format for their show.

It works. But we had lost the creative energy that was so exciting when we first started out.

Last summer, we cranked up the “machine” and got way ahead of schedule so that we could take a few months of baby vacation. For most of that time, we seriously thought that we might have reached an end point. That we were done making new videos. We would leave the channel up but concentrate on the website and on Hilah’s opportunities as on-screen talent for other companies. We definitely had lost the passion for making more “stand-and stir” videos.

As we mulled over the decision, it didn’t feel quite right to just stop. We had spent 5 years building and cultivating this thing. We loved the community that had developed around the show. And we still loved making videos together. Just not the videos we had already made hundreds of.

So instead of quitting, we’ve decided to break the channel.

Here’s a video that tells the story of how Hilah and I got started on YouTube and where we plan on taking Hilah Cooking in the future.

7 Ways to Make YouTube More Awesome For Creators

Last week the my inbox and social media feeds got absolutely hammered with articles about how YouTube makes $4 Billion dollars but isn’t profitable and is probably in big trouble because Vessel is going to be huuuuuuge.

Since I’ve been following James Altucher’s daily practice of writing down 10 ideas every day, my mind immediately shifted to thinking of things YouTube could to do make their service more awesome (and profitable).

Before I get started with my awesome ideas on how YouTube could make more money, let me just say… I love YouTube.

If I hadn’t started making YouTube videos, I would still be sitting in a cubicle like a chump for 8 hours a day wondering if my after-work trip to the liquor store was going to cause any over draft fees. I am not exaggerating when I say that making videos on YouTube has completely changed my life.

Ultimately, I don’t think it matters if YouTube loses money. It is of such cultural importance right now that Google should just be focused on not screwing it up. I know everybody is excited about Facebook Video and Twitter Video and instaVideo and Vessel and whatever the next YouTube killer is, but let’s keep our eye on the ball, people.

For internet video, YouTube is where it’s happening.

Here is my “wish list” for YouTube. Most of these are geared towards people who are using YouTube professionally but all of them could work towards building more revenue streams and increasing the amount of time viewers spend on-site.

  1. Easier Way To Promote Videos. I know lots of creators would be more than willing to pay money to promote their videos via paid advertising on YouTube. But the system is wayyyyyy too complicated. Create something similar to the Facebook BOOST feature. Make it ridiculously easy to boost a video and creators will use this like crazy.
  2. Paid Verification System— Creators spend way too much time filing copyright complaints. Let creators pay YouTube for a “seal of approval.” This seal of approval would give channels an extra edge in the ContentID system. When I report stolen content?—?which I have to do every week?—?my tickets would be escalated. This would also give my channels an edge when they are falsely reported for using content I have the rights to use. Speeding up the process for resolving these disputes and false flags could save creators thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
  3. Built-in Transcription and Closed Captioning Service. Bolt a service on to your existing Captions feature that would allow creators to pay to have the videos professionally transcribed. Right now just about everybody sends their videos to Speechpad or Fiverr for transcriptions. I would pay more to be able to click a button and not have to worry about it again. Plus, making it easier to have high quality closed captions is just the right thing to do.
  4. Let Viewers Subscribe to Shows (not just channels). Right now the whole YouTube ecosystem is based on channels. But lots of channels have different shows running on them. If viewers had the option to subscribe to shows rather than just channels, it would create an infinitely better viewing experience. It would also allow creators to experiement with different types of content on the same channel without the worry of alienating their regular audience.
  5. Viewer Dashboard. If you want viewers to come to YouTube and stick around, give them more options to see what they really want. Create an awesome viewer homepage that people can customize with the shows and channels they really want to see. You could still save a slot for promoted and recommended posts. Your alogorithms could probably even serve these up even more effectively with all the additional user data.
  6. Give Channels More Customization Options. Right now creators are focused on getting their viewers off of YouTube and onto their own sites. It’s a lot of extra work, but the current channel options are so limited there is really no other choice. Let creators turn their channels into mini-sites. Give us an incentive to drive more traffic to YouTube rather than to our own websites. Let me give people bonus content for subscribing. Bring back the feature where I could include a little advertisement on my channel pages. This is another service I would happily pay lots of money for.
  7. YouTube for Business. Similar to the Google Apps for Work, a white-label version of YouTube would be amazing. The infrastructure is already there, but it would be amazing to have business class features on top of it. I’m already paying for Vimeo and Wistia for my projects that are off-YouTube. But it would be great to have some of those high end features on top of YouTube’s streaming infrastructure.

Not all of these ideas will be for everybody, but they are all things I would implement right away.

Thanks for indulging my early morning brainstorming! What new features do you think would make YouTube a better place?

YouTube Black Book is now Available

ytblackbook-3DI announced at the end of last year that I was about to release a book all about my experiences creating YouTube channels. You may remember that I even sent out an email asking for your questions so I could make sure I wasn’t missing anything important.

I really had been working hard on the book for several months. By late January, I was finally at the finish line… but then … I choked.

Everything was finished except for the conclusion. Two or three paragraphs and a click of the EXPORT button are all that stood in the way of it being launched it into the world. But instead of doing that, I shut everything down and hoped nobody would remember that I said I was going to release a book.

Fortunately, YOU remembered. And you kept sending me emails asking if the book was ever going to be released.

In one of these emails, somebody called me out as potentially suffering from Imposter Syndrome. I hadn’t heard of it so I looked it up. Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:

… a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

Nailed it!

Imposter System had completely crippled me when it came to writing about YouTube stuff. It’s even responsible for the lack of blog posts here.

That email diagnosing me hit my inbox just as I was finishing up my YouTube Certification and I actually thought about it as I was finishing the final exam. I was blazing through the answers and feeling pretty good about myself. And I realized that I really needed to finish the YouTube Book.

After not having looked at it for months, I opened the book file again and read it. To my surprise, it was pretty awesome. And so close to being finished that it was ridiculous. I got back to work … added a few new sections, … updated everything … and finally wrote the conclusion.

I really couldn’t have finished it without the amazing amount of help from Hilah. She read and edited multiple rounds of revisions and gave an incredible amount of general help and encouragement. (She also may have written the sections on Instagram and Pinterest.)

So I’m happy to announce that YouTube Black Book is now available as an Amazon Kindle Book. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can read it on your phone or on a computer. I wanted to make this book affordable for and accessible for everybody who wants to read it — but I also wanted to use it to test out some theories I have about Amazon.

This book is designed to pick up where all the “official” YouTube training leaves off. It focuses more on the big picture rather than specific tactics. It also goes into a lot of detail behind-the-scenes of both the Hilah Cooking and Yoga With Adriene channels.

You’ll get free updates forever. I plan to update this book at least once a year.

So grab a copy. Tell your friends. And let me know what you think!

Thank you!

If the book is helpful to you, please take a minute and leave a review on Amazon. It will really help out a lot!

Gear Update (2014) – Down-Sized Edition

Canon C100

2014 may be another personal record-breaker for me as far as the number of videos I produce. It will definitely be a record breaker when it comes to the number of minutes produced. Even though I am producing more, I have started to downsize the amount of gear I use.

Last year, I went a little bit overboard. I had been using nothing but consumer camcorders for years. As soon as money started coming in from my various projects, I did what any self-respecting video geek would do – I started buying gear! It was fun but I ended up with too much stuff that ended up bogging down things when it came to production. There were too many options and too many things to think about. I am still a mciro-budget producer and almost always a one-man crew. Time is always of the essence and I already have too much on my mind. So I started to downsize.

My production set-up is now what you see in the photo above. For outdoor shoots, that is the whole thing (except for a collapsible bounce-card that I use when I have someone on-set helping me). We just produced the 5-hour EMPOWER yoga class with this set-up.

A-CAM: Canon C-100. I absolutely love this camera and if 4K wasn’t looking, would have already bought a second one. After spending just a few hours with this camera, I never wanted to shoot with a DSLR again. This is easily my favorite out of all the cameras I’ve owned so far. The only big downside is the viewfinder which is terribly designed and feels really out of place considering how great the rest of the camera is. The flip-out monitor isn’t so great either.

B-CAM: Canon T5i. As much as I love the C-100, I am stuck operating this one most of the time because I use this for tighter shots. If I go very wide on this one the image is way too soft to cut together with the C-100 footage. Close-ups and even medium shots are sharp enough. For an entry-level camera it has performed really well. It’s funny how much better the flip-out monitor is compared to the C100. This camera replaced the Canon 60D that I used for years. I think I just wore it out. I took it in for repairs but it had so many issues the repair guy told me it wasn’t worth fixing. It still works great for stills but overheats or shuts down immediately if I try to shoot video. RIP.

Sennheiser G3 Wireless Lav System. I’ve been using this for quite awhile. I actually have two kits now in case I need to do an interview. I’ve got absolutely nothing bad to say about this kit. I’ve even dropped the receiver a few times but thanks to the solid construction it still works great.

RODE Videomic Pro. I don’t actually use any of the audio from this mic. It serves as a cleaner reference track. This helps FCPX really nail the synchronization of the footage.

Zacuto Z-Finder. I’m not crazy about the Z-Finder but when shooting outside it’s the only way I can see what I’m doing.

Manfrotto 701 HDV Head with 755XB Tripod Legs. These are great lightweight tripods. They’re a little TOO lightweight for the C100 but the ease of set-up and transport make up for it.

That’s all I use when shooting outside. It’s easy to transport and quick to set-up and tear down. I use the same configuration when shooting inside but I add three lights.

Fotodiox Pro LED 508 A. This is a cheap Litepanels knock-off but it does the job. I especially like that it comes with a case and batteries. All you need is a light stand.

Linco Softboxes. I hate softboxes because they are normally just too much work to set-up. Linco has a great design that works like an umbrella. The only part that’s time consuming is screwing in all the lightbulbs. These lights are great for creating big soft areas of light. They also come with cases which is turning into a big selling point for me.

So that’s my current production setup. For the evolution of my Gear check out these posts:

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. And I’d LOVE to hear what gear you use to produce your videos.  Leave a comment and tell me all about it. The comments section has hereby been declared a safe place for Camera geek discussion.

 

Consistency is Key to Building a Successful YouTube Channel

Content is King is a popular concept in the world of bloggers and internet content creators. Apparently it was first used in an article by Bill Gates wayyyy back in 1996. The concept of the original article was quite prescient. Unfortunately, a lot of content creators have pulled that slogan and put a Field of Dreams spin on it: “If you create content, they will come.”

Since you’re reading this post, I’m sure you are already convinced of the importance of creating and owning content, but what good is your content if nobody can find it. For building a successful YouTube channel, I’ve found that Consistency is one of the most critical factors.

There are countless things to think about when planning the content for YouTube. Over the past year, I’ve been experimenting with quantity, quality, upload times, scheduling and even not publishing anything. I’ve found that implementing a clock-work like schedule can help to increase views, audience engagement and subscribers.

Last summer, I decided to see if publishing more videos would increase overall channel views and subscribers. We ramped up publishing frequency for both of the main channels I produce. At Hilah Cooking, we published three videos a week. For Yoga With Adriene we attempted two a week but didn’t always make it. Even though we had increased the amount of content, our publishing schedule was inconsistent.

It was a LOT of work, but I figured it would be worth it if it boosted all our numbers.

It didn’t.

Here’s what our views look like for the last part of 2013. We published videos on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings, but not always at the same time.

Hilah Cooking 2014 Publishing Schedule

Looking at December is particularly disheartening. We published 5 videos per week to take advantage of the holiday season when food/recipe traffic is normally really high. The videos were great and we weren’t slacking on quality, but it was still a flop. I believe we were publishing TOO MUCH content for our audience to consume and this was causing our engagement and watch time to drop – which means these videos were not getting pushed out in Subscriber Feeds or Related/Recommended Video feeds.

By the beginning of 2014 we were burned out and took some time off. When we had regrouped we made the decision to publish once per week – every Friday at 7:00p Central Time. Here’s what the analytics look like since making that decision:

Hilah Cooking 2014 publishing schedule

It takes a few weeks before anything becomes noticeably different. There was a peak when we release the first new (heavily promoted video) but then there are minor upticks on the days we released new videos. Nothing crazy. Then after we hit this publishing schedule on a consistent basis for four weeks, the peaks start to get regularly higher and now we are exceeding our previous publishing day numbers.

So what’s going on here? Are we just picking better video topics and optimizing the videos better?

Nope.

The views we’re getting on publish days are NOT via the search feature. Instead, they’re coming from subscribers feeds and the What To Watch area of their logged-in home pages. Engagement with a channels videos is one of the key factors for how these are selected. So two things are happening:

  1. Our subscribers have come to expect a video is coming at a specific time. They watch the video (engagement).
  2. YouTube picks up on this engagement and delivers more of our videos to the subscribers during those key engagement times.

We also get a nice boost in subscribers during this time period.

I’ve seen similar growth on the Yoga With Adriene channel. Here’s what the views look like for Yoga With Adriene in 2014 since implementing our once per week schedule:
Yoga With Adriene 2014 Publishing Schedule

January is traditionally an awesome month for traffic in the fitness and health niche but it starts to drift downward in March. But this isn’t the case here. The consistent schedule increased engagement across the board.

KEY TAKEAWAY: If you’re creating content on a regular basis, publish it on a regular basis down to the exact time of day. Use your analytics to look at certain times when your subscribers are engaging with your content, pick something that looks good and then stick with it for at least three months.