Three Golden Rules of Online-Video Creation

Nalts is Moses (not God)For years I’ve written countless words about “do this” and “don’t do this” related to online video creation. Some of this applies to amateurs or pros, and some to advertisers and brands. Today’s advice pertains to three “Golden Rules”, and it’s important for all of us- but especially creators.

Let’s look at the Three Biggest Mistakes made by online video creators (and that does include “viral campaigns”):

  1. Emphasizing quality over cost.
  2. Believing good content will get seen.
  3. Caring about what the audience thinks.

Now you skeptics just mentally formulated the three following counterpoints while reading the Big 3 Mistakes above. I’m right, aren’t I?

  1. Higher production value generally means the content is better
  2. The social aspect of the web means good stuff rises and bad stuff dies
  3. The most savvy creators listens to audiences and predicts them, thus creating content that’s more popular.

The good news is that your counterpoints are indeed accurate. The bad news is that if you live by them, you’re going to be broke, frustrated and unsatisfied in your work. I promise. And a promise is a promise. So today, Uncle Nalts will serve up the 3 Golden Rules that shall guide you on your path to online-video sustainability. They’re subject to change as the market matures, but who cares?  If you succeed you’ll find your own reasons to explain it. And if you fail, you won’t soon return to this post because it will piss you off.

Golden Rule #1: At all costs, manage costs. There STILL isn’t a safe online-video monetization model (advertising, purchase, rent) for the majority of video content online. This is actually good news for amateurs like me, because we’ll sustain while better creators come and go — studios simply can’t justify a team of writers, producers, directors, actors, editors on the hopes of finding an audience (that day will come perhaps). I certainly am not the best video creator, but I’m probably one of the most profitable. I write, shoot, edit, and act… So I don’t have costs beyond my excesive time (which I justify by joy, not an hourly wage) and the nominal amount I spend on equipment and variable fees. Most of the people in my videos are acting for fun like I do, and occasionally I’ll pay them with bribes and gift cards.

Golden Rule #2: Good Content is Not Popular. It’s time you separate your notions of what’s good and what’s popular. You couldn’t have predicted 10 years ago that a cup of coffee would cost more than a gallon of gasoline — and that you’d bitch about gas prices while sucking down your overpriced moca frapolati venti with vanilla sprinkles. Good isn’t popular, and popular isn’t good. Does that mean you strive for popularity? Nope. That’s like trying to change the direction a boat is taking by hoping the wake shifts direction. But don’t lose hope here! Nalts doesn’t drop crap on your desk without telling you how to clean it. The lesson is that you’re responsible for getting your videos seen if you want your videos to be seen. I’ll bet you’ve been obsessing on what you do before you hit upload, and subconciously starving everything that happens after that (as if it’s beneath you). Don’t pimp and spam it (I know some video creators that should be Amway reps), but invest in some gentle efforts to get the video to a relevant audience. If the video is about cheese, did you remember to send it the cheese blogger? He’s got an audience of cheese lovers, and not much else to write about.

Golden Rule #3: Screw The Audience. I’m serious. This is really, really hard to do. There are times where you’re hypercharged by the feedback and audience interaction. It’s validating, it helps hone your storytelling, and it’s instant gratification. But almost no online-video creator is at risk of losing touch with their audience — the medium consumes them. Rather, most popular creators lose their steam because they focus on feeding the audience instead of instinct. What began as a fun outlet becomes an obligation. Experimentation becomes repetition of a formula that seems to work (Zipster08 and SMPFilms have, interestingly, spun off LocoMama and a Sparta the Cat channel the same week — these were recurring bits that grew and sustained much of their audiences, but fatigued others). By focusing on the audience above all, desperation and frustration sets in. The remedy for artistic sustainability is caring less. Get back to doing what’s fun and ignoring the “you’ve lost your edge” cold-prikly comments but also the “that’s the best video you’ve done” warm fuzzies. Every video creator I know (and I know a lot of you) pays too much attention to feedback, and I’m quite confident it’s the root cause of death spirals (including my own). For you advertisers, I’d adapt this rule as follows: don’t follow the formula because it’s already been done. The best judge of future viral failure is past viral success.

Moses has spoken.

41 thoughts on “Three Golden Rules of Online-Video Creation”

  1. Nalts, I’m really digging the picture for this post. It’s even better than the one of me as Electro that’s set as my channel backround.

  2. The YouTube Suicide Extortion Model:
    If you don’t make an “I Quit YouTube Forever” video every 6 to 8 months, how is anyone going to take you seriously?

    The Zipster Rinse And Repeat Model:
    If you find something that works, make that very same video over and over and over and over again. Ad infinitum. Don’t even change clothes. With the sound off, a viewer should not be able to tell video #16 from videos 17 through 640.

    The Lisa Nova Tits Up Front Model:
    Breasts must fill the bottom two-thirds of every video you make, no matter what the subject. Also known as the IDONothingAllDay Approach

  3. Rule #1 – Be like George Lucas in the 70s – anything can be made out of anything.

    Rule #2 is easily the most true thing ever said about online video. Not that you shouldn’t make good content, but there is a reason they have those annoying ads on the bottom of TV shows for other TV shows on that specific network. If no one says anything, it doesn’t exist.

    Rule #3 can also be called “find your audience.” The stuff I do, I do it because I like it. And the people that like it have found it over time and are spreading it to other people.

  4. It makes me laugh when the viewers don’t get the joke. My favorite comment is when someone tells me “You are boring and I’m unsubscribing.”

    My standard reply is “Oh no… you’re unsubscribing?! I am off to go cry in my emo corner… oh wait… who are you?”

    I totally lost focus on what the topic was here didn’t I?

  5. 1: As my wife likes to ask me: “Who do you think you’re gonna satisfy with that”?
    Answer ” Me!”

    2: Does your audience get it? Who cares.

    3: Handle your critics! That’s why God created the delete button!

  6. Thank you god that is the people at youtube who put in the delete button.

    but wait, if god hates gays, and god put in the delete button…

    sorry notcheese, the time for that comment was not now.

  7. I can handle golden rule 1, because I spend absolutely nothing on any of my videos.

    Golden rule #2 – does not apply to me because it’s focused on good content. Also, I can’t think of any bloggers who would give a rat’s ass about any of my videos unless they’re a pedophile. I don’t generally make videos about cheese.

    golden rule #3 – i would have to start another channel if I were gonna screw the audience because I don’t think that would be appropriate for me to do in front of my son.

    You know, I actually think my kid with his angelic face and sweet personality would be great for advertising except for one thing – no short term memory and impossible to direct. And me as a stage mother. Yeah. Think Dina Lohan if she had grey hair, a substantial paunch, never wore anything but sweat pants and only showered once every four days.

  8. Too long a post for me to read. I’m trying to catch up after being away for a couple of days. Sometimes you go days without posting anything here, but just because I don’t visit for a few days, you suddenly have to write a freakin’ book.

  9. you should add these to the book.

    I can’t help it, I’m just lazy. I can adjust to just about anything in the creative area, providing I have the time and cause I don’t care, for the most part, what the audience thinks. Hits and misses don’t bother me, they are all sketches in hopes of better equipment, a bigger budget and more time. I’m fantastic at deleting comments I don’t like especially, from sock accounts; I seldom have a reason to use foul language so it’s a little thrill when they post something I can delete.

    Thinking a bit more about #whichever, I don’t really mind writing to people who might find some value in what I’ve created; someone is going to like what you do simply because the odds are in your favor, I believe word of mouth it what drives real numbers. E-mail being deleted before it is read or no answer; yea or nay, is disheartening especially, after I’ve been very thorough and polite, but I’ve learned to live with that, kind of sort of, spit! My biggest problem is copyright, I need to find out how to go about gaining permission and splitting any monetization that might occur. When I’ve figured that out what I need is someone to help me take care of distribution and the development of a web site that reflects the tons of work I have stored on the hard drive; projects forever in process. I’d also like to find a person or people with a similar ideas to collaborate with more often, I don’t think I’ve explored that as much as I’d like.

  10. Well I guess we’re all late to the dinner table, because somebody actually did make a video about cheese, and it got featured.

  11. We should all band together and make videos about cheese and put them up the same day for a cheeze blitz.

    Actually, we shouldn’t do that. No one should.

  12. “..that is cheese, believe it or not, that’s cheese. look at those sexy cheese cloth marks. cheese cloth is like the fish net stockings of kitchen equipment.”

  13. I’ll do a cheese video if everybody else does but it will be cheesy. Are we doing it sat. july 5 at midnight? and is that actually july 4
    right before midnight or sat,.july 5 right before midnight? Sorry, that’s the lawyer in me. I like to be precise.

    Then we should find a cheese blogger and all send him messages with links to our videos and tell him “hey, Kevin Nalts suggested that you might be interested in my cheese video. Thanks for taking a look at it.” or something like that.

    Then also include a link to this WWFF blog entry.

    I’m out of control, I know. I’ve spent the last 9 days with a 6 year old. Just me and him. What do you expect?

  14. Cheese video uploaded between 8 and 11:59 pm Saturday, July 5. Nobody expects you to cut the cheese on a holiday. Any suggestions on the cheese blogger yet?

  15. I’ll look for a cheese blogger tomorrow in between Vicodins. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! Just kidding. I should be so lucky.

  16. I swear I posted a comment with links to various cheese bloggers. Now I can’t find it. Did I add it to another post? Am I going crazy (entirely possible)? Anyway, there was one called the cheese spot and one called the cheese mistress, which looked interesting.

  17. marilyn, I don’t have enough drugs, however, I do have summer camps. They start next monday.

  18. suaktra: I was wondering if you employed summer camps. You wuss. I had my kids at home with me all summer long. It is amazing I survived.

  19. hey, I never said I was a good mother. I’m always looking for opportunities to pawn him off on somebody else. Unfortunately I don’t usually have any. We’ve been living here in virginia since fall of 2006 and I haven’t used a babysitter once, whereas I had all sorts of babysitting sources in California and had a nanny when he was a baby.

    Since you’ve got so much experience having kids at home during the summer, mind if I ship him off to you?

  20. My room just caught fire again so I have to go sleep out on the living room guest couch, otherwise I’d offer it, sukatra. I like kids. They give my momma someone to talk to on her level. Right now, my dog is filling that role.

  21. I never saw this post about the cheese blitz. I guess that’s why my video had nothing to do with cheese… but crackers. When I thought of the video idea, my only instinct was to parody what nalts did and do the opposite. That’s how I came up with the “Not So Naked Crackers” idea. But it’s still good to be part of the cheese blitz. Mmmmm cheese blitz!

  22. Sukatra: I only work part-time in the summer (summer school, 4 days a week, 3 hours a day, for 6 weeks starting 7/7), so I would love to have Hank around. I miss having a little kid around. Sure, ship him off to me.

  23. Not bad advice. I actually took a bunch of time away from YouTube because of a “personal situation”, and before I left, I was definitely caught up in catering to what my viewers enjoyed, instead of doing what earned most of my subscribers in the first place: creating lots of unique, entertaining footage. (Of course, “entertaining” is subjective. Videos featuring the combination of Mountain Dew & Cough Syrup, or the chronicles of a man born with a bag for a face, etc… might be downright boring to some.)

    All the same, I still value the people who watch my stuff, and I’m insanely thankful for them, but my days of creating tutorials and informational videos simply because that’s what I was being asked for is over. (I may still continue making them, but only if I want to!)

    After all, the slogan is “Broadcast yourself”, not “Broadcast what everyone else wants you to do”.

    Anyway, just my 2 cents on the topic. Hmmm, that’s probably overpriced at two cents – I’ll take one cent. Heck, just don’t kick me in the head and I’ll be fine!

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