Care Less. Get More Views.

“There’s something about reading your own quote in print that makes you believe your own BS,” said Kevin Nalts on his blog today. A recent article in StreamingMedia quoted a few of my observations on production quality and how important it is in web video popularity and views:

  • “…We’re still at a point where production value doesn’t matter that much; in fact, it can hurt you if you overproduce,” says Kevin Nalty, a top YouTube producer known as Nalts. “There’s a certain level of resentment towards the people on YouTube who are trying to have the perfect shot and the perfect lighting. It suddenly makes them seem like they’re better than everyone else, and the video can come off as more commercial, more canned, and less authentic.”
  • “I try to work on my production quality, but it’s not a high priority,” says Nalty. “I don’t give a crap about lighting, and I’ll put my camera on a tissue box to get a shot. Where I work hard is on the editing and timing because that’s what can harm videos. I probably spend zero time planning a video, 10 minutes shooting it, and an hour or so editing it. And I think that’s kind of right, though maybe I should spend less time planning. I’m not like Hitchcock, drawing up a storyboard. I’d never start if I did it that way.”

Let’s look at the proof… who’s the most popular YouTuber right now? Fred. And his production is horrible. It’s what you’d expect from a teenage kindergartner. Now move down the list on the top 10 subscribers, and you’ll find the same is true with Nigahiga, KevJumba, and Sxephil. Of course, HappySlip and Smosh put a bit more care into their shots, but that’s because they’re plots not stories. 

Here’s the common denominator of the top YouTube channels… they’re people not production or film studios. People subscribe to people.

While Universal and Machinima are exceptions, the general rule is that the relationship between the creator and his/her audience is far more critical than editing, lighting and scripts. This is why, I believe, iChannel, PopTub and ClipCritics have fewer subscribers than they may deserve. I too have had less luck with storylines, webseries, reviews or sketch comedy. I’m much more likely to get views by pulling a prank or acting like an idiot in public.

As the industry matures, we’ll see fewer “vloggers” as the top talent, but there will always be a place for people who have interesting personalities, stories and connection with their audience. It’s true online, and it’s always been true in television and film. We see most movies because we like the star not because of the director or plot. And certainly not because we saw the cinematographer was our favorite. 

My third-most viewed video (Scary Maze) took less time to shoot, edit and post than it took you to read this blog post. And that’s not because you’re a slow reader.

21 Replies to “Care Less. Get More Views.”

  1. Is Scary Maze the one with the Excorcist on the thumbnail? I hate that picture Kevin. Gives me nightmares! Take it off of your top 9 please!!! Blame it on a childhood phobia.

    You need to do a vlog video…you haven’t done one in awhile. Por favor.

    Hope you’re safe and sound back at the Nalts Kingdom…looks like you had a blast at YT Live.

    Happy Thanksgiving! :o)

  2. Kevin,
    Thanks again for giving us tickets to Youtube Live. We had a blast. Maybe if I start vlogging I’ll be able to get my own tickets next year. Have a Happy T-day and I look forward seeing you soon.


  3. I’m sure there’s a formula, it’s seems to always carry an element of surprise with some stupid attached (vulnerability); in the good and bad sense. Then there’s timing, does what being presented fit snugly with the cravings of the public? That’s the invisible force, it’s part luck and part intuition, and I think that is where the viral lives.

    One thing is certain, you have to work your ass off to gain and keep viewers, and we all know dealing with people is a double edge sword. I think most creators wonder why someone would watch their stuff, who in their right mind would join a club they belong to? Constant stroking is required, unless you really don’t care or are happy with what you have viewership wise, however, an audience needs to be prodded almost as much as the creator needs to be stroked.

    You posted You Tube’s top list, I’m unimpressed. First, I never got nor liked Smosh, but I understand their audience has a lot of free time, it’s embarrassing. Fred will eventually go the way of Daxflame (who?) unless he takes his clothe off live on stage. Phil who recently reverted to super mimicking zefrank is riding some old and admirable coat tails, but the edge is gone and it’s looking too much like job, the door’s wide open for whoever’s next. When is TV going to hire happyslip already? Nigahiga and Kevjumba, I hated those self-aggrandizing guys in high school, too squeaky, though jumba’s edits are pretty good. AtheneWins is bot driven, smart guys, don’t cross them. Michael Buckley is the only one up there with any real staying power, he is his own unique individual and he works hard to please his viewers, that comes through. I don’t particularly care what his topics are, but his enthusiasm and off the cuff remarks keep him pretty fresh. I don’t know what his far future will be; a You Tube version of Hollywood Squares perhaps? What say you Kevin, will we see a beaming Nalts 15 years from now shining the Heisman Trophy Patch brought home from college? The only one not on the list that I can see 40 years from now doing exactly the same stuff is Zack Scott, slow and steady, slow and steady.

    “but there will always be a place for people who have interesting personalities, stories and connection with their audience.”

    This I think is the most important statement and one I agree with 100%, something worth appreciating and worth supporting will always be worth noticing and still there’s something for everyone on You Tube.

    I think Scary Maze was the perfect length with the right amount of tension and definitely thumbnail driven, and unlike the original kid, which was downright mean, this lad was older and a pretty good sport. His fame supersedes his fright

    Got any thoughts on the topic of delivery, uploading time lines and dangling carrots?

  4. a few more things,
    hi az! welcome! twitter?
    Happy Thanksgiving All
    I have hives and won’t have to lift a finger today, it’s all in the timing…
    and stores open at 4am, I’m boycotting to help destroy the economy and start the revolution, everyone have their helmets?

  5. ^ God forbid anyone here would want to tax your brain, much less direct thoughts towards an on topic conversation, and as we all know stalking while living vicariously though other you tubers and watching smosh is just so much more fulfilling. You go girl!

  6. @4 Great post. I agree with most of it.

    I’m not sure there will ever be a tried and true formula for getting views on YouTube. Every time you think you figure it out, a new variable arises, changing everything. Even the far more stable Hollywood, who has had a full century to figure out the formula, still hasn’t figured out exactly what works. In fact, there are several “surefire successes” from Hollywood that turned out to be flops.

    That being said, there is some truth to the idea that today’s YouTube viewers don’t care so much about production value as the content subject itself. However, I don’t automatically agree that too much production can hurt you, UNLESS the effort you’re putting into production is taking away from the ability to make more videos. For Universal, for example, they have people they pay to put details into their videos. It’s not a bother for them.

    In my opinion (face value: $0.02), the closest thing to a “winning formula” for online video is: 1-Make content that people want to watch, 2-Market it like there’s no tomorrow, and 3-Pray for a miracle. Step three is in there because I know people who have followed the first two steps and still struggle to break out of the 1,500 to 2,500 subscriber range.

  7. @11 thanks. I think I addressed the timing and public craving issue as part of the formula which pretty much covers #3, but I failed to add marketing the hell out of it, you’re absolutely right, it’s an important ingredient. I think there are ways to work that as well, but you got to know people and get them really really drunk. Before my time is through I will have at least one video con carne, then I will quit this all forever!

    On another note, the end of the year is nearly here and I got little in the coffers videos wise. Maybe because it was an election year there wasn’t much room or some good stuff got buried ?

    So WVFF tribal readers, what did you find that really impressed you this year, anything? Share, post, e-mail or twitter this years faves so far.

  8. I think Peter Coffin is another slow-but-steady type of guy. I’m really waiting for people to discover him. I can watch many videos by top YouTube stars and not laugh once. However, nearly every Peter Coffin video makes me laugh out loud. When will he be featured? When will his subscriber base explode? The only reason I have any subscribers is because of cute pets. He deserves it on comedy merits alone.

  9. Awe, you people like me! I like both of you, too.

    …I really am an ass.

    In all honesty, I don’t think I will ever blow up. I really don’t. I don’t know what it is about what I do, but I seem to rub the kind of person that YouTube wants watching stuff the wrong way. I could be wrong, though.

    I do think I will continue to experience steady growth due to topicality which will probably taper off someday, hopefully after it has reached job-level income.

    Zack Scott does rule, though. You do too, Jan. Everyone who likes me rules and everyone else can suck it X-Pac style. I AM THE BEST!

  10. Great post. I agree with it. People are thrilled with direct-address programming, even moreso if the video has some sort of call-to-action in it (to comment or to make a video response, etc.)

    I like this statement best though:

    “People subscribe to people.”

    No doubt. Well put.

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