This week I saw my first YouTube heat map (which shows yellow and red around the places eyes typically go). YouTube has one of these eye-measurement devices in its office, and I really wanted to try it… but was afraid they’d catch my eyes looking at the wrong thumbnails… if you know what I mean.
It shouldn’t surprise you that the search field glows in the same way that a Google results page glows around the first organic results. The videos were cropped out of the image I saw (strictly nav bar), but I assume the thumbnails brought similar glows of red.
So while YouTube is, above all, a video search engine… there’s a more important page to gaining sustainable views.
It’s called the “most subscribed,” and if you’re on the top 100 (or at least at the top of one of the niches like comedy, entertainment, or music) than you’re more likely to get steady and consistent views of your most recently posted videos. This is worth far more than being “spotlighted” once. And if your subscribers are hardcore fans, they’ll “5 star” you and comment, driving your video to the “most popular” page… where you’ll find new audiences.
In past years, a homepage-featured video drove you to the top of “most subscribed,” where you generally stayed. Popularity yielded popularity, and you only dropped if someone else darted past you (which took months or years). Now it’s far more dynamic, and we’ve seen some relatively new YouTube channels shoot up the charts like Shane Dawson. More commonly, the fast-rising channels on the “most subscribed” page are brand extensions of popular vloggers. Top YouTube individuals like Sxephil and his relative-new-comer sidekick Shaycarl have spawned secondary channels. Instantly their respective fans subscribe to these channels, which are typically daily vlogs or other random moments. There’s something oddly compelling about watching the two guys loading a u-haul. And there’s something fun about watching Greg Benson, Producer of “The Retarded Policeman” and The Blame Society Films guys, who created the hyper popular “Chad Vador” hanging out. Here’s a moronic but compelling video they did together that’s wonderfully repetitive and pointless (Tomatoes in Matt’s Mouth). It’s almost like you’re a guest at an online-video VIP party.
What can we learn from the most-popular spinoffs of the top YouTube vloggers: WhatTheBuck (Peron75), Shaycarl (shaytards), Sxephil (philipdefranco), CharlesTrippy (CTFxC) and Benson’s MediocreFilm (Mediocrefilms2)? They now have two popular partner channels to monetize.
They don’t risk alienating their regular channel by posting stupid content that might be more fitting for fans (Buckley’s #1 most-popular entertainment channel, WhatTheBuckShow, may not be fitting for Buckley’s tear-filled goodbye to his vlog room or doggy attacking Fred shirt. Look at what Smpfilms did with his cat channel (meankitty). It’s nearly as popular as him (Corey, it may be time to promote SMPfilms on TheMeanKitty).
Spinoffs work on television (see wikipedia of television spinoffs). What makes a TV spinoff a hit? Check out this scribd.
Here are some of the best practices:
- Don’t spinoff your most valuable content. For example, many subscribed to me for Spencer’s pranks. To spin that off would drain my channel.
- Promote the hell out of your spinoff. Make people feel they’re missing something.
- Use your channel to collaborate with other video creators. It’s fun to watch “behind the scenes” as two people interact when we have parasocial relationships with both.
- Make the spinoff real… unedited daily moments where you speak to the viewer and interact.
- Don’t starve the main channel for the spinoff. Shaycarl did that for a while, but fortunately his spinoff has almost as many subscribers.
- Don’t get frustrated if views are lower on the spinoff channel- especially at first. That’s typical.
- Be real on the spinoff channel. It’s your “friend” channel, not just for outtakes or sub-par videos.
- Realize it doesn’t always work. People loved Zipster08‘s Locomama but her channel didn’t pop. She’s back on Zipster’s. Likewise I haven’t found a way to get my secondary channel “Responseofnalts” very many subs. The name stinks, and it hasn’t found its voice. I wish I had a better one.
Is there a mass audience for unedited random life moments? No. Is it evergreen? No. But does it form a bond between the creator and the everyday YouTube user? Absolutely. It breeds intimacy, and these everyday YouTube users are, in effect, looking for virtual friends more than packaged comedy. These everday YouTube users watch more, rate more, favorite more, comment more. And those actions propel these otherwise amateurs well above the stars of traditional media.
In fact we may find that some of these mundane vlog “sub” channels soon surpass the originals. In past months I’ve observed that as online-video grows, the appetite will increase for higher produced content (like ClipCritics). But I’m not sure that’s yet happening. The online-video audience is social, and wants intimacy… eyes looking at them as if it’s a live webcam. I’ve been begging “Captain Chuck” to show us their real personality, and they now have a new channel for it (NewMediaMoguls). Now he just has to promote it more via ClipCritics, and keep it populated.
Will this change as online-video grows? Probably. But the core users of YouTube are still extremely important, and they want virtual buds, not TV adapted for web.