Do YOU Have What It Takes to Become (and Stay) a YouTube Star?

I’ve written plenty about how to become a YouTube star (see free eBook v2 and “Beyond Viral“), but today’s post is the first of a series about the persistence of some top YouTube talent. It’s one thing to break through the clutter and develop a following, but quite another thing to maintain it… the latter takes consistency, adaptability, time, ability to spot trends, endurance, patience, loads of work, and thick skin.

You don't become a top YouTube star for talent and charisma alone. And you don't stay there long without some mysterious skills and character. So what's the common thread?

Yesterday I sent a note to about 20 top YouTube stars… focusing mostly on the independent acts who didn’t have a large fan base until YouTube (that excluded offline “real” stars, musicians, and production companies). If you’re interested in my e-mail to them, select “more” below.

The key question I asked them is simply, “what keeps you going.”

Now I’d like to share 3 of the early responses (part 1 of a series), and ask you WillVideoForFood readers the same question in a different way. What do YOU think separates the leading YouTube creators from the rest of us? Is it talent, consistency, interaction with fan base, variety, adaptability, omni-presence? Or is the underlying currency, as Producer Fred Seibert observed to me, “narcissism”? I don’t think Fred meant that word to carry the negative baggage, rather he presented it as a base characteristic of enduring entertainers… it’s what allows them to overcome the many barriers and exert uncompromising effort.

Thanks to Brittani, Rhett and Charles for giving us some insights into how passion, teamwork and community serve them. Stay tuned for more from WheezyWaiter, Michael Buckley, VenetianPrincess, Hank Green, KipKay, Edbassmaster, and others. Their responses may surprise you!

1) BrittaniLouiseTaylor: Passion

“What keeps me going?  Simple, passion!! I am an actress, and I get to cast myself and play whatever role I want.  My creativity is not dependent on knowing the right person, being at the right place at the right time, I am in control of my destiny. You have to stay positive and keep the passion that you had when you first started making videos.  Being on Youtube is like being in a relationship, you have to put work into maintaining it and keeping your interest. You hit patches where you are like “Uhhhh what video should I do next.”  Most of the time I have some crazy idea, but if I have to do something last minute because I have had a busy week, I do it last minute.  I am determined to have a new video every Saturday and Sunday, if it means me staying up all night that is what I’ll do! Numbers shouldn’t matter, Youtube is always changing and things will go up and down.  You have to do it foryou.  At the end of the day, did you like the video?  Are you happy with it?  That is all that matters!

HUGS, BLT 😀

2) RhettandLink: Power of Two

RhettAndLink's Rhett were determined to support themselves from their passion, and attribute their persistence, in part, to the partnership
Thanks for asking! I think the reason is three-fold, and in no particular order.  The first reason is that once web video became our primary source of income (and I’m talking almost ALL of our income from 2007-2010), we developed a business model based on fairly consistent content.  So our time and energy were all focused on making videos.

The second reason is that we keep having new ideas.  We keep coming up with stuff that we want to create.  A related reason is that our success isn’t based on one genre.  We’ve tried a lot, and a fair amount has worked. The last reason is the fact that there are two of us. We are much less likely to quit because we can motivate one another. Thanks! -Rhett

3) CharlesTrippy: Community

Hey man!! Hows it going on your end?! Ive been watching your unclenalts videos and I am like “dude, when did the kids get so old!!” insane! (your fam is the original tards! haha). What keeps me going? Yah, you kind of nailed it with your points but I think there are a few reasons that keep me motivated.

I’d say the community plays a HUGE part – just when I get discouraged or frustrated I go back and read the comments and it seems to pop me back in place, you know? I also think about the future and I love the fact that i’ll have these videos/days documented. We’ve been lucky enough to pretty much film Alli and I’s entire relationship (we started like 5 monthsor less after dating) so to have that means a lot to us. Also, I don’t want to say it’s really motivation but the fact that Youtube/Google pays it’s creators keeps me motivated because I can invest all of my time in it and still make a life for myself and my family 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy I know you posted daily (sometimes twice) for a very long time so I know you can relate. I think above all the community is the #1 source of encouragement and motivation for me…. -Charles Trippy

CharlesTrippy had a large following, and grew it to a new level when he joined his fiance Alli in the daily "Internet Killed TV" series

Coming soon: Responses I’ve already received from YouTube’s most-subscribed: WheezyWaiter, Michael Buckley, VenetianPrincess, Hank Green, KipKay, Edbassmaster.

To see my note to these peeps, click more. And don’t forget to comment yourself: what do YOU think it takes?

AdAge Celebrates YouTube Sellouts

AdAge called out the biggest YouTube sellouts— those known for sponsored videos for top brands. Naturally my headline would have read “YouTube’s Most Prolific Sponsored Artists” had I been included in the list. For those of you whose nipples don’t get pointy when you hear words like “advertising, marketing, Mad Men, spot, creative brief, storyboards, USP, reach, frequency and single-minded proposition,” AdAge is kinda the Forbes for advertising junkies. It’s like Men’s Health except some straight people read it.

shaycarl
shaycarl t-shirt

The actual article is titled “Meet YouTube’s Most In-Demand Brand Stars,” and it’s a nice representation of the booming webstar, perhaps the central point of “Beyond Viral,” an amazing new book by Wiley & Sons coming out Sept. 21. Despite some conspicuous misses and a few odd inclusions, the article points to some interesting nuggets like MysteryGuitarMan (MGM) preference for a blank creative brief… his videos have never been better, and each one squashes my own confidence more aggressively than the next.

I would have also liked to read a “who’s who” of the companies that link stars with brands (Hitviews, Mekanism, PlaceVine, Howcast, YouTube). That’s something you don’t see covered well, and it’d be fascinating to read about the total market for sponsored videos and the dominant players.

TubeMogul helped compile this list, and you can see the webstar’s vital signs on the TubeMogul marketplace. The stats seem to be out of synch with YouTube’s counter and other sites (TubeMogul has me at 145 million, while YouTube alone counts 161 million…. so my views on Yahoo Video and other sites must be negative 16 million). It could be that once I “private” a video (like those I’ve buried because I no longer like them), I lose Tubemogul credit for them.

Before I could go to bed sulking for being overlooked by AdAge and Tubemogul, I discovered author Irina Slutsky sent me a note about this a week or so. And yeah I missed it. Just like the two e-mail offers to appear on AnnoyingOrange, one of the hottest web series by DaneBoe.

ADHD online-video creator and marketer seeks minimum-wage e-mail account manager from India.

These peeps don’t seem to read my blog, but I consider more than a few of them as friends… Trippy (he’s been in my kids’ bed), Buckley (he spanked me), Penna (wrote the Nalts theme and couldn’t get into bars at early YouTube gathersings), and Shay (he was new, we collabed, then he became twice as big as me overnight… and also got a lot more viewers). Others are more like acquaintances like Justine (who keeps a safe distance, but I made her what she is) and Smosh. Speaking of Smosh, Ian and Anthony get props for the recent Butterfinger Snackers video (“Selling Out”) that spoofed the criticism they’ve taken lately for doing a few too many sponsored videos. Heh. I did a Butterfinger video in 2006, a year before I goofed on this whole sponsored-video space with this video, which mentions Smosh. I’m guessing the Smosh kids never saw this diddy…

It’s me 3 years ago mimicking the emergence YouTube “sell outs” and the personalities who might desperately broker brand/webstar love connections... you know, the entities connecting brands and web stars. Most YouTube webstars know more about engaging an audience than turning a brand strategy into effective and persuasive messaging… so they need help. There are some exception- like Rhett and Link, who could just as well be their own boutique creative agency, as reflected in the quality of their advertainment and the highly unusual ratio of branded to non-sponsored views. I almost like their sponsored videos better than their brand-deficient ones because like a pro athlete they make it look easy.

And, lest I miss mentioning my book (Beyond Viral) in a single post, you’ll find mention of almost all of these cats inside the low-cost pages… including featured sections on Rhett & Link, Charles Trippy, Shay Butler and others.

Hey what ever happened to Buckley? I think he ignored me like Caitlin Hill (thehill88) and iJustine. Maybe Buckley needs an e-mail intern… I wonder if there are any Indians with the name Mason?

Basketball Russian Parody

So I’m painting the garage this morning and I can’t get this video out of my head. I don’t know why this is so funny on repetition because I found it an acquired taste. But I’m hooked. I can help but wonder what inspired it.

Finding a baby in a dumpster? Hydration. Part of the reason I’m posting it is so I can find it without doing 10 Google searches the next time I’m craving it.

Turn Your HDTV Into a Computer: Online Video Without Restraints

(See 4/13 update below and learn the secret to connecting your Wireless keyboard to an Acer, which you won’t find after an hour on Windows help).

You loyal WVFF readers will know that I’ve been predicting the “killer web-to-television online video viewing” device for several years (here’s me wishing back in January 2007 and here’s my verbatim from 2010 predictions):

“I see a $199 device that allows us to access the Internet right from our televisions. It’s a small PC, a remote-controlled keyboard and mouse, and it plugs into any television via HDMI or even less progressive connections.”

We’re pretty dang close finally — here’s a device that would have eluded me due to minimal marketing. Thank goodness for Billy at Best Buy (his employer didn’t stock it, so I bought one at NewEgg.com). It’s an Acer AspireRevo AR3610-U9022 Desktop PC (Dark Blue), and here’s an Amazon affiliate link for it for $330 (I’ve yet to make a dime yet on the stupid affiliate program).

For about $300 you can watch Internet video on your high-definition television and control it with wireless keyboard

First the “reality check”: It’s not $199, but there is a cheaper version (called Revo) for that price. Note that the Revo is a bit dumbed down, lacks wireless remote and uses Windows XP. I chose the AspireRevo because it has a remote included, offers Windows 7, and has more horse power. You’ll also need an HDMI cable to connect it to your high-definition television, a TV with HDMI input, electricity, and (duh) a wireless router with high speed Internet. Essentially this is a decent computer without a monitor.

You can now enjoy online-video viewing (and other PC activities) right from your high-definition television. You heard me right. Your overpriced television is now a monitor, so you don’t have to chose between “lean forward” control or “lean back” comfort. “Oh, Kevin,” you say, “I’ve already been doing this for years with my PC.” Well shut up because you represent .005% of the population.

Yes, peeps… it’s convenient online-video viewing on YouTube and Hulu without the “walled garden” associated with most “convenience” devices like Roku, AppleTV, Netflix and Ethernet/wireless enabled BlueRay DVD players (yes I own those too, and they have some advantages like easy install, customized content, and easier navigation). But none of these allow Hulu (to my knowledge), or give you the full YouTube functionality. And some are slowwwww.

Here’s how you get this Revo thingy going (in case you’re even more techno-phobic than me):

  1. You plug in the device to a source of electricity. Don’t get shocked.
  2. You put said device next to your computer, and connect it to your TV with an HDMI cable (you can handle that, right?). The cable isn’t included. So if you don’t have one laying around, get a cheapo at BestBuy or online (or do better by by surfing CNet’s Cheapskate. Those cables can get wicked expensive, and I’m not convinced the primo ones are worth it.
  3. You find a wireless signal (you do have a router that has high-speed Internet, right?). Hey, swipe your neighbors unless you live near me.
  4. Now you sit your ass on your couch or bed and use the wireless keyboard and mouse to surf the web. Go full screen and suffer some commercials and you’re free at last. Free at last! You can enjoy Hulu like it’s television (albeit more grainy than you’d like, but free).

You can do basically the same thing with an old PC or laptop, but Billy tells me that video streams poorly on older processors. That explains why we haven’t seen my dream machine for $199 yet. But on the positive side, this puppy is more fueled than $350 Netbooks, and if you’re after web-video on the television it’s a better approach (some Netbooks have an HDMI output, but you’d need a long wire and I hate Netbook keyboards. Here are the specifications for this baby (note I haven’t test driven it yet):

  • 1.6GHz Intel Atom 330 Processor
  • 2GB DDR2 Memory
  • 160GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive; Multi-in-1 Digital Media Card Reader
  • Integrated NVIDIA ION Graphics; High-Definition Audio Support
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); Includes Wireless Keyboard and Mouse

This is more computer than I need, but a fast machine that runs Windows will come in handy since we’re all Mac, and the MacMini version of this would be twice as expensive (wireless keyboard sold separately, and Mac is cruel with accessory pricing… I just bought a damned backup power chord for my MacBook Pro for f’ing $80 from Billy).

*** Update 4/7: After hours of struggling with Windows 7 to connect the remote keyboard and mouse, I found the simple answer… by finding a brochure I missed in the packaging, seperate from the other materials. Seems there’s a dongle hiding in the mouse interiror that must be plugged into the Acer. Otherwise you’ll spend HOURS on Windows help and online, to no avail. All the other parts of the setup were less than 30 minutes, but finding the HDMI cable (hiding plugged into my television pretending to be connected to something) and the cursed wireless keyboard/remote HIDDEN DONGLE was very frustrating, however. I also would give Egghead a poor score on customer service. Ordered it for FedEx on Friday hoping for Saturday arrival, and paid $37 for that. Immediately after that, I read the fine print: several days to process. So “next day” doesn’t mean “next day,” and even worst the customer service rep (who took 10 minutes to acknowledge me and another 15 to reply) told me he’d try to cancel the FedEx charge… and he didn’t. No more Egghead purchases. Stick with Amazon.com.

That said, I’m blogging from the television set. You’d be surprised how well this keyboard is working even from 20 feet… but it’s hard to read this text, which from here is about equivalent to 4-point type). Off to try YouTube!

Nose Picking in Public? No “Farting in Public,” But Worth a Dig

 

Nose picking candid-camera style video by Nalts, creator of "Farting in Public"
Nose picking candid-camera style video by Nalts, creator of "Farting in Public"

My wife, Jo, (aka wifeofnalts) suggested weeks ago that I bring Spencer back for a tribute to “Farting in Public.” The simple concept… nose picking in public

Of course, Spencer is growing up now, and hasn’t responded to my texts and voicemails. So we found young Vitek quite eager to give it a shot. Vitek is my cousin’s son, and was raised in Poland. The kid was downright enthusiastic about nose picking in front of unwitting victims, and even added some unique touches: the post-pick handshake, the slight-of-finger booger snack, and even the butt scratch groan. 

Well enjoy- maybe even Digg it. And you may just learn how to just save a few bucks the next time you’re ordering food and snacks. In our short drive last night, Vitek receive extra change from one person and free food from another. All with the slight of finger.

Morning Radio Mysteries: Drunk Ghost

This is just brilliant web comedy from Blame Society Films (creators of Chad Vador). “Morning Radio Mysteries: Drunk Ghost” is packed with dialogue and jokes for a very fast 2:24, and features a Scooby-Do like parody that goofs on morning radio comics but doesn’t rely on that one gag.

This is a sequel to “Morning Radio Mysteries: Sidekick Kidnapped,” when the gratuitous human laugh track “Buster” gets snatched.

Cameos Important to Promoting Content

nalts on retarded policemanSomeone once said that a new blogger stays on his/her own blog, while a seasoned one comments and reads others. The same is true for video — appearing on other people’s videos is as important as making your own. Especially if that creator is more popular, more talented (which is mostly the case for me), or gets featured.

I was poking around via TubeMogul and was pleased to see the episode of “Retarded Policeman” in which I appeared has a 4.79 rating (out of 5), making this YouTube’s top-rated comedy of the week (and among the top of the month). It was also featured in YouTube’s comedy section (thanks YouTube).

This rating is surprisingly higher than The Retarded Policeman’s debut episode, according to TubeMogul, and tied with the recent episode with Michael Buckley (WhatTheBuck). See full honors below in “more.”

I think this tells us that the initial 24-hour period is most vital because it’s when the majority of the comments come in- and mostly from loyalists so they’re positive. Over time, other people find the content and rate the video down (although comment/rate far less frequently). I saw this with Mall Pranks, which has a fairly low rating now that it’s been paraded around on other sites. I’ve often wondered if it would help to turn off comments after the first several hours, although I suspect that would be penalized since the honor/rating is probably a function of views x rating (with an emphasis on the latter).

So what’s this mean? The power of collaborations and cameoss can grow your audience. In the past few days I’ve gone from 96 on the “most subscribed” to 90th, and added several thousand new subscribers (up to nearly 52K). This is due in part to MediocreFilms, part to MrSafety for his cheesy boob shout out. And the appearance in Matt Koval’s  YouTube-homepage-featured video (YouTube in 1985) helped too.

I just shot two clips for collabs last evening. Me laughing and pointing for Spricket24 (I have no idea) and another short clip for Brett the Intern. Hey- forget my own videos. I just want to be like ShayCarl and pop up in everyone else’s like Michael Caine in 1970s movies.

Parenthetically, ratings don’t always translate to views. My recent video impersonating Sarah Palin is the top rated comedy of the day (TubeMogul says it’s a 4.62 rating), but received <20K views (I kinda thought the pro Obama folks would viralinate this one). Comments were mostly kind — except for those that assumed I’m a flaming liberal just because I wanted an excuse to dress up in drag.

Oh now I’m getting obsessed with stats again. I think I’ll go immerse myself back in Gustav coverage.

Continue reading “Cameos Important to Promoting Content”

Evacuate New Orleans Please

In the unlikely event you’re in New Orleans reading this, please evacuate. I’m reading this USAToday article about my home town and so sad to read about people that are choosing to stay behind because they’re “tired of running,” don’t think Gustav is going to be bad, or want to protect their “stuff.”

Protect your lives please. We don’t want another Katrina, and nobody can blame the government for not preparing and warning. Now it’s up to the people (and Gustav).

Here’s a reminder… a video I did to deal with my own sadness of Katrina.

Alka Seltzer Viral Campaign Taps YouTube Weblebrities, Cewebrities

Rhett and Link’s Alka Seltzer road show (see previous post) hit Philadelphia recently, and it didn’t take them asking more than once to convince me and a bunch of YouTube Cewebrities to hit Pat and Gino’s to appear in this video. I picked up CharlesTrippy, ShayCarl, TheMightyThor1212 and those gals to stop by before the YoTube events. We did it for fun not profit, but Rhett and Link were classy enough to feed us, and even send us off with beer money for that night (thanks, guys).

Favorite moment? The nervous look on the face of the agency account manager as she reluctantly handed me a Speedy statue. Don’t worry, agency lady. I’ll behave with him.

Admitting my bias, I’m still putting this promotion down as one of the top three smartest viral video campaigns of 2008. It joins the ranks of BMW’s Rampenfest and Diet Dr. Pepper’s Cherry Coke promotion of TayZonday.

It’s funny, entertaining, balanced well (promotion is subtle), it’s leveraging the charasmatic appeal of two video stars who have been provided creative control of the series. Rhett and Link give us a perfect example of advertising content that is first entertaining. And the branding finds a happy medium between, on one extreme, dominating the video, and on the other relegating itself to ignored pop-ups or lost entirely. The topics are related to food, the tone revitalizes an otherwise stale brand, and Alka Seltzer’s differentiator (the plop, fizz) is not lost. Bringing back Speedy was brilliant too.

The only thing I’d say about all three of these campaigns is that they probably could have been done more cost effectively. Diet Dr. Pepper got TayZonday for a song, but had some production overhead (it was also hampered by the reality that the drink tastes like the smell of a chocolate scratch and sniff, and that’s coming from a hardcore Diet Dr. Pepper guy).

The Alka Seltzer road show was fairly shoestring for television and advertising rackets, but still could be leaner (do you need 5 or more people beyond Rhett and Link at the shoot?). I don’t know about Rampenfest, but it looks very, very expensive (guessing $500-$1,000 MM).

 

 

Font Conference: CollegeHumor

It pains me to see so few views on YouTube for something this well written, acted and edited. It’s called “Font Conference” and it’s a great personification of the fonts we know so well. Baskerville Old Face and Bookman OId Style duke it out. Arial Black feels discriminated. Wide Italian played by an overeating fat guy. Futura played by a time traveler. And Century Gothic is played by a goth emo who resents the conformists (“I can’t wait for you to grow out of this,” says Times New Roman. In the climax, Ransom takes Courier and his daughter Curlz MT hostage, but don’t worry- Wing Dings celebrates in the end.

Extremely well done (right down to the incredible production values with rack focuses and perfect lighting), and especially entertaining for those of us who spend way too much time thinking about fonts.

I just feel sad for Trebuchet, who was sadly left out. Maybe a sequel? Can I humbly submit to play Trebuchet? Or maybe even a serif if College Humor provides acting coaches.