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!


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?

Gentle Promo in Daily Videos

One of the benefits of having a daily vlog channel (see definition below), is you can drop in subtle product placements or promotions for friends — but still do proper sponsored videos on the core channel. See as an example today’s Unclenalts video (a 356-day vlog channel, dubbed “YouTube Orbit.”

I wanted to plug Daisy Whitney’s new book Mockingbirds, but make something marginally entertaining. So we focused on our little party tricks, and Daisy got a book plug in. Rhett and Link did the same thing (they also mentioned Beyond Viral, my book).

Many top YouTubers have secondary channels for daily video blogs (vlogs), mostly for their core audience who want to see more “behind the scenes” and enrich their parasocial relationships. Some (like shaytards) become bigger than the YouTuber’s primary account.

Go buy Daisy’s book here. She clearly has a better shot as a novelist than doing party tricks for children parties (which is my backup plan).

Give Your Video a Film Look (How-To Video)

beach bypass and film look on videoWhat’s the difference between a CharlesTrippy and MrSafety video and the rest of us? They use good lighting, and adjust the video for that film look. Both are very willing to share their tips, so I’ll post them soon. In the meantime, YouTube is a treasure trove for “how to” (DIY) videos on using advanced effects. I use Mac’s iMovie, which is extremely limited but I’m too lazy to learn something more complex. For several years, I’ve had Final Cut Express (a simpler version of the Final Cut Pro that professionals use) but rarely use it except green screen or split screen.

Today I experimented with applying a “beach bypass” look that gives your video that tinsel look of film. Here’s a beach bypass “how to” video for Final Cut Express. Here’s another for Final Cut Pro for those of you that are rich or steal software. These may work for other PC-based editing as well, since it’s simply overlaying two layers — one with low saturation and the other with high contrast.

As the medium matures, more of the top creators (CollegeHumor) are stepping up their cinematography. I won’t soon be posting 2-minute short films, but I am trying to make my crappy web videos a bit more like TV/film. As the audience grows past us “early adopters,” the mainstreamers and laggards will seek out content that looks more like what they’re accustomed to watching.

NYC YouTube Gathering? BlogTV Iron Man? Nope…Brady Bunch Marathon

Well the YouTubers are at it again. Some are gathering in NYC as I type (see xgobobeanx and supadupaflygirl). Others are on trying to stay awake for 48 hours… it’s a rematch of “The Iron Man.”

The Nalts gang is watching Season 3 of the Brady Bunch. “Oh my nose!”

It’s nice and dry in here, and at around 8 pm we’ll all settle in for a nice long sleep.

Update at 9:41: We watched about 7 episodes and I made it up to almost 10! Sorry I missed the NYC event, gang.

HBO Web Series “Hooking Up” to Star Popular YouTubers

Lonelygirl15 and naltsI’m just so glad this cat’s out of the bag, so I can officially boast that I used LonelyGirl15’s Visine in the dressing room. Too bad the set was closed to cameras. In one of those moments I wish I had on tape, I had to ask the star of LonelyGirl15 what we should call her, because I couldn’t remember if Jessica was her real name or stage name.

Says the Hollywood Reporter about the HBO Labs web series debuting October 1, “”Hooking Up” could prove groundbreaking for the nascent webisode genre by amassing a sizable viewership, given its aggregation of Internet personalities who can promote the production to their devoted audiences of millions of young viewers.

Tilzy called it “a small scale Ocean’s 11 for the YouTube set.” I don’t know what I’m allowed to say or not say about this production, so I’ll keep it safe and say that some of the people that work for HBOLabs are so cute and talented I’d buy McDonald Happy Meal toys of their likeness. And this post is not a McDonalds or Visine promotion anymore than yesterday’s Twinkie post. I got contacted last night by a guy writing about sponsored blog posts, and I groaned at the thought that anyone would think my pop culture references have backdoor incentives. Ewww!

YouTubers of the HBO web series include whatthebuckshow, sxephil, lonelygirl15, kevjumba, charlestrippy, smpfilms and nalts. Honestly I thought I was an extra, until I was walking off the set and I saw some people I didn’t know. “They’re extras,” someone explained.

And for the record, this isn’t the first time all of us have been scripted. In a grade school production of The Wizard of Oz, I was the soldier that leaned over upon the dying Wicked Witch of the West and said, “she’s dead… you’ve killed her.”

“Hooking Up,” by the folks who brought you RunAway Box, can be seen at or The YouTube channel is here. See more coverage of the series in The Huffington Post, Tilzy, TechRadar, and Silicon Alley Insider. NewTeeVee is the only publication that didn’t bury its lead (Chris Albrecht used my name in the headline a opposed to “the show also included…”). Hee hee.

What do you think? Do Jessica (LonelyGirl15) and Sxephil have chemistry?

Twitter Generates Auto Affirmations

Emo LoserToday’s day started with some reading of Louise Hay (my personal Stuart Smalley). Then I started scanning some of YouTube Creator Charles Trippy‘s recent Twitter posts. The posts have become a rather transparent view into Trippy’s recent funk.

I see him as a stable, almost transcendental guy in real life. And maybe I’m seeing bird crap on my own windshield not a dirty scenery… but I’ve interpreted his recent Twitter posts (which are brief 144-character microblogs) as being somewhat sad. Poor guy needs a hug.

charles trippyThen I started thinking about how cool it would be to have software monitor your e-mails, Twitters, and articles you read, and even videos you watch. It would detect what you’re feeling/thinking as a result of these choices, and serve up automated affirmations. For instance, if you were reading a lot of information about diets, you might receive an automated e-mail that would say “nourish yourself through love and exercise.” If you were searching for information on buying opiods and tranquilizers it might say “I am safe in the universe and it’s okay to express my feelings.”

If you were watching a lot of Nalts videos, it might say “you have discovered spiritual enlightenment like no other human before.”

That’d be cool. Hold on a second. I’m going to go hug my Trippy doll. There I’m back.

Experimenting With Large Uploads on YouTube: Bubble Gum Tree Show

Here’s today’s Bubble Gum Treee Show (featuring Charles Trippy) as it appears after I uploaded an 800 MB exported version from iMovie using all of the fancy specifications he recommends. And here’s another version that was about 20 MB. Sorry I just can’t seem to see a radical difference. Can you?

Now let’s try adding the “secret” code:

  1. Big version with the HD code.
  2. Little version with the HD code.

Anyone? Here are jpegs of the same video when I toggle between high resolution and low.

Low resolution high rez

The Thrill of Fake YouTube Battles: What The Buck vs. Nalts

whatthenaltsprofilepic.jpgI learned some time ago that online video viewers aren’t the most discerning bunch. When Charles Trippy and I created a fake feud, many viewers fell “hook, line and sinker” for the drama (in which we pretended to give out each other’s cell phone numbers, which were actually numbers to the “rejection hotline.”) Here’s my video and here’s his, and the responses and comments will show how vigilant the “fans” of one YouTuber get to protect the honor of their weblebrity (here’s one example). We thought people would be more skeptical, and eventually I had to to this satire spoofing his overzealous fans. Trippy also came clean, and he’s since updated his video title to reveal the joke.

whatthenaltsbannersmall.jpgHistory repeats itself this week. Recently I decided to claim that I’m the writer behind the popular What The Buck Show. It began with some banners, and I’d like to thank Gage Skidmore (the creator of the Nalts logo) for his recent banner collection displayed here (He’s also created a delightful Nalts cartoon you can see by selecting “more below,” although I look a bit doughy if I’m keeping it real).

what the buck michael buckleyYesterday evening my e-mail starting filling with hate mail. It seems Michael Buckley, one of the most popular YouTubers, posted a dramatic video on his Peron75 channel that chastises me for lying. It’s rather convincing, and Michael has a knack for Tammy Fay-like tears. I must confess there was part of me that thought he was serious. His fans not only believed he was upset by me, but many sent horrid comments, videos and e-mail that urge me to die.

Nothing I haven’t seen before. It’s the price of being one of YouTube’s most annoying creators ™. Nonetheless, here’s my spoof response, where I take fake claim to scripting his fake video attack. We’ll see if Michael is compelled to “clear the air” in his What The Buck blog, but frankly I prefer the confusion. Who wouldn’t rather be despised than forgotten?

So what have we learned here? Don’t believe it when YouTubers pretend to feud. It’s all part of promotional drama, and clearly another example of how far some YouTubers will go to hitch their star to my wagon.

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