SFGate to YouTube Star-Wannabees: It’s Asymptotical.

Sorry, online-video stars of 2011 and 2012. Seems your future is “asymptotical,” according to this report by SFGate titled “Inside Google’s Boot Camp for Viral Video Stars.” The New York Times covered the recent program for the “chosen” YouTube Partners that were selected as YouTube NextUp winners (see explanation of program).

Yeah I had to look that word up too. In fact the only reader of WVFF who’s likely heard of “asymptotical” is StalkerofNalts, a mathematician who helped me monitor my own inappropriate use of the word “exponential” (something I apparently misused in Beyond Viral).

According to Wolfram Math World, the term asymptotic means approaching a value or curve arbitrarily closely (i.e., as some sort of limit is taken). Aline or curve A that is asymptotic to given curve C is called the asymptote of C.

Indeed the odds of becoming tomorrow’s YouTube star are somewhat remote, but don’t let that discourage you, friend. I’ve watched with delight as many creators have gone from obscurity to six-figure salaries that exceed the earning potential these people would likely make otherwise. You just need patience, persistence, some talent, and an insatiable thirst for fame and social interaction with your viewers. Here’s the presentation I gave at YouTube’s “boot camp,” which is a bit of a malapropism (definition) considering the lavish food the YouTube Next peeps were fed.

Go get ’em tiger! Get my book, read the free eBook (How to Get Popular on YouTube Without Any Talent) and commit to grandeur.


iJustine Gets Philanthropic and Fluid

Click to access Facebook page of contest

iJustine, the YouTube star and graphic designer, is holding a contest to benefit Charity:Water. Check out the 2011 version of a press release (here), by MASScanvas — a new type of online graphic design contest. “Creating synergy among celebrities, designers and charities, MASScanvas aims to inspire a community of creativity and philanthropy – Design with a Purpose.”

We like that. Because purposeless design is so 2010.

Here’s her announcement video, and then check out the “Why Water” video by CharityWater.org… it’s very powerful. Plus I friggin’ love the tagline: “Just $20 can give one person access to clean water.” It’s such a small and specific “ask.”

The contest is only through May 21, so enter if you’re graphically inclined. And tell her Nalts sent you. Yeah the one who urged her to dive into YouTube in 2008. Yeah I’m gonna keep reminding us of that. Oh and check out iJustine shouting out the Honeybadger don’t give a sh@t, and see a bunny making a bed.

20 Free Tips to Get Your Videos Seen on YouTube and Beyond

It’s been a while since I’ve summarized some of the most important factors to getting your videos seen. This post is based on my own YouTube creator experience, my work with big brands, and my book (Beyond Viral). I’ve also written a free eBook called “How to Get Popular on YouTube Without Any Talent (version 2).”

Here it is:

How To Get Popular on YouTube (free eBook, version 2)

I’m sure I missed some current best practices so please add your own thoughts below!

1. Hook viewer in first 10 seconds (teasing highlights)
2. Keep it short. A one-minute video will almost always trump a 3.
3. Encourage interactions- get people commenting and, like Facebook, your YouTube video will rise higher. Controversial questions to viewers can jolt views.
4. Personalize it. Look at camera as if it’s a friend’s eyes and don’t assume your viewer knows you.
5. Include real laughter. Laughter induces laughter like yawns influence yawns. Get a sidekick who has a contagious laugh.
6. At the end, provide something unexpected or bedbug. See how you didn’t expect the word “bedbug” there?
7. Include animals. We humans like animals more than humans. Babies are clinchers too. Giggling baby with an animal? Golden.
8. Take the “road less travelled.” Sure, boobies get views but if you base your video on something already seen, your video is less likely to break through clutter. Show us something we’ve not seen (or rare to see) and people will share.
9. Real trumps script. Almost all of my top videos are not scripted bits but real, candid moments.
10. Appeal to heavy video viewers. Teenagers drive significant views, and even adolescents and Tweens (Annoying Orange). Test your video on this audience and note when they laugh or get bored.
11. Post regularly. The most popular and most-viewed YouTubers post daily or on a predictable schedule. Fresh outsells good.
12. Flow with current events. Selectively parody topical news or “Memes” and you’ll be topical and more relevant.
13. Take the title, tags and description very seriously so your video can be found easily on search engines like Google (and don’t think YouTube isn’t a search engine). You can even transcribe the video and add the text. Important terms: “how to,” “why does,” “who is,” “when is…”
14. Watch top creators for new ideas. For instance, most top web stars are providing thumbnails of other videos at the end of their video. This keeps a viewer from wandering off to “related videos.”
15. Post at right time. Stay away from weekends and Friday afternoon (when there’s a lot of viewing but heavy competition). Mornings are good and Tuesday is a heavy consumption day.
16. Someone once said a new blogger focuses on their blog, but a seasoned blogger is roaming. Likewise you want to appear in videos by people getting more views. The kind plug by PrankvsPrank for my recent “Itchy Butt” prank drove more views that from my base of 250K subscribers.
17. Chill out on “subscribers,” which is as meaningless as “likes” on Facebook. 100 fans are more valuable than 10,000 subscribers that accidentally subscribed from the stupid “box for box” feature (where if you subscribe to one channel you can passively subscribe to their friends.
18. Jump start views on other social-media channels like Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and Reddit (watch out for being seen as just tooting your own horn though).
19. Listen and talk back to your audience. When a creator acknowledges a viewer comment a bond is formed that is the lifeblood of a recurring audience.
20. Go for quantity not obsessive quality. I could never have predicted which of my 1000 videos would get tens of millions of views, and there’s a lot of power to trial and error. There’s almost an inverse relationship between the time I spend on a video and the views it gets.

Finally don’t judge success by total views alone. Whether you’re a marketer or entertainer, not all views are created equally. Focus on engagement, comments, view duration, and getting to the right audience. A niche show meeting an unmet need is going to work more effectively than trying to please broad audiences.

What did I miss? Obviously the most popular videos are those involving dancing, music, comedy, satire, politics, sex, babies and animals. Don’t underestimate the power of the thumbnail (image representing the video) too. But any general tips I missed?

Today’s Stars in Pre-Fame Television Commercials

A slightly younger and thinner Jack Black pitches Pitfal (the 10-pixel video game)

It’s hard for stars to hide from cheesy pre-fame television commercials when there’s YouTube, right?

Let’s enjoy a few of their early advertisements, which I’ve spent most of New Year’s Eve compiling for you (winner that I am)

  1. Jack Black doing Pitfall! (best ever)
  2. Lindsay Lohan in a Jello commercial in around 1996
  3. Keanu Reeves doing Kellogs Corn Flakes in 1980s.
  4. Seth Green doing a Nurf ad in 1992 (my favorite)
  5. Dick Van Dyke for Kodak film
  6. Greg Benson’s montage before Mediocrefilms/RetardedPoliceman fame
  7. Ronald Reagan Chesterfield cigarettes (photo not video)
  8. Miranda Cosgrove (iCarly) in Burger King ad
  9. Tom Selleck sponsoring Right Guard
  10. Brad Pitt in Pringles ad (shirtless of course)
  11. Dave Spade and Chris Farley doing DirectTV (not exactly pre-fame)
  12. Jack Benny doing Texaco (too early of a reference for ya?)
  13. Leonardo DiCaprio doing Bubble Gum ad in 1988
  14. Ben Affleck doing Burger King delivery
  15. John Travolta doing a Safeguard soap commercial and promoting Tokyo Drink in this 1980s commercial (obviously he had already established some fame by then)

And two bonuses. Some actors better known for their television commercials than film or television careers. And David Letterman as a pre-talk-show weatherman.

Sources: Commercial Breaks (AOL), LiquidGenerationTube,

iJustine Gets Killed in Criminal Minds: Episode “Middle Man” (season 6)

I’m a huge fan of iJustine (Justine Ezarik), and we did a video a few years ago when (believe it or not) I had twice the subscribers as her. Now she’s appearing in Fast Company and on a recent episode of Criminal Minds (the episode is called “Middle Man”) so I’m exploiting it of course.

The video below is a mosh-up of an older video we did, joined by some very brief footage from the Criminal Minds episode I opeI hope CBS will consider fair use (iJustine didn’t authorize this). Now some links…
Justine is also profiled in my book, so go buy it, damnit. It’s not as entertaining as watching her get killed in a corn field, but whatever.

ABC News Features YouTube Stars (and Income Accuracy)

Two out of three YouTube stars (Jody Rivera/VenetianPrincess and Greg Benson/Mediocrefims) featured in ABC News’ story on “YouTube Top Earners” were among the dozen profiled in my “Beyond Viral” book.

Coincidence?  Or did the student author, Clay LePard (a member of the ABC News on Campus bureau at Syracuse University) forget to read his journalism manual on source citation? Hey it got Greg and Jody some press, as well as Ryan “Nigahiga” Higa. So it’s all good.

Now onto the estimates by Tubemogul (see Business Week)… while being directionally accurate and based on decent assumptions, they are often quite wrong… according fellow YouTube creators with whom I’ve spoken. Of course we’re all obliged by contract to keep the numbers to ourselves. I do know that the income estimates by Tubemogul for some individuals (who have fewer views than I) are paradoxically higher than my own actual income. It’s also worth noting that those Tubemogul estimates don’t include the more lucrative but sporadic sponsored videos.

The reality is that it’s total conjecture since even with total view counts, the actual income per video can range radically depending on the advertiser bidding. What’s important is that a) some do make enough to live comfortably, b) nobody knows how long it will last, c) it’s extremely difficult odds to live on YouTube income.

And as I like to remind people… if I calculated the time I’ve spent on YouTube and arrived at an hourly salary, I’m quite sure that I’d beat it working at Taco Bell. But I enjoy it, so I don’t bother with the math. At least the blog is profitable. Oh wait- that’s right. It’s got no revenue stream. Well ya get what you pay for.

I Was a Knife on Annoying Orange

I’ve had only been a few days on YouTube as exciting as today! I finally made a cameo as MR. KNIFE GUY on Annoying Orange, the show created by Daneboe/Gagfilms.

Mr. Knife Guy on Annoying Orange
Nalts takes guest role on Annoying Orange as "Mr. Knife Guy"

Honestly I find it more rewarding appearing in a video by someone I admire, than making my own videos. Dane sent me the script last weekend, and I spent the better part of Saturday trying to “sharpen” my acting skills for this “cut up.” My four children adore the show, and I’ve missed two e-mails from Dane inviting me for a guest spot. Thanks to everyone who ensured I didn’t miss this shot- stalkerofnalts, wifeofnalts.

I think that’s going to be my new mission… see how many cameos I can snag in my favorite shows. If iJustine can be a corpse on Criminal Minds, I can be a dead guy on College Humor or The Onion, right?

Be sure to check out Annoying Orange if you haven’t seen the web series. Dane is featured in my book, and has in just a year taken this character to the 11th most-subscribed of all time on YouTube with nearly 300 million views. I was also psyched to see two other folks I’ve had the pleasure of meeting… BobJenz (Punchy) as ginger and Peter Coffin as the song writer of Mr. Knife Guy. It rocks.

Sponsored Videos: How to Sell Without Selling Out

  • The biggest mistake most online-video marketing programs make is they promote and don’t entertain. I’m not talking about forced pre-rolls here, but “branded entertainment” or “sponsored” online videos. As a result, these videos are ignored, not shared, and often do more harm than good.
  • In reaction to that mistake, we’re likely to go to the other extreme. Entertain but not promote the brand sufficiently, and that will line the pockets of YouTube webstars without benefiting brands.
A sponsored video should initiate a behavior like trial or loyalty. But if it's "in your face advertising," the audience is gonna puke, exit video, and probably think worse of the brand.

So we’re on this entertainment/marketing see-saw, and it’s easy to lose balance:

  • Sell Too hard: Well-meaning advertising agencies, perhaps fearing that the video would lose impact, have made some decisions I’d consider “deal breakers.” The campaign is trying too desperately to appease advertisers — like forcing the logo or a slate at beginning of a sponsored video, which is a good cue for audience to shut the video. This harms the creator and the brand, and you’ll know it when you see 50% “thumbs down” and “sellout” in the comments 100 times.
  • Too soft: A recent film promoted via YouTube webstars, and the film itself was only mentioned briefly at the end of each video (after more than 75% of the viewers were likely long gone). I felt like that film wasn’t getting its fair share of the exchange. If people can’t recall the brand or identify it’s sponsored, you’ve probably gone too soft.

Instead, marketers might consider how to sell a product WITHOUT making a video feel like an advertisement… keeping in mind that audiences drop from an online-video in massive numbers, and eye-tracker reports the eye darting at the close button… as the viewer is just waiting for an excuse to move on… just like you’re not reading anymore because you’re looking at the lady below.

For instance if you’re promoting Gatorade, you’re notconcerned about how much screen time the bottle gets and whether it’s tagline and ingredients appear.  Consistent use of a specific phrase may satisfy a brand or agency, but it’s not required and can be a turnoff. You simply want someone to buy Gatorade later, and that effect does not need intrusive advertising in a video.

For the record, I used the author's example (Gatorade) and only later decided to include this image. But I do plan on using hot chicks in all of my blog posts for the next month.

Consider this time-tested but recently refined “10 Reasons Why Positioning Benefits Fail” It’s written by the smart peeps at Brand Development Network International Richard D. Czerniawski and Michael W. Maloney. I attended a class by these seasoned and street-smart marketers while at Johnson & Johnson, and the “boats and helicopters” are a nice way of cutting through academic bullshit. Parenthetically, isn’t it remarkable that some of the smartest brand marketers have absolutely the worst possible name and URL for their company (almost as bad as “Will Video For Food”).

I’m building off this must-read blog post, to develop some key takeaways for bridging the gap between a tight brand strategy and a fun and flexible online video.

  • Make the benefit unique. If I don’t know the difference between well water and spring water, then you’d better be cheap, in a good bottle and not give me an after taste. The USP (unique selling proposition) is not developed by the YouTube creator, but they’ll need to understand itfor their creative brief unlesss it’s a straight up “product placement.”
  • Go beyond matching benefits to broad needs. In this medium, we have a fairly tight community with a common group of values, needs, rules and annoyances. We use words like “sellout, fail, rofl” to signal what’s appropriate.If the need your product/service solves is as broad as “I want to feel safe about financial decisions,” here’s an opportunity to link to a more relevant need among YouTubers… Not a requirement, but really improves brand relevancy.
  • Try narrowing down to a meaningful emotional need. I too have read enough creative briefs with “empowerment” or “get back to life.” Keep in mind that on video we can communicate these emotional benefits with an eyebrow or a smile, and don’t need to drop it verbatim (which is a turnoff for the viewer).
  • Keep benefits extremely simple as not to weigh down a video. As a video creator I’ve received briefing documents with a list of 20 different phrases to use. It’s overwhelming to me and my viewers. Three is the magic number.
  • Benefits should go beyond “cost-of-entry.” Yeah that video camera has great quality… is that the best you can do? Seriously. You might as well say “it’s as good as the rest.”
  • It’s important for the creator to have some room to breathe, but you may want to help him or her avoid junking up a video with enthusiasm words that have no meaning: great, super, exciting, fun, awesome, wild…
  • Agencies and marketers should provide strategic language that helps provide the creator with direction. A slogan verbatim is nice, but a webstar expressing the right message is even better.

Obscure Makeup Artist Goes from YouTube to Makeup Line

This Today show report highlights Lauren Luke, a single mom from England who found fame via YouTube make-up tutorials. Now she’s making money on YouTube, and has launched her own makeup line with Sephora. Her own makeup talents are more evident by her glowing face in the in the live shot than the interview clips preceding it (which, perhaps due to careful NBC lighting direction, give her that requisite homely amateur look).

Check her out at YouTube as Panacea81 or see her fashion line here. If you last long enough in this video, you’ll see a rare quote from YouTube about the financial upside for creators. Go get ’em Lauren.

Lessons learned:

  • Sometimes you can go from obscurity to a full-time revenue on YouTube.
  • That can transcend to additional opportunities.
  • NBC, like every other network, will never fail to show “Charlie Bit My Finger” or some of the other most-viewed videos whenever covering the medium.
  • Eyes in thumbnails sell. See her most popular videos below:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Video Case Study: Efficient Logitech & Hitviews Challenge

PRWeek ran a story titled “Logitech Finds Value in Campaign Video Strategy,” and here are the highlights (the story requires login, but it’s here).

You may remember the video (below) called “Amazing Kitten.” Congratulations to the 5 randomly-selected commenters, and the 5 winners of the video replies (who I just finally contacted).

Client: Logitech (Freemont, CA)
Agency: Ruder Finn (San Francisco, CA)
Campaign: Logitech DVS YouTube campaign
Duration: September – October 2009
Budget: $25,000 – $30,000 –no, I didn’t get all of this… prizes, Ruder Finn, Hitviews


After Logitech acquired WiLife in 2007, home digital video security cameras (DVS) became a part of its portfolio. Logitech PR manager Ha Thai explains that general awareness is low in this category, and the team hoped to change that fact.

Ruder Finn (RF) was hired to work on a broad DVS promotional effort. HitViews helped the team identify a popular YouTube content producer who could integrate DVS into one of its videos.

“We wanted to spread the word in an efficient and budget conscious way,” says Andy Pray, VP with RF. “YouTube provides a good audience with existing affinity— they create content and are used to webcams.”

The idea was to create a video that highlighted the DVS system’s ease and positioned it as valuable for families. YouTube “star” Kevin “Nalts” Nalty, whose videos often involve pranks on his kids and wife, was chosen. Pray says Nalty’s large audience reach and family focus made him a great fit. An online challenge was designed to maximize engagement. The team also employed social media and blogger outreach.

In his “Amazing Kitten!” video (launched October 13), Nalty used the DVS system to catch a kitten in outrageous acts. Pray says it was important that the video feel authentic to Nalty’s audience so it kept with typical tone.

For the contest, audiences could submit a response video to Nalty’s YouTube page or leave a text comment. Contest information and a coupon code were shown at the bottom of Nalty’s video. All entrants were eligible to win a DVS system.

Nalty also created a making of the video clip (“How Kitten Defied Gravity”), which Thai says was a surprise and bonus. Nalty used his Twitter and Facebook pages to spread the word to YouTube influentials and others. The team promoted the video and contest on Logitech’s existing Twitter page, its blog, and their personal social media pages.

Other outreach focused on cat and content enthusiast bloggers. Pray adds that messaging was based on the video (rather than DVS) to maintain authenticity.

As of January 18, “Amazing Kitten!” has garnered more than 160,000 views (more than 2,000 five-star ratings) on YouTube and 38,369 views on Yahoo Video. Pray says it was a top 50 video on YouTube the week of October 13. The making of video drew another 14,200 views. The contest yielded 42 video and 2,270 text entries.

The team reports thousands of tweets from online influencers. Though Logitech won’t disclose sales, Thai says there was a “strong surge” on Logitech’s Web site around the campaign and coupon codes drove sales increases.

Thai says plans include expanding on getting top-tier media coverage of customers’ DVS stories. RF will continue to work with Logitech on DVS promotion.

(Nalts Extra)

I have to thank Hitviews, Andy from Ruder Finn, and Logitech. But I’m also grateful for DavideoDesign, who helped with the concept and special effects. Thanks so much to all of the video replies. It was very hard to select the winners! See them all here. Parenthetically, while using the Logitech System I happened to bust my children with a fight, and was able to find the guilty party!

To purchase a Logitech system:
(enter code Nalty20 to get a 20% discount)