As I previously announced, I began experimenting with YouTube. In this post, I’m sharing some statistics and thoughts from my first month.
As a reminder, I launched three channels:
- Tony on Tech: about programming, technical marketing, and technology;
- Antonio Cangiano: about self-improvement;
- Take it Outdoors: about the outdoors and my hobbies.
Views, Watch Time, and Subscribers
Everybody loves concrete numbers, so let’s start off with statistics for each channel.
Tony on Tech
In the past month, this channel had a total of 843 views and 1,746 minutes (29.1 hours) of watch time. It grew from 0 to 40 subscribers. I published a total of 5 videos. By order of views, they ranked as follows:
- Kindle vs Kobo. Which ecosystem should you choose? [366 Views]
- How to Choose a Technology Stack for Your Projects (4 Things to Consider) [256 Views]
- Why You Should Learn to Code [82 Views]
- Introducing Technical Blogging (2nd Edition) [95 Views]
- How to get a job as a programmer: Specialize! [44 Views]
My self-development channel had 1,998 views and 1,375 minutes (22.9 hours) of watch time. It grew from 88 to 93 subscribers. 
Of the 6 new videos I published, the most popular were:
- How to Become More Productive By Blocking Distractions! (7 Tips) [72 Views]
- Going back to Keto (and New Plans for This Channel) [54 Views]
- Short Term vs Long Term Mindset [51 Views]
- August 2019 Weight Loss Accountability [18 Views]
- Set your future self up for success [16 Views]
- Why You Need a Personal Mission Statement [12 Views]
Several of my existing videos – which were randomly published over the years – outperformed these new ones. I’m not surprised given that a couple of them have 40K views or so to date.
Interestingly, I published a handful of videos from my Tony on Tech and self-improvement channel on IGTV (Instagram’s version of YouTube) and they tend to get 100-200 views each on average.
Take it Outdoors
My outdoor/hobbies channel had a total of 4,837 views and 8,165 minutes (136 hours) of watch time. It grew from 0 to 15 subscribers. I published 4 videos:
- The Story of a Broken Man (An Ode to Those Who Love Fishing.) [4,572 Views]
- Nanuk 909 vs. 910 Plastic Cases Unboxing and Comparison [133 Views]
- Akaso V50 Pro vs iPhone XS Max (4K Raw Footage Comparison) [123 Views]
- Storing Knives and Guns in Nanuk Cases (Nanuk 909 vs 910 Follow Up) [29 Views]
OK, these are just numbers and they don’t paint the whole picture. So let me give you some preliminary thoughts.
Thumbnails and video length matter
Across the board, the majority (80%+) of the traffic to these videos came from external sources. In other words, YouTube’s own search engine and algorithm didn’t do me any favors.
The video that did the best, was an adaptation of a theatrical piece I translated from Italian. It pulls at the heartstrings a little and as a result, it did decent on Reddit and was picked up by a couple of foreign sites that tend to share feel-good videos. That helped increase the view count to a few thousand.
YouTube tends to be biased towards content with a high degree of engagement and view time. So they prefer polarizing content, longer content (at least 10 minutes), and content with high Click-Through Rate (CTR). (Basically, when your video shows up in a search or recommendation, how many people click on it?)
The take-home lesson here is to shoot for 10+ minute videos and have attractive, bold thumbnails with very legible text. Take a look at my first thumbnail and at my latest.
(I have been experimenting with a great web app called Visme to create thumbnails with better CTR. I like it a lot so far.)
Still, my thumbnail-fu has lots of room for improvement. I also need to start shooting longer videos.
I want to mention that I noticed a slight increase in subscribers once I added a Video Watermark in the bottom right corner, inviting people to subscribe.
Definitely, add this if you have a channel.
Improvements and Limitations
As a non-native speaker who is not exactly flattered by the camera, I’m at my most vulnerable on video. I enjoy making videos but I find a million flaws in them.
From how I pronounce certain words to how I look on camera. I also noticed that speaking off the cuff, I will do mistakes which I immediately catch while reviewing the video. Unlike text, you can’t easily edit them out. You either live with them or go back and reshoot a portion of the video.
I obviously do better when I prepare a script and read it for the camera, instead. This is to say that I foresee some improvements in this department, especially if I start using a script more consistently, but there are some inherent limitations as well.
Then there is the audio and video quality itself. You can read about my equipment in this post about the gadgets I use on my Programming Zen blog. I don’t think I have made massive progress on the video front (though perhaps its quality is acceptable) but I believe I made some progress in terms of audio.
I don’t feel like I have quite the right settings or postprocessing workflow in place, as my highs tend to be too strong (and annoy the hell out of me), but the Zoom H4N Pro and Countryman B3 lapel microphone combo has certainly improved my audio quality.
My videos also lack animations and fancy graphics. It’s either me speaking on camera, or some kind of stock footage/presentation mashup with my narration on top. The latter tends to do better than the former. A true testament to my striking handsomeness. 😛
Value vs Effort
Yes, your thumbnail matters. Yes, video length matters. But fundamentally, it’s about your content and your presentation. Your views are a function of the value you provide, rather than your effort
Presentation challenges notwithstanding, I think I can provide more value than I have so far. I clearly have not figured out yet how to create popular videos given my, for lack of better words, limitations. I will have to continue to experiment and see what works. I’ll be sure to report back.
For reference, my most popular blog post published in the past month had well over 10,000 readers, which makes videos with a dozen views feel rather underwhelming. 🙂
However, I’m reminded of the advice within my own book about not getting frustrated by the lack of early results. I haven’t cracked the code. Yet.
Along the same line of following my own advice, I plan to be a little more strategic with my content. So far I’ve just winged it, by publishing whatever videos came to mind. I plan to start using some of the SEO tools I already use for blogging a bit more.
Focusing on two channels
At the time of my announcement, I mentioned that I had probably bit off more than I could chew. I was right. Two blogs plus three channels require a lot of content
Producing and editing video is also very time-consuming. This isn’t my full-time job so it’s something I just do during the evenings and weekends.
This is a reminder for fellow bloggers not to take on too much. Focus on one thing at the time. It’s hard for me to do as I have many interests, but focusing is likely the only thing that will lead me to achieve a degree of success on YouTube.
Amusingly, having to produce so much content led me to spend very little time outdoors and on my hobbies. So I ended up having less content (and ideas) for my outdoor channel.
So a month in, this will be my first cut. I’m going to focus on Tony on Tech and my self-improvement channel. I’m not shutting down the outdoor one, but I will only occasionally publish a video when I have something to show. It won’t be a regular weekly effort.
Instead, I’m going to focus on the other two channels and I honestly believe I’d be better served by only focusing on one (likely Tony on Tech). But for now, I’ll give both an honest go.
All in all, the experiment hasn’t been overly successful to date, but I don’t consider it a complete failure. Some videos did okay and the subscriber growth of the Tony on Tech channel is not terrible.
Still, I need to experiment more to find what works best for me and my channels.
I expect to post future updates on this experiment, so feel free to subscribe (below) as well as to the channels themselves, to see how things pan out.
I’ll make sure to share more tips on what works, as soon as I find out. Stay tuned.
1. Technically, my Antonio Cangiano channel has been around for over a decade, but it wasn’t a coherent effort. I tossed a few random, and I do mean genuinely random, videos up over the years. And many of them managed to attract traffic in the thousands. Go figure.
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