I recently came across a 2015 book release called YouTube Famous: Making It Big on the Internet by Rosie Matheson.
Making it big on the internet?
Isn’t that what so many of us hope to do? I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly care if it’s on the internet or in real life. Making it big speaks to me of financial freedom, the easy life, and having all the time in the world to spend with my friends and family enjoying the things I love.
That’s luxury to me!
So I explored the book further. It’s description said:
YouTube has revolutionized the viewing habits of millions of people around the world and looks likely to continue doing so. YouTube Famous presents case studies of 20 of the world’s most successful YouTubers providing original content to inspire those who might want to set up a channel of their own – it’s also a book which will be enjoyed by fans. Complete with tips to produce your own programs, it shows how YouTubers built up their channels from scratch and developed content to please their growing fanbase. With a growing online world and more and more people tuning in to the internet, particularly young people, this is the book you need to read for the secrets of success.
The highlighting is my own, and acknowledges what stood out to me in deciding whether to read the book or not.
As I interpreted it, the author would use case studies of successful YouTubers in order to show what sets them apart from other YouTubers who are struggling to figure out how to make their channel work for them. The intent being, to show the reader what the necessary ingredients and steps are to achieving success themselves.
Overpromised and underdelivered
Unfortunately, YouTube Famous overpromised and underdelivered. It read more like a celebrity tabloid than a serious study of successful people. I now know more about who on YouTube is straight and who is gay, who’s dating each other and who’s not, than I anticipated when I first picked up the book.
I’m not too certain how the author came to choose these particular individuals as the best case studies. The author did say that she ruled out anyone who started off rich or has had the backing of any organization with corporate muscle. Yet, a few of the people profiled were sponsored by Skype and other corporations, so I’m not too clear how she’s defining “backing” here.
Regardless, she acknowledges that the people she selected to profile all fit a common mold. They are ordinary people who have built up their channels on the strength of their personalities, their wit and the quality and originality of their work.
As I read through the book it became apparent that most are from the UK, and they all got their start essentially either vlogging about make-up or being comic goofballs and pulling pranks.
The oldest member of the YouTube crew (did I forget to mention, they’re all friends?) was born in 1983 and started their channel no later than 2011, seeming to imply that if you’re older than your mid-30s and didn’t jump on the YouTube wagon long before now, you’ve missed the boat!
Also, it seems that every single one of them has a viewing audience made up of teenage girls. So if you’d hoped for information that might help you reach any other demographic, you’re on your own.
A few more flaws
As far as the tips to grow your own channel that the author promised? It seemed like an abandoned effort. The first few profiles end with a grey box in which you’ll find some tips. But after the first few, there were no more to tips called out for you. They needed to be inferred from the profiles themselves.
Which brings me to another major flaw in this book. With all of the frequent references to the YouTubers, their channels, and specific videos on those channels, the eBook didn’t contain links to any of them. Had it done so, there were a few video descriptions that sparked my curiosity enough to watch them, but not enough to go look for them.
The best of the tips
All that said, here are the best tips that I culled out for myself and wholeheartedly agree with (although they weren’t new to me).
- Be yourself and treat your viewers like they’re your friends, not prospects or strangers.
- Invite and respond to comment, and let your subscribers be part of the channel’s growth.
- And most of all, find ways to collaborate. Every member of the YouTube crew saw significant growth in their number of subscribers when they were introduced to someone else’s audience.
What I didn’t find in the book were the production tips mentioned in the description, as well as information I’d anticipated like the mechanics of growing a channel (looking at viewer consumption data to determine what content to create, how to broadcast videos to get the greatest visibility, etc.).
Instead, most of the YouTubers profiled seem to take a “seat of the pants” approach, either recording whatever it is they feel like or taking viewers up on dares.
While I had personally never heard of any of the 20 YouTubers profiled, their subscriber and viewing numbers are impressive! And they do speak to the fact that YouTube is a different medium than TV. It serves a different purpose and needs to be handled as its own broadcast medium, even as its own art form.
Deliver on what you promise
As for the book itself? I think the publisher got the blurb wrong, and it put the author in an awkward position. The book promised to the reader is not what was delivered, and it appears an editor tried to shoe-horn what the author wrote into what the publisher wanted to publish, with unsatisfactory results all the way around.
Had the book subtitle and blurb positioned it as collection of celebrity profiles of young and famous YouTubers, that would have been one thing (and my review rating would have been different, as it is I only gave it 2-stars on Amazon).
Trying to pass it off as a business book offering case studies on how to create a successful channel was a mistake. To do that would have required a more in-depth look at what made each channel successful, so that the reader could replicate it on their own, and a more varied sampling of case studies.
If you’re over 35 and hoping to reach an audience other than teen girls with your brand, there’s not a lot to go on in YouTube Famous.