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By Thomas Baekdal - August 2015

Everyone has to start at the bottom

One of my friends is thinking about starting her own YouTube channel, but she is worried that she might look stupid and that the quality won't be good enough.

I see this all the time. Most legacy media companies are also facing this new world of video. But who should be in front of the camera? Most journalists don't really like the idea of doing a video. They are not used to engaging with people that way. They think it will make them look awkward.

But here is the thing. Everyone is going to look stupid in the first videos.

Let me give you an example:

Take Bethany Mota. Today she is one of the biggest stars if you ask teenagers, but it took her six years to get to that point. Her videos today are light years from what they used to be.

Below is the first video that she posted on her channel, six years ago.


As you can see, she is a bit quiet and a bit insecure. The video quality is horrible and the lighting is way too dark. But she is doing her best. This isn't a critique, because she actually did it when others were merely thinking about it.

Fast forward a year, and suddenly you see a completely transformed performance. She is no longer insecure, she is no longer quiet. The lighting is better and so is the video quality and sound.


This is what happens when you have built up one year of experience doing something.

Now let's fast-forward five more years, and you see that she has completely transformed again. Now she has so much experience that she instantly knows how to do things, and that shows. At the same time, she has learned about camera angles, much better lighting, sound and editing so her videos no longer have the 'webcam' look.


Isn't this amazing?

Here is another example. Marques Brownlee is probably the most important mobile tech reviewer of the moment. His videos are highly informative, to the point and valuable. Like this one:


Pretty good right?

Well, five years ago, his reviews looked like this:


That's quite a difference. Granted, both Bethany and Marques started out very young, but just look at how much they transformed their presentation and their insecurities over time.

It's just wonderful.

We all have to go through this. We are all going to look pretty silly in our first videos. But the only way to get better is through experience.

You can take a few extra steps forward by getting better lighting and sound from day one. Those two are more important than any other technical part of your video. But the real value comes from how at ease and comfortable you appear, which is something you can only gain through experience.

So, to my friend and to all you bloggers and journalists out there faced with having to do video, stop putting it off because it might not be good enough. It's always good enough.

Can you imagine if Marques or Bethany looked at their first videos and decided to close their channels because they looked funny? Of course not.

It doesn't matter that it looks silly. It doesn't matter that you aren't getting that many views to begin with. The only thing that matters is the transformation that you will experience as you get better at it.

I will add one more thing though, and this is for my friends working at legacy media companies.

One of the biggest problems that I see is that media companies are killing themselves by their own randomness.

You know how it is. The old recipe for a successful newspaper is 'a little bit of everything + sport'. But this also means that you have no target, no purpose, and no specific passion for any one topic.

We see this so clearly over at YouTube. Here is a screenshot of Washington Post's latest videos:

We have videos about fashion, the White House, crime, business schools, quite a lot of sports, breastfeeding moms, and clean energy.

How completely random and untargeted can you get?

Take the first video: 'High fashion's new 'it girl' isn't stick thin'


If Bethany Mota had published this, it would have had a million views or more by now. But because it was published as yet another random video it has only reached 98 views. It's not that the video isn't good. It is. It has perfect lighting, sound and camera. It's about a very important and highly discussed topic.

What kills it, is that the channel itself lack all forms of passion and purpose. As a newspaper, you don't feel anything special towards it, because it's just yet another random story created by a random journalist whom you have no connection to.

That's why it fails.

We see it with brands as well. Just look at Amazon's YouTube channel. Some idiot over at Amazon have read in a clueless study that making short snackable videos is the way to engage people online. So, Amazon has been posting a lot of videos called 'Amazon Shorts'.

And like the Washington Post, they are about a little bit of everything.

Look at the view counts here. Amazon is one of the largest companies on the planet, and it cannot even reach 1,000 views for most of their videos.

It's the same problem as with Washington Post. Instead of focusing on the passion, and instead of having a purpose, they have defined their strategy around publishing random content based on a format.

Again, they are not bad videos. They a quite good, albeit also too short and too random.

Take this video from Amazon:


It's not a bad video at all. But compare it to this one from Bethany Mota.


It's like night and day.

Amazon's video is part of a snack like content plan of creating random videos at a certain length. Bethany's video is all about the DIY teenage girl lifestyle.

Amazon's video focuses on what to do. Bethany's video focuses on why you want to do it.

Amazon's video tries to appear passionate, but doesn't feel like it (because it's fake passion). Bethany's video is all about passion.

Amazon's short videos are about a minute long. They play like ads, and the outcome is similarly dismal. Bethany's video is almost 8 minutes long. This is something you see because you want to see it.

Amazon posts seven of these short videos per week, in batches of two, illustrating how this is all part of a marketing plan to push out random content. Bethany Mota works all the time to make videos, but she only posts them when she is happy with the result. Sometimes that means two videos in a week, other times it means only one video per month.

Amazon's video has 490 views. Bethany's video has 7,846,972 views.

You see the problem here?

Amazon, like the newspapers, is focusing on filling a content schedule around a certain format. What's actually in the videos, even when produced well, is random ... and it's killing their engagement.

Don't be random. Don't be a format. Don't try to fill a schedule.


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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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