Oh the places you will go: The Road to a Million Views started with some caulk (and at least ten censored comments on YouTube)
Oh the places you will go: The Road to a Million Views started with some caulk (and at least ten censored comments on YouTube)
Oh the places you will go: The Road to a Million Views started with some caulk (and at least ten censored comments on YouTube)

We started the Stark Insider YouTube channel in 2008 with zero views, zero videos, and not a whole heck of a lot of ideas. What on earth would we do with video? Would anyone watch stuff we put up there? And — though this didn’t factor so much into our early thinking — could real money be made publishing videos on YouTube?

Though I’ve been tracking our channel from time to time, I was somewhat surprised when my partner in crime, the number crunching Little Loni, told me the other day that we were approaching 1 million views. What’s that?! A BILLION views?! No, no, she said, a million views. Oh. Okay. That doesn’t sound too impressive really. As the Princeton guy told Tom Cruise in Risky Business during the house party, “Your stats are respectable. You’ve done some solid work here. But it’s not quite Ivy League now is it?!”

As of today we’re sitting at 881,554 views, which means we’ll cross the one million mark after about 119,000 more views. Based on our daily views, which are typically about 1,000, I estimate we should reach it sometime in June, possibly July if summer slow down impacts folks’ ability to spend hours on end YouTubing.

this chick doesnt know wat shes talking about!!!”

By any viral standard, of course, this is a pittance, a rounding error, not even a micro-fibre of Justin Bieber’s hair. It wouldn’t even start PSY’s car. As I poked around the Web, exploring what it means to be successful in video in this space — primarily regional entertainment (San Francisco) including theater, food & wine, and some indie film — I learned that, to my surprise, a million views is not insubstantial. It may explain why Google sent a small team armed with a video camera and notepads to spend a few hours with me at the Stark Insider office a few months ago. I wondered why on earth they were bothering. But the company’s foray into online video is strategic, and publishers, large and small alike, are part of their long-term strategy to upend yet another industry (television). In 2009 Loni and I sort of knew this, or maybe we just guessed well when we decided to “double down” (to use a trendy Silicon Valley catch phrase) on video. We didn’t know then if it was monetizable, we were quite certain it wasn’t – at least not in any substantial sense.

I figured while we were on this Road to a Million Views I’d start a weekly series that explored various facets of video and YouTube.

I don’t dare call it advice. Not by a long shot. Others are far, far ahead of the curve. Rather I’m just going to opine, share things that have worked well for us, and talk about times where we’ve fallen flat on our faces. I’m not exactly sure what topics I’ll discuss but I think it’ll include an assortment of stuff such as branding, audience engagement (ideal video length, story-telling), and possibly some of the behind-the-scenes minutia that might matter to someone thinking about getting out there and filming interviews and events (waivers, consent forms, approaching a celebrity, working with publicists, etc.). I’m not sure really. And I really don’t know if anyone cares, so this may at best be a chronicle that only me and my Mom would ever care about.

Next week I’ll share some actual revenue figures on various videos published on the Stark Insider YouTube channel.

There were some surprises to be had when I recently dug through some of the analytics. For example, an utterly ridiculous video (see below) I shot of the Little Loni caulking baseboards has generated some of the more interesting comments (“this chick doesnt know wat {sic} shes {sic} talking about!!!”). Half of me wants to pull it. But, ah the joy of reminiscing. Look, you have to start somewhere, right?! Right?! Keep in mind just that silly 5 minute clip alone earns us $15 per month. I’m not about to retire on that anytime soon. Many of our videos (we have 374 total as of this writing) pay more than that, others less. Like Google and Adsense, keywords are important as are categories. DIY and How-tos pay well. Theater and Wine not so much. But I’ll get into that further in future columns.

See you next week. For now, I leave you with one of the finest pieces of entertainment you’re likely to see all week. This is what happens when you want an excuse – any excuse – to use your brand new Canon Vixia camcorder. Sure enough, sometimes you just gotta say what the F***:

Clinton shoots videos for Stark Insider. San Francisco Bay Area arts, Ingmar Bergman and French New Wave, and chasing the perfect home espresso shot 25 seconds at a time (and failing). Peloton: ClintTheMint. Camera: Video Gear