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Finding What Online Content Works

Have you ever wondered why one website or YouTube video seems to get huge amounts of traction, while others seem to languish in near total obscurity?  No, well then you need to take a quick look at all my content and tell me what’s going on.  We’ve been cranking out video and blog content for years now, with sporadic highs and lows in regularity, and nothing we’re doing seems to get much attention.  If you’re reading this, or are watching our videos, or listening to my podcast, then you’re obviously forgiven.  We adore you and thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  

You’d think that we could be grateful to you guys for following us, and we should just appreciate you and nurture the “fans” we have.  Obviously we do appreciate you greatly, but frankly, we’re afraid that you guys are a little lonely.

Now I’ve said this before.  I realize that one possible reason that we’re not gathering more of an audience could be that our content is simply retched.  I have to own that possibility, and that would certainly explain the phenomenon pretty adequately.  But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I just don’t believe that’s true.  You’re here… and you’ve got better things to do than waste your time listening to the rantings of idiots, or punishing yourself with dreadfully dull or poorly produced crap.  So forgive me if I’m in total denial, but I simply can’t accept that we’re as awful as all that.  

I don’t mean to imply that we can’t improve on our content, or that some of the stuff we put out years ago wasn’t absolute rubbish, but I believe we’re getting better and better, and that the videos, vlogs, blogs, and podcasts we produce aren’t really a lot worse than some others that have huge numbers of adoring subscribers.  

So, if I’m not just completely rationalizing my lack of talent, that means that there must be something else going on.  Let’s try to break that down a bit.

I have started to watch a lot of video content, particularly that which attracts large audiences.  There are some that are educational, some that are very specifically niched, others that are more “lifestyle” presentations.  Now, I certainly turn to YouTube for educational content.  I can’t believe how useful this forum has become for getting valuable tutorials, and academic information customized to my interests and needs.  Having said that, you may have noticed that there’s a lot of people out there who seem to know nothing, who are either ignorant or dishonest, but represent themselves as great teachers or prophets.  I think those folks are pretty easy to identify, and please God, don’t let us count among their number.  It’s funny, but I suppose I would be the last to know if I were a complete idiot.  I don’t think that’s true, and certainly I would never purposefully mislead or promote falsehoods.  So I think we can relax on that front.  We’re neither frauds, morons, nor cads.  

I don’t know about you, but I tend to completely gravitate to the kind of content that is more about “lifestyle”.  I mean the educational stuff is super important, but I don’t always have the need for that kind of information.  When I’ve got the chicken thawed, I’m looking for a recipe.  I’m generally not going to look up a cool new way to fry fish in the middle of the day.  The same goes with plumbing, DIY projects, tax code questions, or medical diagnosis.  That reference type information has a very important place in my life, but I need it when I need it.  The same goes with business information, internet issues, and even the topic of this blog.  I don’t want to think about SEO and user recidivism all the time.  However, if you tell me that there’s a new episode from the Tyler and Todd living in their off-grid, gay, homestead in NovaScotia, I drop everything to see what the boys are up to this week.  The same goes with the crew and family Sailing the Vagabond, and Mr. and Mrs. Adventure.  So why am I so devoted to following the antics of Eamon and Bec, and Trent and Allie?  I can say categorically that I have no desire to raise a family on a sailboat, build a house in the mountains of Utah, explore abandoned mines above Death Valley, or live off-grid in the woods through a Canadian winter.  

At first I thought I was being sucked into these voyeuristic relationships because I was stranded at home, first taking care of my dying parents, and then homebound due to Covid.  But Mom and Dad are gone now, and the pandemic restrictions have mostly relaxed.  Yet, I know who will be posting on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, (sometimes Friday) and two on Sunday.  Why am I so loyal, and so invested in the lives of these strangers?  I’m also not alone.  I remember once I happened to be online when one of these videos dropped, and there were literally thousands of views in the first couple of minutes.  

The other thing that perplexes me, is that they all started producing content about the same time as we did.  Perhaps that’s not fair.  While we were certainly putting content out for the past 5 or 6 years, we’ve not been particularly consistent, nor had we settled on any kind of consistent format or niche.  We’ve really only been focused since January of this year.  

That lack of focus may have hurt us quite a lot.  The influencer pundits out there seem to all imply that all you have to do is talk about your passion, consistently, and “they will come”.  What we’re interested in is running an art business.  I mean we’re really, really interested in running an art business that will support us when the savings run dry.  For a long time,  my fear was that our passion was so narrow, so specific, that not enough people out there were interested in the topic.  I mean, if you look at the followers of content centered around health and wellness, fitness, diet and cooking, travel, makeup… these are topics that most of us are very interested in.  Just a disclaimer here, I’m not interested in makeup, or by the looks of me, diet and fitness.  If you see me watching a YouTube video on exercise, it’s because the host is hot.

But now I’m beginning to wonder if that fear was well founded.  I mean, I don’t have any desire to live my life on a sailboat; really, no interest at all.  What I think attracts me is that I get to know a bit about the folks who do want to live on a sailboat, or live in their van.  I rather doubt that I would ever become friends with the gay couple in the woods.  Not that they’re not wonderful, likeable people, but we’re just very different.  So when I stop and think about it, their niche doesn’t interest me much at all.   What makes the content interesting is learning about people who I begin to care about, even though they live a life so different from mine.

So Bogdan and I decided that, though our lives aren’t particularly glamorous, or adventurous, and we’re not particularly smart or hot.  What we have though is a lifestyle that is very different from most.  We’re artists, and that’s a very strange way to make a living.  Perhaps we could interest others in our odd lifestyle too.  

There is one last bit that I think is very important; authority.  When I’m looking for a recipe, or a medical diagnosis, or tax advice, I am looking for an expert.  I get very short tempered with people who are claiming some expertise they don’t have.  I’ve also wondered if that’s a downfall for our online content as well.  If people are coming to our videos, blogs, etc… looking for sage wisdom on how to make money from their art, or the best brushes for acrylic painters, or how to become an expert cartoon illustrator, we’re not their guys.  I think part of our charm is that we don’t have all the answers.  We’re still learning, making mistakes, and trying again and again to get it right.  That leads me to another realization.  Our audience probably won’t be made up of that many artists.  In the same way that I don’t want to live in a van or build my own house, we’re likely to find our followers among those who could never, would never, want to make a living selling art.  That subtle shift might be something we should look into further.  I mean, how about you?  What’s made you stick with this blog entry thus far?  I mean it, I’m really asking?  Instead of struggling to find my ideal audience, perhaps I should be looking at the small group of people who are listening, reading and watching.  Send me a line or two, and let me know what you’d be interested in hearing more about, and what I can do better.  

Thanks, and have a great week.  We’re off to Mexico the day after tomorrow, so my next entry will be from south of the border in Guadalajara.

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