From the Newsletter: Writing, Shooting, Cannibalism and Burnout
Three months after I started a cross-platform extravaganza, with a YouTube channel linked to an essay series, the wheels started to turn a little more slowly.
The excitement over doing hair and makeup, and the demands of having a standing date with the camera, started to feel, ever so slightly, like a burden. I encountered days that I didn’t want to play — not because I was intimidated by the task, but because I didn’t want to do it.
Yet the demand to whack those algorithms every week wasn’t going to go away. This week, I decided to re-package video, and here is the product that resulted:
The demand to whack the algorithms — and the lessons I’ve learned from audience behavior — convinced me to alter my approach.
Before I shot the first video in the project, I mapped out an editorial calendar, with videos and essays linked by theme. The initial plan covered the first three months of the project in painstaking detail.
The idea, from the outset, had been to use the scrolling platforms — Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram — to drive traffic to the content platforms, YouTube and Medium.
After launch day, it was pretty clear that the scrolling platforms don’t work that way. People don’t scroll to find things to read and watch. They scroll for the purpose of scrolling.
I found an article from a social media firm that gave this advice:
Don’t even link your work on a scrolling platform. Just give people nice-looking graphics with pull quotes, and they’ll like you for it.
In legacy media, that sounds like cannibalism — letting an audience consume your work without requiring them to give you traffic in return. No, I thought. I won’t be doing that.
Then, just in case I was wrong, I made some nice little graphics. I started to kick them out onto the scrolling platforms. Here’s one:
In other words, I decided to meet the audience where it lives. It made sense; it’s a basic principle of performance. I will continue to occasionally post links to essays and videos for the scrollers, but I’m dedicating more bandwidth to giving them clips and quotes.
Sure enough, that audience is growing, too.
So cannibalism is good.
That advice also does not conflict with the №1 rule for content platforms like YouTube and Medium: Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it. Every week. Without fail. When you’re starting out, it really doesn’t matter what it is.
The advice from the old days working in magazines and television — to make every word or every shot count, and to use it only once — no longer applies. That’s why this week’s video, rather than being the thoughtful dissection of a new song (as I had planned), is old content that’s re-purposed and re-used.
I uploaded two different performances of a Verdi song, with a request for the YouTube audience to tell me in the comments which one they like best.
Why did I do this? Well, for the first time in my life, I’m heeding that first small warning of burnout — that voice that says, “I don’t want to.” If I’m going to feed YouTube and Medium every week without getting run down by the hamster wheel, I’m going to have to buy myself some time.
After all, I’ve put in the time. I’ve developed the content. I did 20 takes of the Verdi. I might as well use them.
This project was intended to create its own weather — to produce experiences that generate material. It certainly has done that.
Also today, I’m posting this week’s newsletter on Medium. Why not? If a little voice is telling you, “I don’t want to do it,” well, it’s time to whack two algorithms with the same stick.
With that, I’m happy to announce that I won’t be playing today.
See you on the Internet!