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Factual Festival: how to use YouTube to get ahead

Factual Festival: how to use YouTube to get ahead
Tim Dams
14 November 2014

YouTube is a brilliant place to test out new factual ideas and to showcase your content, but remains a very difficult place for TV indies to make money.

That was the central message on a session at the Televisual Factual Festival on using digital to get ahead, with speakers including Zoe Collins of Jamie Oliver Media Group, Barcroft Media CEO Sam Barcroft, Little Dot Studios co-founder Selma Turajlic and 360 Productions head of development Emma Parkins.

The session began by highlighting the success of beauty YouTube channel Zoella. Featuring 24-year-old Zoe Sugg dispensing beauty tips, its popularity has exploded in recent months and her films are each watched by millions of viewers.

The success of the YouTube channel sparked a discussion about the challenges and opportunities for TV producers.

Barcroft Media CEO Sam Barcroft produces content for YouTube, including one piece - The Only Man In The World Who Can Swim With A Polar Bear: Grizzly Man – which has been viewed over 27m times. But his company also makes traditional factual TV.

He said: “You can use YouTube as part of your business mix. Am I making a great deal of money out of it? Not really. Does it make people interested in my business? Yes.”

Barcroft said that traditional TV still provides the majority of his company’s income, but that YouTube was a great place to experiment with ideas for TV. 

A YouTube presence is also a useful calling card, which allows broadcasters, brands and other potential clients to see your work. Every panelist said that placing content on YouTube had opened doors to new business for them, even if the content hadn’t made money directly itself.

Parkins, who works on science YouTube channel Headsqueeze for 360 Productions, said her indie had won business with Microsoft as a result of its YouTube work. “There is no way Microsoft would have come to us if it hadn’t been for the YouTube channel. It’s a shop window – people come to us as a result.”

She added that YouTube is a great place to test out new ideas. Viewers will also provide plenty of feedback, allowing you to learn how to make the content better.

Turajlic added that a YouTube presence can be a very useful tool for producers to find out how people react to their content, thanks to the analytics and data it provides. “You get so much data – there is something fascinating about being able to learn how people react to your content.”

Barcroft said there are four key rules for publishing on YouTube so that content is viewed and shared on social media: make sure the best content airs in the first ten seconds so it grabs viewers; give it an amazing title; make sure there is a good thumbnail picture so that viewers want to see what is behind it; and make sure there are plenty of keywords to describe the clip in a compelling way.

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