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You know the difference between theory and practice, right? How you can know something in theory for years, but never actually apply it? I’m spectacularly guilty of that.
One of the many side-effects of modernized content publishing (under which I’m lumping radio, TV, video, podcasts and comics too) is the rate at which consumers now expect new content.
If you’re just getting started today, and you intend on building any kind of career, constant output really matters.
I’ve known this for years (and have ignored it for those same years), but if you’re planning on being a professional content creator in today’s hyper-connected, hyper-accelerated world, you need to create and share with some frequency.
By “professional” I mean: “earning a living doing this”. Not “professional” as in “the best possible output from the most skilled individuals”, or even “certified or qualified” – those barriers have long since been obliterated.
If your intention is to build a career on this, then quality is almost secondary to constant output. Especially if you have an inner critic that’s harping on at you about how bad your work is.
There’s an excellent example of this on YouTube. One of my favorite creators is a guy by the name of Bill Wurtz, who has a channel filled with short clips in his very unique style. A few months ago, he published a new video – The History Of The Entire World:
Excellent video, extremely information-dense, and enormously painstaking to create. That 19 minutes of footage took him over 11 months to produce (according to an interview he did later), and at many points during the project, he felt like dropping it completely – which I sympathize with!
It’s a solid creative achievement, and I’d always want to see more work like this make its way to the world.
But if you’re trying to build a career as a content creator, a schedule like that is a death sentence. As of today, the video has over 25 million views, which means it’s accumulated a flat average of around 470k views/day. And that’s already slowed down to a crawl:
Creators on YouTube can earn advertising revenue (with the possible exception of the recent adpocalypse that’s still evolving), and beyond that, popular creators often spin up secondary revenue streams – things like merchandise, club memberships, and Patreon pages.
But all of that starts with views (or reads, listens, downloads, whatever your metric is) – more is better, and consistency is better.
There’s another YouTuber that I’ve recently sort-of started watching – Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie. He started in April 2010, essentially just recording videos of himself playing games. In the 7+ years since then, SocialBlade reports that he’s uploaded over 3200 videos.
There are only 2555 days in 7 years, meaning that he’s uploaded an average of more than one video per day, every day, for over 7 years.
The man is a Swedish meme machine. I don’t know how he does it, but he does.
That consistency built him an audience, ended up landing him contracts and other opportunities, then turned into a solid (multi-million dollar) career. It took a knock when the Wall Street Journal went after him, but that’s a whole other story on its own. Right now, he’s sitting on 55 million subscribers – possibly 56 million before today is out. Not bad for a kid that used to sell hot dogs!
Fun fact: PewDiePie has 55 million subscribers and can drive upwards of a million views to a new video the day it comes out. The WSJ is the largest newspaper in the United States, with a circulation of only 2.4 million print copies, and 900k digital subscribers.
(No wonder they went after him!)
The videos themselves, if I’m honest, are not great – something that he acknowledges in a very funny and self-deprecating way. They’re mostly just him in front of a webcam, talking into a microphone and browsing the web. The comedic timing is excellent though, and the use of effects is hilariously cheesy.
The most recent uploads are usually around 10 minutes in length (partially to take advantage of YouTube’s advertising distribution algorithm), and probably take a few hours at most to record, edit, and upload. But he does it every single day, and has done it consistently for so long, that this is how the daily movements across his channel look today:
His back catalog of 3200+ videos cumulatively gains new views in the millions, every single day. And all of those views are potential ad revenue, new subscribers, or merchandise customers.
This principle applies everywhere in the modern content business. The more content you build up over time, and the more frequently you’re able to do it (even if it’s not your absolute best work on every single publish), the better off you’re going to be in terms of audience size, and the corresponding revenue opportunities.
Constant publishing creates an audience, and constant consumption creates opportunity.
There’ll always be space for the big, heavy, long-running creative projects in the world. Those are the ones that will go on to have enormous cultural impact – a great recent example being American Gods.
The book was originally published in 2001 (that’s sixteen years ago, in case you weren’t already feeling old). It’s getting a television series as of this year, and two ambitious claims have emerged: That this will be a series on the level of Game of Thrones, and that the content in the novel itself could keep the series going for several years without needing much modification.
American Gods took Gaiman several years to write. I think I read somewhere that it was (at least) 5 years. I can’t source that right now, but I could certainly believe that, given the scope of the work.
I’m convinced that American Gods will go on to have a huge cultural impact, win multiple awards (the book already won awards back in 2001), and inspire thousands of new creators.
But not all creative work has to be on the same scale, and there’s just as much place for the people who produce entertainment on a much more regular basis. Especially now that there are so many formats, the cost of entry is lower than its ever been, and you can probably find an audience for even the narrowest of niches.
It’s just down to overcoming your inner critic, and making a start!