This story was published in The Times of India. Here is a link to the story: Lights, Camera, Cash In
A new community of amateur film-makers shoot videos of their hobbies for the second largest search engine in the world. And now, their channels are not only drawing global audiences but moolah too
It’s a gathering of a motley group of people: Musicians, actors, cooks, college students, housewives, fitness trainers… Their modest demeanour belies the fact that each of the invitees to the Wednesday afternoon workshop at a Mumbai pub is a “star” with their own video channel. These are people who’ve successfully produced YouTube videos and are monetizing their content through advertisements placed on their channel.
In a revenue-sharing program that took root in India last year, YouTube has signed up over 1,000 independent video producers. And while hundreds of partners around the world are making more than $1,00,000 per year and thousands are making more than $1,000 per month, here—in this fledgling market—the incomes range from a few thousand rupees to over a lakh a month.
The youngest among the indigenous ‘video entrepreneurs’ are 21-year-olds, Sonal Sagaraya and Rishabh Shah. The duo has produced 32 makeup tutorials for their channel (www.youtube.com/user/sonalsagaraya) that boasts of 817 subscribers and over 91,000 views.
“We started our own company called Hello Tubers and now ideate, script and produce our own films fulltime,” Shah says.
In sharp contrast to the youngsters, 65-year-old Surendra Singh marks the other end of the age spectrum. The veteran violinist and Bollywood music composer, who has arranged background scores for films like Kaho Na Pyaar Hain, Karan Arjun, Koyla and King Uncle, now makes music for his internet following.
His channel (www.youtube.com/user/originalmelodymusic) has received over 14 lakh views and has a subscriber base of over 3,000 users.
“YouTube lets me interact with my fans directly,” he says.
At the venue, while the video stars interact with each other, the organisers ready themselves for the presentation. YouTube officials have invited this group to a workshop that will provide them with tips on how to get more eyeballs and promote their channels.
“Talking to the camera is a means to drive more traffic to videos on your channel,” says Vanessa Pappas, head of audience development at YouTube. “It’s a good idea to engage with your audience and reply to comments they post,” she advises.
Some participants start taking down notes as the presentation progresses, and hands are raised and questions are asked. After all, these tips can actually result in extra money.
Lights, camera, action
One of the successful Indian partners, third year BCom student, Shivam Choudhary reviews gadgets and games on his channels ‘itouchfiendsdotcom’ and ‘iTFiends’. The 21-year-old gets about 15,000 views a day, enough to make him $15 a day.
“It’s not enough to be my primary job, but the earnings are decent for a college student,” says the amateur photographer who owns a Canon 7D camera, which he uses to film himself in a home studio setup.
But you don’t need a very expensive equipment to make it big on YouTube. Candid videos—shot on a compact Canon IXUS 9515 camera and edited on Windows Live Movie Maker—by Moradabad-based Dr Vikram Singh Yadav is proof.
Dr Yadav’s channel ‘Medical and Surgical Educational TV’ (www.youtube.com/user/ shaziajafrey8) has 785 videos, most of which are amateur clips of his patients displaying symptoms of medical conditions.
“Before YouTube, I would write articles which were more time consuming and less expressive,” says the doctor who wants to provide knowledge to medical students, patients and doctors.
Some of the most popular videos on his channel include, ‘How to use a female condom?’ (30,942 views), ‘Dermoid Cyst Excision Surgery’ (77,301 views) and ‘How to treat cracked heels?’ (28,680 views).
Pulling in audiences and advertisers
Interestingly, YouTube has also given a shot in the arm to documentary and DVD makers by helping them revive audiences online.
“DVD sales have been declining and this is a good way to make some money,” says R Satish Gupta, proprietor, Magic Box, a five-year-old Chennai-based animation company.
“We now have a dedicated team of 10 artists that create content for YouTube,” adds Gupta whose earnings from the site fluctuate between $75 to $125 a day.
“It’s a win-win situation. The audience gets free content and we get compensated by the advertising.”
But making money through videos, no matter how good, isn’t as easy. The key is to appear in the results whenever people search for specific content – and here, keywords play a vital role.
Kandivali-based homemaker Gayatri Vantillu, for instance, has identified a need and accordingly tailors her videos and descriptions to meet that requirement.
The 45-year-old’s video channel illustrates food recipes that bear simple keywords like ‘plain rice’ and ‘tomato dal’. And already, her channel boasts of 4,013 regular visitors—including a large number of bachelors, students living abroad, and newly-wed couples—most of whom are based in US and UK.
While some months are lean, Vantillu manages to make about Rs 40,000 a month on an average.
Then, to draw in viewers, Dr Yadav also makes How-To videos about random subjects including: “How To Make 3D Glasses At Home”, “Quick tip to repair a zip,” and “How to tie shoe laces”.
But building a subscriber base can take months, sometimes years and helping artists attract more eyeballs are companies like Mahim-based YoBoHo.
“We’ve been making money on YouTube for years now,” says Hitendra Merchant, founder CEO of YoBoHo New Media that scouts talent to make them YouTube stars.
“If you are talented and can do 50 versions of anything, it’s enough for us to help you start a channel,” he adds. His company produces and manages 40 YouTube channels on a wide range of topics including food, fitness, Indian jokes, lifestyle, education and entertainment. YoBoHo’s monthly revenue from YouTube is in excess of $1,20,000 and an inspiration for many vloggers looking to make a living on the site.
Making most of the program
To know if you are eligible, log on to www.youtube.com/partners. Once you sign up, you can refer to the YouTube Creator Playbook for tips on building an audience. Here are a few:
Using the right keywords in your title and tags will help users find your content faster.
Use annotations, overlays and the video description box to ask the audience to subscribe to your channel.
Interact with your audience. Reply to comments. Abuse is commonplace but comments mean your video is popular.
Collaborate with other users. If you’re a fitness channel, collaborate with the best fitness channel on YouTube. That’ll help you find more audiences interested in the same subject.
Make attractive thumbnails that visually describe what your video is about.
Add subtitles. They’re useful for people who do not have sound.