YouTube video essays – update

Six months ago, I started making video essays for YouTube on philosophy and literature.

I thought now would be a good time to look back and reflect on the progress I have made so far, and to look at the YouTube analytics and what I could improve in the future.

Project Origins:

The project started when a friend of mine, reading this blog, commented that I wrote in a very conversational style of writing. He asked whether I had ever considered reading my articles out loud and turning them into YouTube video essays.

It was a format I was only vaguely familiar with.

There are a handful of essayists on YouTube who share their commentary on the world, often overlaying their words with pictures or videos, with a small amount of background music.

Some of the most famous YouTubers in the category are Nerdwriter, ContraPoints, PBS Ideas Channel and The School of Life. To varying degrees, they analyze pop culture, art and politics and try to either educate the audience or just get across a few new interesting ideas. They do so by linking together themes and topics that don’t often go together, or by investigating an author or artwork very closely.

Another to keep an eye on is Austin Hayden’s channel, where he looks at dissecting philosophy and pop culture and riffs on a variety of themes.

I thought that this idea would be very interesting to do, so I began to narrow down on my own concept. I would make a video essay series on “The World According to…” various artists, philosophers and authors.

These topics spoke to my personal interest, and would allow me to share the various sources of inspiration for my work over the years.

Project Progress:

To date, I have made 27 videos, averaging to roughly 4.5 videos a month.

I try to make a new video every week. This is obviously a difficult challenge, and I achieve it by relying on both historical writing I have done (and historical reading I have done, lol), along with new ideas and books that catch my interest. In this way, I can quickly make a video on an author I know a lot about, such as Haruki Murakami, while more slowly taking the time to learn about a new author, such as Mieko Kawakami.

I have currently reached 360 subscribers, with a few of my more popular videos receiving several thousand views.

What is more personally meaningful to me, however, are some of the comments I have received. Several people have written to me thanking me for the project, saying that it made their day, or that they’ve really been able to look at things differently.

This is the real reward. When I started, I wanted to create a quiet place on the internet for thought and introspection, and to have other people see my ideas and start a conversation is a huge reward.

The experience has been unlike any other platform / social media site, in my view.

Project Analytics:

I have spent a small amount of time digging into the YouTube analytics, to determine what makes a successful video.

In regards to my own content, I have found that people connect with the following on YouTube:

  • Engaging storytelling.
  • Personal stories.
  • Captivating artwork.
  • Niche topics that aren’t covered elsewhere.

People seem to be very hungry for quality storytelling, to help break down what is happening in the world and in their own lives.

I’ve found that I can get across the work of a particular author or painter, while at the same time, adding some commentary about the world at large. This is the kind of content that I personally find engaging, so really, I’m just creating things that I like!

It also helps to have good audio quality, good music and good images to accompany whatever it is that you are talking about. This is slightly harder, but I’m doing my best!

Current Goals and Future Videos:

My current goal is to keep expanding my audience and to work on new videos on a range of topics that capture my interest. I’ve spent some time working on new videos on art and painters, which has been a more recent interest to me than philosophy and literature.

It’s nice to break into new territory and share things as I learn about them. Currently, for example, I am looking at creating a video essay on the artworks of Davis Cone.

You can find some of my latest YouTube video essays below.

If you enjoy the video essays, take a moment to subscribe and leave a comment, as this helps the channel to grow!

Thanks for watching!

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshKrook


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