There may not be a site in the world that generates as much web traffic as YouTube. We all know that it’s commonplace to see youth as consumers of the content, but how much do we know about our young people who are the creators and leaders of it? On Friday, November 7 at the Bring it Together 2014 Conference (#bit14), you will have the opportunity to meet two of my former students who have autonomously garnered large global followings by creating unique video content. Hear their stories, discover how they are generating (in some cases) significant incomes, ask them questions, and learn how to start your own YouTube channel from two of the savviest young leaders around.
The interview below is with ExplodingTNT, the anonymous online persona of one of my most memorable former students. Currently a secondary student in Ontario, he has an amazingly supportive family behind him. Talking to ExplodingTNT about what it means to be a creator on social media and internet entrepenuer is akin to talking to a bird about how he flies. Let’s start off with one of his hugely popular videos (yes, you are seeing that correctly: over 2 million views).
Mr. Lee: Hey there, Exploding TNT! I can’t wait for our presentation at the Bring it Together 2014 conference on November 7th. I think people have so much to learn from your experience as a young internet creator and entrepreneur. I wanted to ask you a few questions in anticipation of your talk at #bit14. My first question is: how did your love of making videos begin?
ExplodingTNT: I’ve always been interested in making YouTube videos. I have had many accounts as early as 2007 and have gone through many different types of videos. I was lucky enough to get into the game Minecraft early enough to have a better chance of growing.
Mr. Lee: Where did you get the idea of creating skits using Minecraft for a YouTube channel?
ExplodingTNT: When I actually created my channel, the point of it was not to make skits. I basically recorded videos of exploding massive amounts of TNT in the game, hence the name. After about 8 months of that, it began to get repetitive. I was watching other videos of Minecraft YouTubers at the time who were making these funny little skits, and I decided that it would be pretty fun to try it out once since I enjoyed watching them so much.
Mr. Lee: Describe your channel. Who or what is it for?
ExplodingTNT: It is one of the many Minecraft YouTube channels that have taken over the internet. If you’ve ever played the game, you would know how many different things you can do in it. I upload weekly skit videos, where I try to add some comedy and storyline. They are generally based on things in the game, for example: “If it was ALWAYS Night Time”, etc. I try to stay creative with the ideas so everyone can enjoy them. I have actually become the number one Minecraft machinima channel (skits) on YouTube.
Mr. Lee: What benefits has your channel brought you?
ExplodingTNT: It’s allowed me to meet a ton of new people who share similar interests as me. I think it really allowed me to see how real people work and what measures they will go through to accomplish their goals. Being just 17 years old and witnessing all of this is definitely a bonus on top of being able to provide myself with some source of income.
Mr. Lee: What, if any, challenges or problems have you run into?
ExplodingTNT: One of the biggest problems with making YouTube videos is trying to stay motivated. You can very easily lose motivation due to things like negative comments, views decreasing, etc. It is a lot of work to produce videos (in my case, weekly), and having something in your way of it can really hurt your channel.
Mr. Lee: When and how did you realize your YouTube channel could be a significant source of income for you? What have you learned about it since?
ExplodingTNT: I have always been aware of it, but never really focused on just that as motivation to make videos. For me personally, 2013 was the year that everything started exploding. My channel gained about 700,000 subscribers that year alone, and views were booming. This did result in a decent income considering I was only 16 years old at the time, but I try my best to just stay focused to keep on growing rather than being happy with what I have.
Mr. Lee: It must be so hard to keep up with your weekly videos. Why do you create them so often, and how much energy and time does it take?
ExplodingTNT: It takes a lot of time to make the type of videos I do. There’s a lot of work that gets put into them even if it doesn’t seem like it. For example I need to get body actors, record, find music, edit, make a thumbnail, etc. I create them weekly because it’s just been something I’ve been doing for the past 2 years and I don’t want to break the streak. Every Saturday at 12:30PM has just been something I’ve gotten used to.
Mr. Lee: Why do you prefer to be anonymous as a YouTube “celebrity”?
ExplodingTNT: It’s funny because I do want to eventually reveal myself, just don’t know when yet. I don’t feel its necessary for other people at my school to know about it because I’d rather live a perfectly normal teenagers life for now.
Mr. Lee: What are some myths that people believe, or things people don’t understand, about running a YouTube channel?
ExplodingTNT: Now that a lot is being posted about how much certain YouTubers earn, people might be under the assumption that you can upload a video and become rich. Unfortunately for those people, you need to know that it requires an insane amount of time to even start growing your channel. Some nights you have to stay up extremely late just to finish a video. It has to be something you ENJOY doing.
Mr. Lee: What advice would you give to others that want to start a channel?
ExplodingTNT: If your goal is to grow your YouTube channel, you need to invest a lot of time, be ready for failure, and not let things like negative comments bother you. I think that the biggest thing with YouTube is staying consistent. Having a constant upload schedule will allow people to recognize your videos more and become more dedicated fans.
Mr. Lee: Thanks so much, ExplodingTNT, for sharing your insights about being a creator on YouTube. I hope you have a great school year, and I’m looking forward to seeing you on November 7th at the Niagara Falls Convention Centre where your identity will finally be revealed.
ExplodingTNT: I look forward to it too. It should be fun.
I believe we learn so much about innovation from talking and listening to people like ExplodingTNT. If you want to have such an experience, come to our #bit14 session on Friday, November 7 at 10am. Click below to add it to your calendar:
Stay tuned to this blog for an interview with ExplodingTNT’s co-presenter, Katya.