Paranoia, Tragedy, and the YouTube Algorithm | January 2015 Update

So January was meant to be the month I gave up. I started looking around for work, and thought about wrapping things up on the channel. One theory about the all-powerful YouTube algorithm is that it likes frequency. The more often you post, the more likely YouTube is to put your stuff in front of people. One mentor in particular had been urging me to post more frequently all year. I had a bunch of scripts lying around so this month I decided to give it a shot. It went really, really well. I am not 100% sure that this theory is correct, but it’s worth mentioning that my most successful videos in 2015 have all come in or around weeks where I posted more than one video.

I started off the month with a discussion of the US government’s disturbing announcement that it was responding to an alleged virtual attack from North Korea with very concrete sanctions. The next week I did five videos, an interesting experiment that I haven’t felt the need to repeat since. It almost killed me. On Monday we produced a somewhat grim meditation on that month’s Charlie Hebdo massacre and what it didn’t say about the “Clash of Civilizations”. On Tuesday we uploaded a faux-interview with one of my favorite punching bags, Rudy Giuliani, on his obsession with “Black on Black Crime”. I’ve done a lot of vids on this subject, finally working it into a format that people wanted to watch last May. On Wednesday we covered why Wall Street likes it when we talk about the 1%. Next up, on Thursday we exploded the idea of the “Islamic Reformation” in what remains one of my favorite videos ever. This may be a case for churn by itself. From 8 months later the first two vids this week look embarrassingly rough, but this one still works for me. The self-inflicted over-work may have thrown up a gem that wouldn’t have otherwise been produced. If Thursday’s video showed the benefits of churn, Friday’s showed it’s drawbacks. I’m visibly exhausted and half-assedly deliver what should have been one of the most devastating videos I’ve ever done, simply documenting how US government policy since 9/11 has made us much more insecure. Instead of being a block buster it remains one of my least watched videos ever.

The five video experiment was very worth doing however. As I sat exhausted at Cafe La Viola, my hookah bar, the next Saturday, I quickly banged out a script on John Oliver. I am a big fan of the show, and the video is basically just an appreciation. “How Powerful Is John Oliver” was the second video I published the next week, after a celebration of progress on civil asset forfeiture. The Oliver video through some combination of the right title and an inoffensive message really took off. It became my second truly successful video after FATCA. In January it only got 800 or so views, but even that level of viewership made it a success from the start. Whether it was algorithm voodoo, or just a result of good video-writing muscles, the 5 video week was apparently worth it. I closed out the very busy month with “Why I don’t Care About The Environment”, a video that is certainly not very popular, but I think answers a question that was worth covering.

Views fell again this month, from 5,785 in December, to 5,385 in January. Things were looking up though, three of the top five performers in the month were actually produced in January, and it was already clear that the John Oliver video was going to continue to do well. Only two of the nine videos broke 100 views on the first day, but all but one of them has broken 200 views eight months later, and 6 of 9 have broken 300. At the end of January we had 74 videos, all but two of which were watched at least once, 49 of which were watched over 10 times, 10 of which were watched over 100 times, and one of which broke 1,000 views (FATCA). This was the month we finally broke 100,000 views. It’s always nice to see a new digit turnover, and it just felt a little more legit to have a 6-figure view channel than a 5-figure one. At the end of January I was still looking for a job, but hadn’t found one yet…

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