Is there any hope for Youtube channels that are not Let's Play?


I was talking with my lead animator the other day and he was explaining, as he called it, "The downfall of Youtube". He explained it like this:

  1. When YouTube first came out, everyone thought it might be the next TV. Create content, upload, get subscribers, etc.

  2. These early years were the golden years of YouTube. Los of cool content, sketch shows, etc. This was driven by the way they paid, which was views. This allowed people to do short content, because it takes a lot to do a long format TV show when someone may only watch the first minute then click away.

  3. Then, "hot girls" came along and figured this out. YouTube was flooded with 15-30 second "reaction videos" which were just hot girls in low cut tops so they got a suggestive thumbnail.

  4. YouTube then changed their policy of how they pay out in order to combat this. They did this by requiring videos to be over a minute long and also paid based on the time someone is on your channel, not just total views. This effectively killed the hot girl problem.

  5. However, this created a problem for real content producers. Now you had to retain someone for a long time at a low cost. The best way to do this is is just to play a popular videogame and talk over it (it helps if you are a hot girl or cute skinny guy - PewPewDie - and have a video box of you playing).

  6. Because of this, it is incredibly hard to have a tv show on YouTube that makes good money. You are competing with people that create their content by themselves, edit themselves, and do it all almost for free. It's incredibly hard to compete against this.

So what are your thoughts? Is there any way around this? Any examples of people hitting it out of the park with TV shows or creative content on YouTube where they can actually pay a cast and staff? And if not, which site is doing this now successfully? Because it seems YouTube has been conquered by people who don't pay collaborators anything. That's bad for creative types and makes them beholden still to Hollywood.


Epic Rap Battles of History, Bad Lip Reading, Auto Tune The News all seem to be successful

Edit: Red Letter Media, How it should have ended, the collegehumor stuff, honest trailers

Edit 2: Nerdist, vlogbrothers, mental floss


I’m assuming this is in regards to your venture?

Man, this is a tough one EG. Kids love YouTube. They love it so much that they don’t really watch TV anymore unless it’s a show that has a hardcore social media presence like Ryan Murphy’s stuff where the stars themselves are constantly on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/YouTube pushing their audience to tune in to the show.

People talk about a race to the bottom, and YouTube is totally that. Let’s Play’s/Streams are (no offense to those that do it) the absolute easiest video content to produce. You play a game and react to what’s happening. Yes, it takes some talent to engage the audience and keep talking and be funny throughout the video, but in comparison to actually producing a short live-action film or animated show, it’s a lot less creative and cheaper to boot. Kids love it though. And there’s thousands of hours of it posted each day.

That said, there are some popular YouTube channels with scripted, higher production value content. Is the ROI better? I doubt anyone is going to match PewDiePie’s profits, but they seem to do okay at maintaining an audience. The key seems to be consistent upload schedules and pushing hard on other social media. HARD.


There are still decent number of non-let’s plays. Off the top of my head an example is The Katering Show:

I think most creators maintain a Patreon or whatever as the primary source of income for their videos. Like the Every Frame a Painting guy:


Geek and Sundry.


Without even thinking just off the top of my head:
[li]Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop[/li][li]The Flog! (Felicia Day)[/li][li]The Guild (6 seasons of it)[/li][/ul]

It’s not all Let’s Play stuff, it just seems that way sometimes. I think the trick is to produce content that stands out. Sure, Tabletop is a form of a Let’s Play, but it’s vastly more informative and entertaining and nobody was doing it previously.

If I recall El Gaupo, your show is a LEGO version of The Daily Show, humorous news parody format done entirely in LEGO. My uneducated guess is that something like that could be popular, but is going to be niche enough at first to require a lot of exposure to reach critical mass. Is there any way you could partner up with either LEGO themselves or maybe an existing channel like Geek & Sundry (makers of all of the above shows) to get some channel exposure for your first “season”?

EDIT : BAH! That Scott Lufkin guy beat me to it while I was typing! ;-)


Tabletop/ Geek & Sundry in general, though those guys had a lot of momentum going into the current market

Cooking channels do very well and are fairly high-effort. See FoodWishes and Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube, or more unique/concentrated content like Epic Meal Time, VahChef, and Tipsy Bartender

RollPlay (and associated properties) does very well broadcasting fairly high-effort roleplaying sessions that aren’t quite as produced as G&S’s, but it’s basically a cottage industry for JP and his friends

Music is another category ripe for success; Sing-Off winners Pentatonixavoided the fate of every single music competition winner since Kelly Clarkson by putting out constant, high-quality content on Youtube to maintain momentum till their album dropped and touring started; they’re now regularly selling out 5000-seat houses across the world and topping the iTunes charts everytime they release any-damn thing.


Oh yeah, more:

Makeup shows, like Michelle Phan’s awesome channel, are a thing, apparently.

More music in the form of Ronald Jenkees, although that may well qualify as the Let’s Play of music channels.

TotalBiscuit mixes in Let’s Plays with more substantive reviews, thoughtful commentary, and just plain out spoken word discussions of gaming news.

Similarly, Esports TV has VODs (and live broadcasts) of professionally commentated esports; most major esports providers/vendors have a successful Youtube presence.

For a final gaming-related note, and of particular interst to you, ElG, I present Carbot Animations, who started out doing Starcraft-related [very] shorts several years ago and has since branched out to other games and topics and had a ton of success, including being contracted to make a special BlizzCon-specific cartoon for the WCS finals last(?) year.


I watch competitive eating videos, those are fun. LA Beast is pretty fun.

I actually don’t watch too many LP’ers on youtube anymore, as it has gotten tired.

It seems to me like basing your monetary business on youtube’s revenue sharing is crazy, as youtube has way too much power in that situation.


I see the progression of Youtube a bit differently. First it was dominated by *hot girls, Filthywhore would be an example, Emmalina another one. In amongst that you had stuff like Lonelygirl15, which I suppose could also fall into the hot girl category depending on what you think of Jessica Rose.

Then Youtube started sharing revenue with creators. Unfortunately for Youtube’s early popular creators, many of them had moved on and so missed the gravy train. Also, Youtube changed the way they counted viewers and subscribers, so some long time creators started whining about how the changes screwed them over. I say whining, because other creators were having no problems retaining or even growing their audience, so obviously the system was working fine. Just because at one point you had 150.000 viewers per video doesn’t mean EVERY video you upload must have 150.000 views or the system is broken. If you’re only seeing 50.000 viewers now per video, it means your videos have started to suck.

While all this was going on, Youtube’s growing presence attracted more and more content producers. These people were bringing in new ideas and new approaches. This is why things like Let’s Play videos took off.

Now here we are. What works on Youtube is known. You can do that, trying to get a foothold on Youtube. This is the equivalent of a tv network bringing out a new procedural in an attempt to try and grab some of the CSI audience. Or you can try something you feel like doing, even if you know it has limited appeal. Or you can try something new, in the hopes that there’s an audience for it.

It’s just like the progression of television.

*hot girls being a relative term and not involving sex or nudity, so we are talking lots of cleavage and maybe some dancing


You Suck at Cooking


All of the above, Red Letter Media in particular is truly excellent.

I really enjoy Linus Tech Tips too. It’s like oldschool hardOCP or anandtech, but in video form.

ChefSteps is also excellent. Real culinary science, updated regularly.

YouTube [I]isn’t[/I] TV. It isn’t scripted 22 minute shows, or reality shows, or game shows. It isn’t celebrity culture. It’s its own thing.

I don’t know how much money all these guys make, but I guess it’s enough to sustain the enterprise.

#13 seems time intensive to produce. I used to watch them when it was a fat asian guy playing guitar hero, then he started making videos with his mate, now he has some entire team of semi-pro film producers. Seems to make enough?

Then there’s people like


I watch the Crash Course series of videos.

They are very good.

I love the Astronomy one the best. They just did Neutron Stars and Black Holes.


Am I right in thinking that an increasing number of YouTube professionals (i.e. folks who make a living off it, or try to) are moving to Twitch? I was following one guy’s Let’s Plays for awhile, and was fascinated to watch him launch a Twitch channel and then a second YouTube channel where he puts up his past Twitch streams. His original YouTube channel is now much more casual by comparison, and is probably no longer central to his internet presence.


You can live stream your lets play on twitch, then put the video on youtube, and make money off the same content twice. That’s my assumption.

I never understood lets plays myself. I think I’m just too old.


Hell, you can technically stream to both at the same time, if you have the resources for it.


Now you can, yeah. YouTube is trying to attack Twitch directly. Still haven’t heard how they handle streamers playing copy-written music, though.


I also watch Ill Will Press. A short cartoon about an angry cynical squirrel and his insane owner. It’s a bit R rated.

Then there’s Last Week Tonight. Very enjoyable and sometimes makes me think about getting HBO.


Yeah, it appears that’s what this guy is doing. He and (I think) the rest of his company are all doing it, now.

I never understood Let’s Plays either until a few months ago when I stumbled across him while looking for help with a game I was playing. I only stuck with it because I was charmed by his style and his sense of humor. I don’t see myself getting into many (or any) other streamers any time soon. Every time I pull up other streamers, I either get annoyed or I just find them boring. And I really don’t enjoy watching live stuff on Twitch. I much prefer being able to pick and choose from pre-recorded stuff.

But the younger generations? Man, they LOVE the live stuff. I get the impression it’s a cash cow for some streamers.