🧑🏼‍🚀 Blueprint 019

Content half-lives, the Ridge of Relevance, genius zones, video agencies, what you should make, brain chemistry, mystery box

Welcome back to Blueprint, a weekly series where I share an unfiltered, behind-the-scenes look into my journey as a full-time creator & entrepreneur.

It’s been 19 weeks since I went on my own full-time.

Today’s topics:

  • 🧮 | Week 19 recap & metrics

  • 🧩 | What should I make?

  • ⏳ | Content half-lives

  • 🏭 | Is starting a video editing agency the right move?

  • 👀 | The Ridge of Relevance

  • 📦 | Mystery box

A reminder that this internet game is not zero-sum. Everyone reading this can win at an unlimited scale. I’m writing this for the internet astronauts building their own digital worlds. If that’s you…let’s ride ✌🏼👩🏻‍🚀

WEEKLY RECAP

Went back to the old metrics dashboard until the rebrand is finished

The Recap

Metrics across the board were significantly below average this week.

Over the last few weeks, every conventional metric I’ve been tracking has fallen off a cliff. Views, followers, income…all extremely short of where I need them to be.

I’ve gone from an annual projected income $150K+/year to $6K/year. Lol.

Most of these are lagging indicators (and out of my direct control), but there’s obviously a reason why they’ve been trending downwards.

I think I finally have clarity on what that reason is…poor discipline around idea/topic selection.

On the surface, it was a solid output week: 4 shorts, 1 podcast, 1 collab reel.

But not all output is created equal.

My Amazon Black Friday video (here) outperformed the other three when calculating combined reach across IG + TT + YT. The others were covering AI tools (Everart, Pika Labs) and the new Tesla Cybertruck.

And the reason the Amazon video outperformed is that it landed much closer to my content genius zone.

Your content genius zone is the unique combination of topic choice, delivery method, story format, and design approach.

In other words, your signature style.

For me, the content that has consistently performed the best, and what I feel is most signature to me…is taking a business/product, stripping out unique themes/threads, putting the puzzle pieces back together in a new way, and storytelling around why that makes an interesting picture.

It’s what I did with Messi, Taylor Swift, Drake’s Shopify Store, SouthPark AI, and so many of my other videos that have gone mega-viral.

It’s not that I have a defensible moat preventing others from making this type of content, but as far as I can tell, nobody does it better than me in the short-form video arena.

So I should triple down.

The Amazon Black Friday video was a good example of this signature style.

The others were more newscaster/explainer style videos. A number of different creators could have made them.

The trap, and what confuses most people, is that those newscaster/explainer video DID perform decently well on IG (~415K views). But it’s a head fake.

Because here’s the catch…

…since I’m not the best in the world at making those types of videos, they will be worse at driving unique and sticky discovery for me.

They are the junk food that people don’t realize they’re consuming.

Now how to find your genius zone? That’s a topic for another week (if people are interested in that lmk)…but the shitty part is that I knew I had this genius zone and was ignoring it this whole time.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering, “Why were you continually making junk food content if you knew you had this genius zone all along?”

Good question. Two reasons:

  1. I see other people having success with the junk food content and I think, “I can do it better than them, so I should. Easy wins”

  2. It takes much less time to make so I think, “If I can spend less hours generating the same or better output, I should take that shortcut. Easy wins”

Both of these are traps. So tantalizing….but there are no easy wins.

The truth is, if others are having success with a format, maybe they are better suited for it than me? Maybe it’s within their genius zone? Or maybe these are one-off blip exceptions that I am taking as the rule and this was their one video that popped.

Either way, chasing formats outside of your genius zone is most likely a distraction.

So what I need to do, if I want to get my metrics to reverse course, is lean more into “making the stuff that only I can make” and ignore everything else.

CONTENT HALF-LIVES
The power of understanding content half-life

Half-life is a term that represents the time it takes for something to reduce to half of its value. It’s basically a proxy for exponential decay.

I’m not a doctor, but any time I hear someone refer to “half-life” in medicine, I assume it’s a relative measure for how quickly a drug will be out of your system.

In content, I think of half-life as the length of time a piece of content will be shared/discovered before it’s forever buried in the internet abyss.

Here’s a relative sense of content half-lives for various mediums:

  • Most tweets = a few hours

  • Short-form videos = a few days

  • Newsletters = several days

  • Podcasts = a few weeks

  • YouTube videos/blog posts = a few months

The point is, if all you do is make things with short half-lives, you have to be constantly making new things for people to notice you.

Conversely, if you make one amazing YouTube video or write an incredible blog post, it can be referenced or shared for decades after it was created (e.g., Paul Graham blogs, JRE/Naval pod).

As I’ve started down this content path, most of the things I’ve created have had shorter half-lives (short-form video/newsletters).

I was trading longevity for algo tailwinds and explosive reach.

But I think having exclusively short half-life content is a huge mistake.

There are four reasons why:

  1. Trust - The name of the game is to survive long enough to build trust with an audience large enough that can support you financially. The way to build trust is by increasing the amount of “engaged minutes” you have with a consumer of your content. This is why a single two-hour podcast builds more trust than 100 one-minute shorts. The more long half-life stuff you make, the more content minutes they’ll have to consume, and the faster you’ll build trust.

  2. Binge Bank - My friend Dylan has this concept called a Binge Bank. When you get someone to stumble into your world and they’re curious about the way you think, you want to have a collection of content they can binge…an intentionally built rabbit hole. The more long half-life content you have in your binge bank, the easier it will be to convert someone into a trusting fan.

  3. Content Army - Pieces of content are like little agents constantly recruiting people to dive into your stuff. When content stops circulating and gets bogged down in the internet swamp, it’s as if that agent retires and stops working for you. The more long half-life stuff you have, the more agents that will be working, and the wider the surface area for people to take the actions you want them to take

  4. Brain Chemistry - People’s brains are wired to consume long and slow conversations. Neanderthals had conversations around the fire…they didn’t scroll Tiktok. When I started with short-form video, I was intentionally tapping into the new consumer behavior of crack content consumption. It appears to be working, but over long enough time horizons people tend to drift back to what is more comfortable (long and slow consumption)

It’s clear that I need to bolster my long half-life content. These are the ways I’m planning to do it over the next few months:

  • wknds Podcast with Roberto will eventually go 2x/week (100 episodes per year)

  • I’m going to start making medium-form YouTube videos 1x/week (50 videos per year)

  • I’m going to start creating a video version/vlog of Blueprint 1x/week (25-50 videos per year)

  • These written posts are kind of like blog posts in their web archive format (50 posts per year)

AGENCY
Should I start a video agency?

FYI - this is going to be a longer section, but it will deep dive into how I strategically think and reason through problems

From the beginning of this creator journey, this was my plan:

  1. Start making content myself

  2. Create a cash flow source

  3. Use the cash to hire people to automate my content production process and create a content engine (takes 20% of my time)

  4. Use my newly freed up time to build a product/services business

  5. Use cash flow from business to staff up business, use content engine to grow business, free up my time again

  6. Repeat steps 4-5

Step 2 is critical…create a cash flow source.

In a vacuum, there’s a million things you could choose for that cash flow source to be (sell a product, sell a service, content ads, affiliates, digital products, etc.).

But in reality, there’s only so much time in the day. I’ve realized that whatever I choose needs to be as closely aligned to what I’m already doing (creating content) as possible.

Said another way, if I started building a software company while simultaneously making content full-time, there would be almost no overlap and I couldn’t do both effectively.

So the question is, “What cash flow engine can I build that has as much overlap to the content I’m already making as possible?”

There are 3 options:

  • Brand Deals/Ads - Make the same content I’m already making but sell ads against some of it

  • Video Agency - Make the same content I’m already making but offer video editing services (like mine) to others

  • Course - Make a course about how to make the content I’m already making

For the course, this isn’t truly overlapping, because shooting the course would be a separate undertaking. I also don’t believe I could offer enough value in a course right now to make it worth it for paying customers. Lastly, revenue would be lumpy/unpredictable.

So course is out.

Okay, so we’re down to Brand Deals or Agency. This is where I was at when I was thinking through this 6 months ago.

Back then, my plan was to go all-in on Brand Deals/Ads, mostly as a factor of not wanting to do an agency.

In my view, there a ton of video agencies that offer a pretty inferior product today. This is the behind-the-scenes of how they work.

They hire an offshore editor (for $1K/month), upsell a small business on paying $5K/month, hand them the editor and say “Good luck!”

This results in confusion for the client, low to average quality video output, unhappy customers, high churn, and an operational headache.

I wanted no part in trying to figure out that mess (agencies are also super unsexy), so I assumed building an agency was off the table. It’s also worth mentioning that I assumed I’d have to be a daily operator to make it work.

So we’re back to Brand Deals/Ads.

I’ve tried to make that the sole cash flow engine for the last few months and there’s a bunch of things I don’t love about it:

  • The income is extremely inconsistent. If I onboard a team of editors and create a $5K fixed monthly expense for myself, I cannot have my offsetting revenue be lumpy and unpredictable. There’s a way I could make it more consistent, but this would require “selling out” 1x/week and sacrificing trust with my audience.

  • The current structure of brand deals often results in misaligned incentives between the brand and the creator. As the creator, I view myself as an artist. That means I want to tell the best story to my audience that I also think will drive the most value for the brand. As a brand, there are revisions, edits, suggestions, and preset narratives that often diminish the creator’s ability to do that. It’s a drain on creators

  • I have 5-10 brand deal offers coming in every single week, but most would result in me storytelling around something that I don’t believe in or isn’t interesting. I’m playing too long a game to make those short-term trade-offs

Because of these factors, I don’t believe I can rely solely on brand deals as the cash source to fund the content engine. I’ll still do them from time to time when the right partner comes around, but it can’t be the primary source.

So let’s go back and re-evaluate a video agency from first principles.

Why would a video editing agency be extremely valuable for me?

  • The primary reason for the cash source is to fund content automation. If I’m making videos, the predominant automation will be video editors. If a video editing agency does this already, it means I’d be able to turn my biggest cost into a revenue stream.

  • When I eventually launch product businesses, it’d be naive to assume that every single piece of content/promotion will flow through the Kallaway channels. In fact, most won’t. That means I’ll need fresh content being produced that isn’t made by my personal content team. Owning a video agency also solves this problem

So to own a piece of a video agency, it’s a no brainer for me.

Also, the opportunity size is massive. 88% of businesses are increasing their creator spend next year. Video is the most in-demand medium and brands have hundreds of millions they’re looking to spend.

So market opportunity = huge

Once again, obvious…but “How would I approach building a video agency that could solve some of my initial concerns?”

  1. I’ve built a plan that outlines exactly how I’d approach building the best video agency in the space, flipping most of the current approaches on their heads. I’m not going to share that here yet 😉

  2. I would not be the day to day operator of the agency

Here’s my pitch (to a scrappy, entrepreneurial operator who has built agencies before and wants to run at this):

  • There are few people that have thought as deeply about short-form video as I have. I can bring that expertise to the table to define the optimal process for producing higher-end video outputs at scale

  • I’d use myself as client #1, be the guinea pig to help build out all the processes and systems

  • I’d help architect a storytelling framework that would upskill prospective clients, a key in increasing the output quality

  • Using my management consulting background, I could then help close and onboard the first few clients to ensure quality was max high

  • After the first few months, I would not be involved in the day to day operations. I’m looking for someone that is interested in handling all ops, sales, HR, staffing and delivery. In exchange, I can provide leads, strategy, process expertise and market credibility

Still trying to poke holes in this strategy. The biggest trade-off is the potential distraction it would bring.

The guys best executing this playbook are Henry and Dylan from Smart Nonsense/Clipt

If this is something you’re seriously interested in considering, lmk.

THE RIDGE OF RELEVANCE
Prediction: The window to become a “new creator” is closing

Let’s rewind to 2020.

If you told me that by 2030, it would be impossible to launch as a new creator, I would have thought you were crazy.

My argument back to you would have sounded something like this, “You’re crazy! There is always a need for fresh faces and perspectives, larger creators become complacent and newer, hungrier ones come up. There will be new platforms that emerge with new winners and that cycle will never end, etc.”

That was before AI.

Now, my perspective on everything has changed.

It’s almost 2024. I believe there is a small window for the next ~5 years where establishing fandom as a creator and trust around your face/voice will become a massive advantage.

After 2029, let’s call it 2030, it will get 1000x harder.

Why?

The most valuable asset on the internet is an influencer’s face/voice connected to trust from an audience.

One you’ve reached the point where people know you and seek your opinions/endorsements, you’ve crossed over what I call the “Ridge of Relevance.”

As long as you don’t stop, or get cancelled, your likeness and brand will be an income producing entity forever.

But in 5 years, AI will be able to “create influencers” as good or better than the ones that currently exist today.

We’re already seeing cloning services like Metaphysic or examples like this AI supermodel that are pretty damn good.

By 2030, these things will be indistinguishable from human attempts.

I believe copyright/likeness laws will evolve to prohibit these AI services from cloning existing creators face/voice without their permission, but there will be nothing stopping the net new creation of them.

Let’s say today, pre-AI, there are 100,000 new creators that start out every year. And of them, maybe 1,000 are able to find a way to cut through the noise and make a sustainable living after 5 years of trying.

What happens when there are 100,000 new creators that launch every single week, 95% of which are created using AI tools making them more attractive, more compelling, more engaging, and more entertaining than the bottom 99% of human creators?

It will become almost impossible for a new human entrant to reach the Ridge of Relevance.

Now you can argue that this won’t happen or that the government will mandate a badge that say “human” vs “robot” and that people will only consume human-made stuff instead of AI-generated, etc.

But I doubt it.

And the only thing protecting people that have crossed the Ridge of Relevance (hopefully me by then) is that existing fans will have grown so used to seeing their favorite creator that the loyalty and consumption habits will be too strong to break.

We shall see.

VIDEOS FROM THIS WEEK
My best content from this week

Podcasts

  • wknds Ep 004 [The Artist vs The Businessman] (Watch | Listen) - we did a live brainstorm on how to grow the podcast, talked about creator mistakes, niches, stumbled onto a key YouTube golden nugget and much more

  • I was a guest on The Calum Johnson Show (Watch) - this is the best long-form interview I’ve ever done

Shorts:

  1. 👀 | Animated cartoons will never be the same: Watch

  2. 🤯 | AI video leveled up again: Watch

  3. 🏈 | Amazon’s Black Friday football game was a genius move: Watch

  4. 🛻 | Tesla started delivering Cybertrucks: Watch

MYSTERY BOX

I got this idea from my favorite new newsletter Sprezza (men’s fashion). These are mystery links. You’ll never know what you might find in here. Could be cool sites, inspiration, videos, articles, tools or something else 👀

Mystery Links

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