🧑🏼‍🚀 Blueprint 033

The best YouTube playbook I've ever seen, cracking short-form, creator vs corporates, Kallaway's number, the IG depth hack

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

It’s been 33 weeks since I went on my own full-time.

Today’s topics:

  • 📈 | Week 33 recap and metrics

  • ⚖️ | 9 biggest differences between working as a creator vs corporate employee

  • 🎯 | Cracking YouTube…the best guide I’ve ever seen

  • 🎰 | How to win the short-form video game

  • 🧮 | Kallaway’s Number

A reminder that the 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 worlds. If that’s you…let’s ride 👩🏻‍🚀

WEEKLY RECAP
Recap

Happy Monday!

Had an awesome trip to New York last week to see friends, family, and tour neighborhoods in Brooklyn (we’re moving back to NYC from San Diego sometime next spring).

Also met up with Zach Owings to visit VaynerX (Gary Vee’s media HQ) and hung out with Zach Pogrob + Hunter Weiss in their new offices.

During the trip, I experimented with a lower frills, walk-and-talk video style, sharing creator tips as I walked around the city.

It was clear they were an immediate hit.

The only other “content stream” I’ve made that received this much love was this Blueprint newsletter.

And at first, it was a bit surprising to me.

These walkaround videos take me literally 5 minutes to record. It’s a one-take, run and gun, off the dome process.

Contrasted with my 4-5 hour, highly produced news/narrative shorts, I assumed these “lower effort” videos would perform significantly worse.

They didn’t.

And yet again (as much as I hate to admit it), my wife was right. IG stories is how you build authentic depth on Instagram.

After posting 5 of these walk-and-talks, I ran a poll to gauge what type of content my audience was looking for.

Based on the data, it’s clear there’s something here.

A couple quick points for how I’m going to take advantage of this insight:

  1. 🎯 | Different formats for different medium: As Reels, the walk-and-talks performed significantly worse than my other videos. But as IG stories, some of them pulled in 4K+ views (my avg IG story views are ~1,500). This tells me that I should continue making the kind of Reels I was making, but I must complement with daily versions of the walk-and-talk stories. The lesson: Different formats work better for different mediums (stories vs reels vs threads vs post). The best way to build depth is through raw, unfiltered, high value videos (ideally in Stories). The best way to get shares is through snackable stories breaking down interesting topics/news (ideally in Reels). It’s optimal to have a mix of both (Reels get followers, Stories keep them)

  2. 🔨 | Build value to share value: If I being honest, I don’t think the raw, “walk-and-talk” style would have worked if that’s all I started with. Because when I started, my perspective was low value (not based in experience). But I’ve now realized that once you spend deep time playing in a field, and have valuable insight, the best thing to do is strip away all the fanfare and just share that value as directly as possible. If you’re started making content and don’t feel like you have valuable things to say, you haven’t played long enough in your chosen field. Keep launching projects in your chosen field and then come back and make content sharing what you’ve learned

The last thing I’ll say on this topic is that this was a perfect example of shifting up the efficiency spectrum with respect to content minutes (a concept I wrote about last week).

Raw IG stories are 80-100x faster for me to make and generate significant depth for the people that watch them.

That’s a much higher efficiency way to “earn that minute” from future fans.

CREATOR VS CORPORATE
9 things I wish I knew when I quit my job to become a creator

One unique thing about me is that I spent ~8 years in corporate America (as a management consultant/product manager) before becoming a creator.

As I contemplated quitting my job and going full-time, I had a list of expectations about how things might go.

There were several aspects of being a full-time creator I was completely wrong about.

For those currently in the corporate world and considering making the jump, this is a list I wish I read before quitting.

Btw, most of these things are framed in the negative (from the creator POV). I find there are lots of obvious things that make being a creator great, but few talk about the drawbacks/challenges.

  1. ⚖️ | The comparison trap - Corporate jobs are easier to win when you’re competing against a small pool. With some talent and high effort, you can easily outperform everyone. Creators are competing with a massive pool of the best in the world. There is always someone bigger and better than you. It becomes easy to feel bad about yourself when you always look up and see someone swimming faster

  2. 🧑‍🎨 | The Artist’s Gap - The Artist’s Gap is a framework I use to describe the distance between your current skills and where you want your output to be. In a corporate job, being a beginner with no skills is actually baked into the model. It’s accepted and encouraged. As a creator, being a beginner with no skills prevents you from getting where you want to go. The bigger the gap, the worse it feels

  3. 👁️ | Identity lags ability - In the corporate world, you’re given your identity on day 1. When you’re in consulting, after your first day, you know what you are…a consultant. Most people find comfort in a set identity. They know their skills will come, so for corporate employees, ability lags identity. For creators, it’s the opposite. True identity comes from skills/ability. When you have none, as most beginners often don’t, you feel lost and confused. As a creator, identity lags ability

  4. 🥲 | It’s lonely working alone - In the corporate world, you have a team and interact with lots of people on a daily basis. And while this is probably a net-negative on productivity, it’s a lot of fun. As a creator, you’re often on your own. It’s a very lonely journey that most people can’t relate to

  5. 🫨 | Feedback works differently - Corporate jobs have structured feedback windows and formats (biweekly calls, semiannual reviews, annual promotions, fixed leveling cycles, etc.). Creators get almost zero feedback in the beginning when posting to small audiences…very hard to know if you’re “doing well”

  6. 🔦 | There is no off-switch - Corporate jobs have set on/off hours. This makes it easy to plan to life around work. Creator jobs are always on, and when off, you could be on because someone else probably is

  7. 🏋️‍♂️ | Everything falls on you - Corporate jobs have lots of other people to go to when you don’t know how to do things (IT for tech support, HR for tax, etc.). Beginner creators wear all hats, both on the art and business sides

  8. | Time management games - In a corporate job, your schedule is often determined for you, driven by set meetings and asks with relatively predictable time requirements to complete (e.g., I have these three things to do and I think they’ll take me 8 hours). Creators could be doing anything, want to do everything, but only have enough time to do a small set of things each day. Most of these things they have never done before, so the time requirement is unknown

  9. 🎰 | Political games vs skill games - In the corporate world, you’re mostly optimizing for political games. If you position yourself with the right people above you in the right ways, you’ll get rewarded. In the creator world, the market decides who wins based on who makes the best stuff. This is directly mapped to skills. The only way through this is by actually getting good at things.

CRACKING YOUTUBE
The best YouTube playbook I’ve ever watched

If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know I’ve spent a lot of time studying YouTube and thinking about my strategy.

This weekend, I watched an interview with two of my favorite YouTubers (Jon Youshaei and Cleo Abram).

Jon has an amazing series he dubs “How I Built This for Creators” where he interviews top creators and goes deep on their methods and processes.

In this video, he interviews Cleo, a former video journalist at Vox turned YouTuber. Her channel is a masterclass on execution and how to tell visually compelling stories.

During the interview, she walked through her process for making a great video.

It breaks down into these 4 parts:

  1. Pitch

  2. Info Doc

  3. Outline

  4. Script

For every video, Cleo and her team create a one page pitch sheet, then a longer info doc, full outline, and finally a script. This is the “pre-production.”

A huge unlock she shares is that for every video, Cleo requires there to be a “key visual” that helps explain the concept visually.

If the team is struggling to come up with what the key visual should look like, it probably won’t make for a good video.

I had two takeaways from this interview:

  1. If you want to make high quality visual explainer videos (across any category), this is the formula. I would watch the interview in depth and replicate the exact playbook

  2. Every video is a massively time intensive task. The process often starts months before the video is created, and requires dozens of hours of scripting, internet research, video location/tagging, etc. Her team is a full-time editor, animator and producer, so the cost per video is likely $5-$10K.

I love finding interviews like this because it fully outlines the blueprint for one way to play the game. If you want to play this game, here is the answer key.

Personally, I don’t get excited about spending 40 hours prepping to make a video. To me, this sounds more like work than play and isn’t a game I want to dedicate my life to.

But without watching this video and deeply understanding what goes into the process, there’s no way I could have known what great looks like in this format.

CRACKING SHORT-FORM VIDEO
Cracking short-form video

One of the reasons I love writing Blueprint is because it gives me a platform to sharing my learnings with others.

I’m generally pretty good at knowing what others should do, but often find it hard to take my own advice.

Here’s what I mean…

I think I’ve figured out a strategic formula for “how to crack” short-form video (in terms of high views and high follower growth).

But I haven’t figured out how to actually implement it for myself, in a way that I’m proud of, and would want to stand behind for the next 30 years.

Even though I’m in the process of figuring out how to action on this for myself, I figured it’d be worth walking through my logic.

Note that this strategy is based on my latest understanding of the social algorithms. This is not the way to build max depth and trust. This is the way to generate max views and followers.

Here we go…

Short-form algorithms are design to reward the following metrics:

  • Watch time / Completion rate (what is the average percentage of the video that was watched / what percentage of viewers watched the full video)

  • Share rate (what percent of viewers shared this with others)

Both of these metrics are designed to maximize total time in app. Completion rate gauges time in app for the primary viewer. Share rate is a proxy for new time in app, created by the secondary viewer.

When the watch time / completion rate of the video is high, the algorithms will show it to more people. In other words, it becomes a signal that “Hey! People watched this whole video, they liked it. Let’s show others like them”

To game this, just make shorter videos.

If you make a 6 second video, the majority of people will watch it for 4+ seconds. That means at least a 66%+ average completion rate.

Compare this to a 30 second people where the average watch time is 4 seconds (13%).

The short videos, with the higher completion rate, are shown to more people. This increases the view count. The higher the view count, the higher the new followers (everything else held constant).

I’ve seen many channels that post 6-10 second videos with outrageous view and follower counts…and low-medium engagement.

The question is…of course…do these views/followers actually mean anything?

Unless you’re just in it to see the numbers go up, almost every creator I know is growing an audience so they can eventually monetize it in some way.

In theory, the more followers you have, the more money you’ll be able to generate.

This is only true if the followers actually want to be there and are willing to buy what you are selling.

The strategy above, making intentionally shorter videos to game avg. watch time to juice the algo to get more views/followers, only means anything if the increased followers actually want to buy your stuff.

And this varies dramatically from channel to channel.

When the stuff you’re selling is a prime fit for the content you’re making, the conversion should be there.

If the stuff you’re selling isn’t a great fit, the huge follower numbers are really just a mirage.

For me, I have no idea how I’d be able to make 6 second videos with any value, unless I took the core ideas from this newsletter, or my little one line sayings, and animated them in some way.

To this point, I’ve personally taken the opposite approach. My videos are as long as they can be (90 seconds), and I typically see average watch times of 30-45 seconds if not higher on my most viral videos.

In my head, this is better for building depth, but comes at a tradeoff for growing followers quickly and takes much more time to make.

To be clear, I want to win, and will deploy against whatever strategy will help me build the deepest depth/trust.

I’m unsure which path is “better” at this current moment.

KALLAWAY’S NUMBER
Kallaway’s Number

A few weeks ago, I wrote a section making up “Kallaway’s Constant”, a formula for assessing a creator’s expected value at a point in time.

Here’s another thought exercise in that same realm.

If you’ve studied human evolution, you’ve probably heard of Dunbar’s Number.

It’s a concept that predicts the number of social relationships humans can reasonably maintain given our brain capacity, time, etc.

The estimated number is 150. Each human on Earth has the capacity for ~150 casual friends.

The advent of the internet put pressure on this number, as people became instantly connected to thousands.

This dissonance is likely one of the causes of weaker relationships in today’s society.

People have more “internet acquaintances” but less real friends.

Another number causing massive internal stress in the brain is around volume of information consumption.

This is what I’m calling Kallaway’s Number.

In a pre-social media era, with 150 members in the community, people may have only had 5-15 conversations per day, and consumed somewhere between 100-300 pieces of information or stories (across newspapers, emails, books, TV shows, etc.).

Today people consume over 1,000 pieces of content per day.

A study performed by the UCSD estimated that each human consumes (reads + hears) 34 GB of data per day, equivalent to 100,000 words or approx. the length of The Hobbit.

Every single day.

It’s information overload by a factor of 10-20 compared to 1986, and hundreds of times more than our early ancestors.

My take is that the target number, in terms of the ideal amount of information one can consume without having mental stress, anxiety, dopamine depletion, or mental burnout, is somewhere around 10-20% of what it is currently being consumed.

If I had a fixed number for this, I’d be an anthropologist. I’d also probably have massive student loans lol

But that’s besides the point. The point is, we’re on a death march to a dopamine desert.

Here’s the link to the full study on how much info humans consume.

CONTENT FROM THIS WEEK

My best content from this week:

  1. 💊 |This company makes space drugs: Watch

  2. 🤷🏻‍♂️ | Nobody knows what they’re doing: Watch

  3. 🤔 | What does “be authentic” actually mean?: Watch

  4. 🦖 | wknds podcast (016) - Latest social trends, creators making $5K/day on Tiktok, Roberto's current social strategy, the evolution of brand deals, brand building, the great online game, dad life, the MKBHD x ridge partnership: Watch / Listen

  5. 🧑🏼‍🚀 | Blueprint 032 - Content minutes, time allocators, dots on the map, boredom, Steve Jobs: Read

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