The Hidden Opportunity in Tutorial Channels (Thomas Frank Interview)

Creator Science Video Podcast
29 Feb 202431:39

Summary

TLDRThomas Frank discusses his decision to abandon his successful 2 million subscriber YouTube channel to create a new channel focused solely on teaching productivity software Notion. He explains how this singular focus helped the new channel quickly gain traction. Topics covered include optimizing videos for browsing versus search traffic, relying too heavily on outside platforms, prioritizing teaching over production value for tutorials, embracing impermanence when new software updates invalidate old tutorial videos, using analytics to find content gaps, and determining if first-mover advantage matters when choosing a niche software to cover.

Takeaways

  • 😊 Thomas abandoned his 2M sub channel to focus solely on Notion
  • 👌 Creating a niche destination channel leads to clearer perception
  • 📈 Long-tail tutorial videos bring in views over time
  • 🔀 Generalized productivity videos need more convincing upfront
  • 🚀 Relying on platforms has risks but provides fuel for growth
  • 🌊 Accept constant change when covering changing tech platforms
  • 🎥 Production quality depends on video purpose and viewer intent
  • 💡 Make what you’re interested in first rather than strategy
  • 📚 Think in content pillars when building a tutorial channel
  • 🚪 Bring in wider audiences with broadly useful niche content

Q & A

  • Why did Thomas originally create the Thomas Frank Explains channel?

    -He wanted to create a destination that people would immediately associate with learning how to use the productivity software Notion. By separating the Notion tutorials from his main channel, he hoped to establish a clearer brand identity.

  • What misconception did Thomas have about the Thomas Frank Explains channel initially?

    -He assumed the channel would get most of its traffic from search, but it turns out browse features and suggested videos drive more traffic than search.

  • How does Thomas view reliance on software platforms like Notion for his business?

    -He sees it as a necessary evil and rocket fuel for the business. There are risks, but the rapid growth enabled by platforms like Notion outweigh those risks in his view.

  • How does Thomas decide what topics to cover in his videos?

    -He focuses mainly on what he finds interesting personally. He also looks at search analytics to identify knowledge gaps he could fill. Balancing personal interest with meeting audience needs is his main consideration.

  • How does video production differ between the channels?

    -The Thomas Frank Explains videos focus on clarity over high production value. The main channel videos are more cinematic with unique branding per video suited to the topic.

  • How does Thomas deal with changes to Notion's interface over time?

    -He takes a philosophical view of impermanence. Tech and interfaces change constantly, so he has accepted the need to update old videos as part of producing tech tutorials.

  • What are the content pillars that structure the Thomas Frank Explains channel?

    -Fundamentals, build tutorials, feature releases, common mistakes/tips, and wider interest topics that introduce people to Notion.

  • What made Thomas' AI voice notes video successful?

    -Originally focused just on Notion, feedback made him recognize it would appeal to anyone wanting automated voice transcripts. Removing Notion from the branding widened the video's appeal.

  • Does Thomas think you need to be first to cover a software tool on YouTube?

    -No, he thinks that as long as a tool has a growing audience you can find an subset of that audience interested in your particular style and topics.

  • What's the main advice Thomas would give someone starting a tutorials channel?

    -Don't worry about strategy early on, just create content about what interests you and be consistent in publishing videos.

Outlines

00:00

😁 Why Thomas Frank stopped creating on his 2M subscriber channel

Thomas Frank gave up his successful 2 million subscriber YouTube channel to create the TF Explains channel focused solely on teaching Notion. He wanted to build a destination known as the place to learn Notion and have a focused perception. The main channel was for more general productivity content.

05:01

🤔 Tutorial strategy: browse vs search views

Thomas explains the different strategy for tutorials on TF Explains vs generalized productivity videos on his main channel. TF Explains prioritizes long-tail evergreen tutorials not reliant on initial views, while the main channel videos focused more on early sponsor-driven views and conversions.

10:02

💰 Notion's symbiotic relationship with TF Explains

Thomas discusses the symbiotic relationship between Notion's growth and passionate user base constantly creating/sharing content, and channels like TF Explains focused on Notion tutorials and templates. However, other niche tools like Coda can also enable financial success.

15:04

🚀 Balancing platform risk and reward

Platform risk is a tradeoff for the rapid growth enabled by building on top of an existing platform. Entrepreneurs must continually evaluate threats and opportunities to decide on diversification vs full commitment. The goal is to maximize risk for outsized rewards.

20:05

🎥 Prioritizing clarity over fidelity for tutorials

TF Explains prioritized clear, good-looking tutorials over high production value because the goal was knowledge transfer. Easy thumbnail templates, consistent assets and formatting created an effective video "textbook" to learn Notion.

25:07

💡 Advice for starting a tutorials channel

The key advice for starting a tutorials channel is to not worry about strategy, just create content you're interested in and consistently add to your video library around specific tools or topics. Content pillars and replay value build authority.

30:08

😎 Using AI and broader topics to attract viewers

A video on taking AI-powered voice notes attracted views beyond just Notion users by focusing on the broader appeal of hands-free notes. This demonstrates using interest in popular topics to bring in viewers and introduce them to new tools.

Mindmap

Keywords

💡YouTube strategy

The overall approach and plan for creating YouTube content and growing an audience on the platform. The video discusses how Thomas adjusted his YouTube strategy over time, originally focusing just on Notion tutorials then expanding into broader productivity topics to support his new startup.

💡notion

A popular productivity and note-taking app that Thomas has built his recent YouTube presence around by teaching others how to use it. Notion's passionate user base creates strong symbiotic value for tutorial creators like Thomas.

💡startup

Thomas recently launched a startup called Flylighter building web clipping and knowledge management tools. His YouTube strategy now balances Notion tutorials with supporting his new startup's growth.

💡platform risk

The potential business risk tied to relying on another technology platform like YouTube or Notion. Thomas notes this dependence is often necessary for rapid growth, requiring constant evaluation.

💡production value

The technical quality and aesthetic appeal of a video, including factors like resolution, editing, visuals etc. Thomas invests heavily in this for his mainstream videos but less so for focused Notion tutorials.

💡tutorial channel

A YouTube channel focusing on step-by-step educational videos around using a specific tool or skill. The video covers best practices and tradeoffs for this format.

💡Evergreen content

YouTube videos and other content optimized to retain relevance and value over long periods of time. For tech tutorials, Thomas notes accepting impermanence and updating often is key.

💡search vs. browse

Two main discovery modes for YouTube content - search where users directly seek specific info, and browse where the algorithm recommends content. Thomas originally underestimated browse traffic for his niche Notion content.

💡notion API

Notion's developer API allows building custom integrations with the tool. Thomas created niche tutorials on this, catering to his passion despite lower viewership.

💡content pillars

Distinct categories of content that together support a YouTube channel's goals. Thomas structures his Notion channel across fundamentals, tutorials, feature updates and more.

Highlights

I wanted to create a destination that people immediately thought of as the go-to place to learn notion

I wanted to have this experience where people find a video they click over to the channel and they realize like I want to learn notion and this is the place for it

We have more traffic from browse features and suggested than we do from search

On the main channel I don't really feel like there's a specific library I'm building it almost feels like I'm constructing a textbook on Thomas Frank explains

Notion is in this very enviable position where it has a very passionate user base that is constantly talking about it constantly creating free content about it

Your job as an entrepreneur is to constantly survey the landscape to constantly sort of do that SWOT analysis on your business

Don't worry about the strategy just make what you're interested in and put it up on YouTube

I wanted to make software tutorials so good-looking that people are like why would he put this much effort into it this is stupid

On Thomas Frank explains I know who I'm serving I'm serving people who want to learn notion so there are things that just need to be in the online video textbook

I bring that story up because that is the mindset that I have tried to adopt when it comes to making content about tech there is no such thing as permanence

Despite my online veneer of business business strategy mogul or whatever people want to call me my primary driver for what I make is what I'm interested in

Don't worry too much about the individual results because again you're if you're creating an entire channel that is a tutorial channel you're creating a library of content

I wanted to have the best looking software tutorials ever made I want to make software tutorials so good-looking that people are like why would he put this much effort into it this is stupid

If you're creating an entire channel that is a tutorial channel for either a specific tool or a specific purpose you're creating a library of content and you can always remake videos

If there is a growing audience for something and you're passionate about it and you're building skill in that area that's a good spot to be in regardless of whether or not they're other players

Transcripts

play00:00

two years ago Thomas Frank made the

play00:01

seemingly crazy decision to abandon his

play00:04

2 million subscriber YouTube channel

play00:05

that he spent a decade of his life

play00:07

building to make software tutorials I

play00:10

wanted to create a destination that

play00:12

people immediately thought of as the

play00:14

go-to place to learn notion I want to

play00:16

make software tutorials so good-looking

play00:18

that people are like why would he put

play00:19

this much effort into it this is stupid

play00:21

his decision paid off big time the

play00:23

Thomas Frank explains channel has grown

play00:25

to 220,000 subscribers done over 10

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million views and doubled his Vue just

play00:30

by teaching people how to use the

play00:32

productivity and notetaking software

play00:34

notion in this episode you'll learn how

play00:37

to design the perfect viewer experience

play00:39

I wanted to have this experience where

play00:41

people find a video they click over to

play00:43

the channel and they realize like I want

play00:45

to learn notion and this is the place

play00:46

for it how to think about browse views

play00:48

versus search views I naively thought

play00:50

that TF explains was going to be a

play00:52

search only channel that turned out to

play00:54

be wrong actually we have more traffic

play00:56

from browse features and suggested than

play00:57

we do from search the pros and cons of

play00:59

Rel rying on outside platforms for

play01:01

Success you're never going to get to

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space by riding a bicycle you Bill

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yourself and what every person starting

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a tutorial Channel needs to do don't

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worry about the strategy just make what

play01:12

you're interested in and put it up on

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YouTube it's Been probably a year more

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than a year since we first recorded on

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the Channel I want to hear how you're

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thinking about your YouTube strategy

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generally right now I'm going to leave

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it that open and ambiguous I have to

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give some context because my YouTube

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strategy is being informed by a bigger

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strategy and that is that we are

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launching a new startup we are calling

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it Fly lighter and it is starting out as

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the best Web Clipper for notion but

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eventually will be just the best idea

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capture and knowledge capture tool that

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you've ever seen that also lets you take

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things uh from the web or from your head

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and get them into whatever app you're

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using instead of it being an app where

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you browse that data so that makes my

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strategy change quite a bit because for

play01:58

the past year couple of years years I've

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been almost entirely focused on teach

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notion sell notion templates be like the

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king of that n well now we're kind of

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taking the next logical step in building

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a tool that serves those users but then

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we also have to build brand affinity and

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awareness for the tool itself so rather

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than just relying on notion content to

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do that I'm launching my main Channel

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again and I don't just want to make

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productivity content again but I realize

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that there is a very strong strategic

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reason to create productivity content

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there's still stuff I want to teach

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around that so we're going to be doing

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some more productivity videos uh that

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may not just feature an oce as the app I

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talk about and then uh I think I also

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want to you know give myself permission

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to talk about some of the things that I

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am interested in and have developed

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skills in over the past couple of years

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on the channel like building my no code

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skills even my coding skills uh talking

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a bit about Business and

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Entrepreneurship and I think people like

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Ali abdall have sort of demonstrated

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that once you've built up that Affinity

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around your own personal brand the

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audience is interested in the things

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that you are doing as well it was kind

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of like a refreshingly simple goal to

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have in the past of just like I want to

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become the recognized personality and

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expert for this growing tool that isn't

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mine now things are more difficult

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because we're trying to balance that

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with Al also building up our own startup

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and and building brand Affinity around

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that I was jealous of the Simplicity of

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that goal I was like man what's what's

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my thing I just want to do the one thing

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I thought I thought it was great I feel

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like there's grasses greener syndrome

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with that no matter who you are no

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matter where you are because I feel

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jealousy around that with our mutual

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friend Justin Welsh who basically has

play03:38

his singular thing uh being Sol

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preneurship I'm over here with like well

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I've got my singular thing it's notion

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but boy that thing over there is like

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singular but also applies to a lot of

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different things whereas like mine is a

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specific tool and I have to convince

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people they want to like learn about

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formulas in that tool so there's you

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know strengths and weaknesses no matter

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what Niche you're in no matter what sort

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of balance you have with uh regard to

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Broad versus narrow Focus uh so it's

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funny to hear you say like you have

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experienced that kind of the same

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jealousy because I feel it with Justin

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help us understand why you split in the

play04:12

first place why create Thomas Frank

play04:15

explains versus produce the notion

play04:17

content on the main Channel The Main

play04:20

Idea here is I wanted to create a

play04:23

destination that people immediately

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thought of as the go-to place to learn

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notion for me it wasn't necessarily

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about how is the algorithm going to see

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this content because we've probably

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talked about this in the show before the

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algorithm doesn't

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necessarily uh penalize your entire your

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entire channel for having variety

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content it'll just sort of push out the

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content that people want to see to those

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people and then the rest of it might

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just not get pushed out but it was more

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a perception play more than anything

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else I wanted to have this experience

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where people find a video they click

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over to the channel and they realize

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like I want to learn ocean and this is

play04:58

the place for it and if it's on the main

play05:00

Channel mixed in with a bunch of General

play05:02

productivity content it's not going to

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sell that perception quite as fast it's

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not going to set that first impression

play05:08

the other thing was on the flip side the

play05:11

main channel was supposed to be

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productivity tips life advice personal

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finance like all that more General stuff

play05:17

so if I have a video that's like here's

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how to change your URL Handler for an

play05:20

ocean link and then put it into a

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shortcut like nobody cares about that

play05:25

it's super Niche so uh again it's just

play05:28

like it's all semantics it's all on me

play05:29

at the end of the day but I thought it

play05:31

was going to be the best strategic

play05:33

decision for building the perception

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when you create CH uh videos on the main

play05:38

Channel versus Thomas Frank explains are

play05:41

you thinking about the way views will

play05:44

happen differently because I would think

play05:47

that on Thomas Frank explains we're

play05:49

doing a lot of tutorials is the strategy

play05:52

for a tutorial video the same as the

play05:54

strategy for a more generalized

play05:57

productivity video on the main Channel I

play05:58

don't think so

play06:00

and I have to speak from my experience

play06:02

here more than my plans for the future

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because the main Channel's goals are

play06:06

going to be different going forward but

play06:08

for the past six seven years uh I've had

play06:12

sponsorships on the main channel so

play06:15

there was very much a we want to see

play06:17

good conversions within the first 30

play06:19

days Thomas sort of like pressure

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hanging over my head so there was very

play06:23

much like we want to see uh good

play06:25

performance views wise in the early days

play06:28

of the video on TI explains originally I

play06:31

did not care about the views at all in

play06:33

fact uh I naively thought that TF

play06:35

explains was going to be a search only

play06:37

Channel and it would never get any sort

play06:38

of organic promotion in the homepage or

play06:40

the browse features uh that turned out

play06:42

to be wrong actually we have more

play06:44

traffic from browse features and

play06:45

suggested them we do from search but

play06:48

those videos are very very longtail I've

play06:50

seen multiple times videos that start

play06:52

out as like a 10 out of 10 eventually

play06:54

become one of the higher performing

play06:56

videos on the channel I think our notion

play06:58

databases tutorial was like that it was

play07:00

a 10 out of 10 for the first week or two

play07:02

and now it's like maybe sixth or seventh

play07:05

from the top it has nearly 300,000 views

play07:07

which is great for the notion Niche so

play07:10

yeah it's more just like I'm going to

play07:11

put out an evergreen piece of content or

play07:13

as Evergreen as it can be with a a tech

play07:15

app that changes a lot and I'm just

play07:17

going to let it do its thing it's just

play07:19

another it's like another piece of the

play07:22

library that forms the channel whereas

play07:24

on the main Channel I don't really feel

play07:26

like there's like a like a specific

play07:27

Library I'm building it almost feels

play07:29

like I'm constructing a textbook on

play07:30

Thomas Frank explains and on the

play07:32

longtail videos on Thomas Frank explains

play07:35

does that longtail come from search or

play07:37

is that just YouTube getting better at

play07:38

recommending to specific viewers who it

play07:40

thinks the time is right for them to

play07:43

learn this thing uh actually don't think

play07:45

I've checked about the longtail

play07:47

specifically uh split what I do know

play07:50

about the algorithm is it will

play07:51

continually try new audience out new

play07:54

audience segments out over time even as

play07:56

the video becomes older and older and

play07:58

that's why you will often and see random

play08:00

spikes in your videos sometimes months

play08:03

and months after the fact a lot of

play08:04

creators are like where the heck did

play08:05

that come from sometimes it was just

play08:07

like the algorithm finally found the

play08:08

right pocket for this video because

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you've had some very very specific

play08:12

videos you know I think about your your

play08:15

fairly recent video about how I use AI

play08:17

to take perfect notes without typing uh

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over 600,000 views on a long tutorial

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that seems like a very specific thing

play08:24

that somebody would want to do and it's

play08:27

just really awesome that this level of

play08:31

like I know that started for you as just

play08:33

this curiosity can I do this for me that

play08:35

you spent like what days on maybe weeks

play08:38

on getting to work oh not not days or

play08:41

weeks

play08:43

months that video I mean and I just

play08:45

published a new one uh that's

play08:47

unfortunately not doing as well in fact

play08:49

maybe we could talk about why I shot

play08:51

myself in the foot with the newest video

play08:53

but I spent like an additional three

play08:54

months working like nights and weekends

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often full day sometimes uh making a

play08:59

much better version of that workflow

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that's like very plug andplay it takes

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the setup time from like half an hour

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down to five minutes for the user it's

play09:06

much easier so I'm thinking like oh it's

play09:08

GNA be another viral hit no it's it's

play09:10

not doing nearly as well uh and I think

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part of the reason is maybe it's the the

play09:15

AI hype is down died a little bit but uh

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I think I really shot myself in the foot

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by being like hey there's a full guide

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that I wrote for all three versions of

play09:23

this workflow Google Drive one drive

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Dropbox and uh I've noticed the the

play09:29

watch time on that video is really low

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so I think it's people going oh the

play09:34

written guide is even easier than the

play09:35

video let me just click on that and

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leave the video interesting so like

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there's almost like this hm maybe I

play09:39

should have waited until the end to tell

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people there was a written guide and

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just had them sit through the tutorial

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yeah do you see do you see that in the

play09:46

retention curve uh yeah definitely it's

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like the most clear-cut case between

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between like serving the audience is a

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bad thing for retention in this video's

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case and I almost wonder if it like if

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it lit Lally worked out better to be a

play10:00

kind of pain in the butt tutorial the

play10:02

first time after a quick break we talk

play10:04

about how big of a role the software

play10:06

itself plays in your Channel's success

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so stick around we'll be right

play10:11

back this video is sponsored by notion

play10:14

the most essential tool in my business I

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know that's a bold statement but it's

play10:18

absolutely true all of my notes projects

play10:20

tasks experiments and research for this

play10:23

channel is done right inside notion if

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you're not using notion yet I encourage

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you to give it a try their person plan

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is free and it's one of the best free

play10:31

products on the market recently they

play10:33

rolled out notion calendar which is a

play10:35

productivity nerds dream come true it

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brings your docs notes and project dates

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into your calendar you can search and

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connect notion docs directly to events

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so everything lives in the same place

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and you have all the contexts that you

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need if you're a Google Calendar user

play10:51

like me and you get nervous about making

play10:52

a big switch it actually integrates with

play10:55

Google Calendar so you can try it out

play10:57

risk-free before making a full

play10:58

commitment now I'm actually on a paid

play11:00

notion plan because I want access to all

play11:03

the newest AI functionality their newest

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feature is called Q&A and it's an

play11:07

absolute GameChanger think of notion as

play11:09

your second brain and notion Q&A as an

play11:11

ond demand assistant familiar with

play11:13

everything in that second brain instead

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of trying to remember where some piece

play11:17

of information is stored you just ask

play11:19

notion Q&A and it sweeps through all of

play11:22

your documents and returns a specific

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answer in the related Pages where that

play11:26

information was found using notion Q&A

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is like having a conversation with your

play11:31

data it saves you so much time and

play11:33

reduces the stress of making sure you

play11:36

organize everything perfectly and if you

play11:38

collaborate with a team this makes it

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much easier for them to find information

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even if they don't know how everything

play11:43

is organized Q&A is included in all

play11:46

existing notion AI subscriptions you can

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get started with notion AI for only $10

play11:50

a month and if you're already a notion

play11:53

AI user you can get started today with

play11:55

Q&A already in your notion workspace to

play11:57

find out more or give oce a try for free

play12:00

just visit the link in the description

play12:02

I'm thinking about the role of the

play12:05

platform you choose how how big of a

play12:08

role do you think notion being the tool

play12:10

that you chose played in this Channel's

play12:13

success a big rule I think I would

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describe this as a symbiotic

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relationship part of why notion is so

play12:20

successful and continues to grow uh to

play12:22

grow is kind of like that Ikea effect it

play12:25

gives people this basically Set of Legos

play12:28

to play with and that makes people

play12:30

really proud of what they build and they

play12:32

want to go share it so notion is in this

play12:35

very enviable position where it has a

play12:39

very passionate user base that is

play12:40

constantly talking about it constantly

play12:42

creating free content about it uh and

play12:45

then they've they've developed this even

play12:46

more enviable position where creators

play12:48

have realized uh as in my case you can

play12:50

literally sell what you've created so

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that now further incentivizes people

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like me and other notion creators to

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constantly talk about notion not just

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our product prodcts but also their

play13:00

product in general because that helps to

play13:01

build up our audiences I think if I had

play13:03

picked a tool that was sort of on the

play13:05

decline in terms of user base maybe this

play13:06

is unfair but I'll just pick ASA out of

play13:08

the air um I don't know if Asa has quite

play13:11

that cultural interest right now I don't

play13:13

know if it's growing in quite the same

play13:15

way uh especially from a large

play13:18

user-based perspective so I'm not sure

play13:21

that I would have been able to grow to

play13:22

the same same levels however uh as I'm

play13:25

thinking about this I do want to bring

play13:26

up a Counterpoint and that is another

play13:28

Channel called the Koda guy now I think

play13:30

Koda is not in the same boat as AAA it's

play13:33

a newer app it does have a growing user

play13:35

base it is much more Niche does not have

play13:37

quite the same following as notion so

play13:39

when you go look at the Koda gu's

play13:40

channel it's not quite as big he doesn't

play13:42

usually break 10K views on a video but

play13:44

he's on track to make like half a

play13:46

million dollars this year in Revenue wow

play13:48

and I think a lot of what he's doing is

play13:49

like Consulting helping companies build

play13:51

up their internal Koda docs so instead

play13:53

of selling like a $50 template it might

play13:55

be like a $5,000 Consulting session or

play13:58

something like that I'm not quite sure

play13:59

but yeah he has found similar financial

play14:02

success in covering a tool that doesn't

play14:05

have sort of like the same media

play14:06

attention as notion in like Venture

play14:08

Capital investing there's this this idea

play14:10

of platform risk like is the thing that

play14:13

you're building on top of another thing

play14:15

so there are potential existential rings

play14:17

to your risk to your thing based on that

play14:20

thing do you think about platform risk

play14:22

or should somebody watching this who's

play14:23

thinking about making their own

play14:25

tutorials Channel How should they think

play14:26

about platform risk I do think about it

play14:29

a lot actually just yesterday notion had

play14:31

downtime and I was just like well yeah

play14:33

this is annoying cuz our products don't

play14:35

work and people are buying our products

play14:36

and can't use them and we have to email

play14:38

them be like hey try again later it's

play14:40

you know not really us to a degree I

play14:42

think there's a lot of platform risk

play14:44

even if you're not covering one tool

play14:46

like I have platform risk on YouTube I

play14:48

think if that went away I don't know how

play14:50

much I'd be able to leverage Twitter to

play14:52

get the same results I kind of think

play14:53

about this like a rocket ship so like if

play14:56

you want to get to space you need a a

play14:58

lot of fuel a lot of thrust a lot of

play15:00

power and that means you have to rely on

play15:03

the work of a lot of other people and

play15:05

then you get up there and eventually

play15:06

have to jettison Parts the rocket you're

play15:08

never going to get to space by riding a

play15:10

bicycle that you built yourself I love

play15:12

that so yeah I guess like the philosophy

play15:15

here is like platform risk is a

play15:18

necessary evil but it also often

play15:21

functions as like rocket fuel for a

play15:24

business and so your job as an

play15:26

entrepreneur is to constantly survey the

play15:29

landscape to constantly sort of do that

play15:32

like SWAT analysis on your business

play15:34

strengths weaknesses opportunities and

play15:36

uh threats and and and decide you know

play15:39

kind of on a momentto moment basis like

play15:41

how much platform risk is acceptable

play15:43

right now should I be diversifying or

play15:45

should I be totally buckling down I

play15:47

think there was like an Alex Heros tweet

play15:49

a while ago this was like this is stuck

play15:51

in my head a lot he said you don't get

play15:52

rich by diversifying you stay Rich by

play15:54

diversifying you typically get rich by

play15:57

striking it out of the park on one

play15:58

really big thing so a lot of

play16:02

opportunities we have these days are

play16:04

building one really big thing on top of

play16:07

another platform and it's just part of

play16:10

the risk that you uh take on as an

play16:12

entrepreneur you know that's what we do

play16:14

we take risks right I've always had this

play16:17

I think is probably an irrational fear

play16:19

of creating videos around a tool or even

play16:23

even if just part of the video features

play16:24

a tool because I worry that even changes

play16:27

in the UI of just how it looks will

play16:30

frustrate me to know someday like the

play16:33

thing that is shown in that video is no

play16:35

longer the way things look that has to

play16:38

have happened so many times in the

play16:40

course of doing uh notion tutorials

play16:43

what's your relationship to uh platform

play16:47

changes that uh you know relate to

play16:51

videos that you've made in the past I'm

play16:52

going to tell a philosophical story to

play16:55

hit to kick this one off when I was a a

play16:58

college student uh one year these

play17:01

Buddhist monks came to our college and

play17:04

they set up a gigantic Round Table in

play17:07

our big Memorial Union area they spent

play17:09

an entire week very carefully pouring

play17:12

this like finely colored sand to create

play17:15

what's called a Mandola it's this

play17:17

beautiful piece of sand art that takes

play17:19

them five full days eight hours a day

play17:22

just pouring sand to

play17:24

create and so they make this and then

play17:27

when it's done they do a little ceremony

play17:30

and they sweep it

play17:31

away and it's basically an exercise in

play17:35

appreciating the ephemerality of life I

play17:37

bring that story up because that is the

play17:40

mindset that I have tried to adopt when

play17:42

it comes to making content about tech

play17:45

there is no such thing as permanence uh

play17:47

and I think on the internet we can

play17:50

convince ourselves that if we pick the

play17:53

right Niche we do get permanence and we

play17:55

can create this Evergreen content that's

play17:56

just never going to go away uh but the

play17:58

fact is even if you pick something that

play18:00

is like if you're talking about stoic

play18:02

philosophy right I can go talk about

play18:04

Marcus aelius all day long and then next

play18:07

year Ryan holiday is going to make a

play18:08

better video and mine's out moded and I

play18:10

need to go make a new video because the

play18:12

meta shifted so there's there's just no

play18:15

such thing as uh permanence and I have

play18:18

accepted that as somebody who makes

play18:20

content about notion eventually I'm

play18:21

going to have to completely re-shoot

play18:23

notion fundamentals I'm going to have to

play18:25

completely re-shoot my uh tutorials for

play18:28

my products and I just Embrace that it

play18:30

kind of sucks like it does get

play18:32

frustrating sometimes especially when

play18:33

it's like a small change but it's

play18:34

important but you know that's just sort

play18:36

of the trade-off that I accept for

play18:38

getting to create content every day

play18:40

about a tool that I'm a huge nerd about

play18:42

how do you vet what you create videos

play18:43

around then because I imagine like

play18:45

you're doing so much stuff all the time

play18:48

how do you decide like what is too

play18:50

specific and nerdy is there a too

play18:52

specific in nerdy is that actually a pro

play18:54

so I will say despite my online veneer

play18:57

of business business strategy Mogul or

play19:00

whatever people want to call me my

play19:02

primary driver for what I make is what

play19:04

I'm interested in this can often lead to

play19:07

me making a two-hour video about the

play19:09

notion API it can lead to me making like

play19:11

spending three months programming

play19:12

something and then releasing a video

play19:15

where I accidentally killed the watch

play19:17

time but beyond that there is some

play19:19

strategy and I think it is especially

play19:21

clear for Thomas Frank explains I know

play19:23

who I'm serving I'm serving people who

play19:24

want to learn notion so there are things

play19:27

that just need to be in the online video

play19:30

textbook that is that channel there

play19:32

needs to be a video on the API there

play19:34

needs to be a video on um database

play19:36

features there needs to be a video on on

play19:38

just building pages and linking all that

play19:40

kind of stuff in many cases you can

play19:42

literally just go into your YouTube

play19:43

analytics and see what your viewers are

play19:45

searching for they have that research

play19:46

tab in analytics and you can see where

play19:48

your content gaps are on the main

play19:50

Channel you have this cinematic

play19:54

aesthetic uh in the videos in the

play19:56

thumbnails on Thomas Frank explains

play20:00

these aren't cinematic videos it's not

play20:02

the word I would use for them how do you

play20:04

think about

play20:06

production like Fidelity b-roll all

play20:10

these different things that you probably

play20:11

spend a lot more time thinking about on

play20:12

the main Channel than you do in Thomas

play20:14

Frank explains yeah so Thomas Frank

play20:16

explains had a very very strong Mission

play20:18

from the get-go and I think that really

play20:22

helped me to get clear on what needed to

play20:24

be prioritized and what didn't if people

play20:26

are coming to a video with the intent of

play20:28

learning how to build a task manager

play20:29

notion they probably don't need 120

play20:32

frame per second slowmo b-roll of me

play20:34

drinking coffee in it they just need a

play20:37

good-look video that primarily sounds

play20:39

good and makes very clear what needs to

play20:43

be accomplished and what they're going

play20:45

to get at the the end of it that sort of

play20:48

led me to making the decision early on

play20:50

that a lot of TF explains was going to

play20:51

be very templated I'm going to stand in

play20:54

front of my camera 60 frames per second

play20:56

make a bunch of facial expressions and

play20:58

get a folder of thumbnail poses I can

play21:00

use forever I'm going to use the same

play21:02

color background for every thumbnail uh

play21:05

I have the same bundle of assets every

play21:07

thumbnail is going to have the notion

play21:08

logo in it that's just it's just what it

play21:10

is and that made thumbnail creation way

play21:12

way easier for Fidelity I did have this

play21:15

sort of egocentric but I think sort of

play21:18

strategic goal of I want to have the

play21:19

best looking software tutorials ever

play21:21

made I want to make software tutorials

play21:23

so goodlooking that people are like why

play21:24

would he put this much effort into it

play21:26

this is stupid so that's why I'm sitting

play21:28

in like a th000 SQ foot studio with all

play21:31

this stuff around me it's just like I I

play21:33

I wanted to do that just to see if I

play21:35

could do it but also I think it's going

play21:36

to make people talk and then beyond that

play21:38

it's just like make sure that everything

play21:40

is clear I have a lot of uh uiux graphic

play21:43

design experience from over the years

play21:45

that helped me figure out like how much

play21:47

should we Zoom the screen in when should

play21:48

we actually do a full zoom in should we

play21:51

highlight the mouse show the keystrokes

play21:52

all that kind of stuff uh on the main

play21:54

Channel there was never a super specific

play21:58

mission right like it started as this is

play22:01

the college infogeek Channel I'm going

play22:03

to teach people how to be awesome at

play22:04

college and there's a lot to that grades

play22:06

Career Fairs extracurriculars everything

play22:08

relationships and then that morphed into

play22:10

well now I'm older I guess I'm teaching

play22:12

the same kind of tactics and techniques

play22:14

but to people who are not in a defined

play22:15

four-year period of their life so now

play22:17

it's even more General every video is

play22:19

helpful but every video is almost like a

play22:21

standalone project so that sort of

play22:24

brought the focus down from Channel

play22:26

level to video level and made me focus a

play22:28

lot more on the artistic elements of

play22:30

each video and making it like a unique

play22:32

work but we also have more defined goals

play22:35

as far as the business goes I still have

play22:37

things I want to do on Tiff explains I

play22:39

want to build fly lighter I have like a

play22:40

startup to to Market so we're probably

play22:43

going to see less like Mountain Lake

play22:44

videos and a little bit more of that

play22:46

let's create a show format so we can uh

play22:49

better highlight the lessons we're

play22:50

trying to teach instead of focusing on

play22:53

slick b-roll and cool animations and

play22:55

stuff yeah I highlight that because I

play22:56

think it's an opportunity for people a

play22:58

lot of times when I talk to aspiring

play22:59

YouTubers they get really caught up in

play23:03

production and Aesthetics and all these

play23:06

features that make something look and

play23:08

sound really really great but when you

play23:10

when you're focused when the when the

play23:11

goal of the video is actually knowledge

play23:13

transfer and uh comprehension you know

play23:17

it seems like that set of considerations

play23:20

is secondary to accomplishing the goal

play23:23

which is really good knowledge capture

play23:25

which I or knowledge transfer which I

play23:27

think is a a really helpful starting

play23:29

point for folks who are really

play23:31

interested in doing tutorials or doing

play23:34

uh in-depth breakdowns on something very

play23:36

specific Yeah the more specific you go

play23:39

uh I would say the less work you have to

play23:41

do to sort of like convince a viewer to

play23:45

click convince a viewer to sit down and

play23:46

keep watching it's not to say there's

play23:48

nothing you can do but if somebody's

play23:50

like I really want to manage my tasks in

play23:53

notion I don't know how to build a task

play23:54

manager and then my video pops up it's

play23:56

like Master Class how to build a task

play23:58

manager in notion from scratch I don't

play24:00

have to do a lot of work to convince

play24:02

that viewer to click the video they

play24:04

already want that I just presented them

play24:06

exactly what they want and from there I

play24:08

just need to show them how to build it

play24:09

whereas if it's like we're going to do a

play24:11

video on uh you know how to get out of a

play24:13

rut or or like how how to get up a

play24:15

creative red or something like that um

play24:17

that is almost a I don't know if it's

play24:19

like too broad but it's much broader

play24:21

then I need to use specific software

play24:24

tool to get specific result so making it

play24:27

almost like a let's sit down and watch

play24:28

this as my lunchtime video versus

play24:30

anything else I could choose uh that

play24:32

comes more into play for people who

play24:34

watching this and they're like okay I

play24:36

have tools I like I have things that I'm

play24:37

interested in I think I might want to

play24:39

play around with doing a tutorials

play24:41

Channel anything else we haven't covered

play24:43

that you think they should think about

play24:44

or be aware of if they're going to do uh

play24:47

uh a tutorials channel the main thing I

play24:49

would say is most people listening to

play24:50

this probably aren't yet creating

play24:51

content or they're not doing it

play24:52

consistently so don't worry about the

play24:55

strategy just make what you're

play24:56

interested in and put it up on on

play24:57

YouTube and also don't worry too much

play24:59

about the individual results because

play25:00

again you're if you're creating an

play25:02

entire channel that is a tutorial

play25:04

channel for either a specific tool or a

play25:06

specific purpose like say graphic design

play25:08

or ux you're creating a library of

play25:10

content and you can always remake videos

play25:13

and if you make a video then your

play25:14

ability to remake it in the future and

play25:17

make it 10,000 times better is going to

play25:18

be there because you've gotten the first

play25:19

rep in beyond that uh I think a lot

play25:22

about content pillars on Thomas Frank

play25:23

explains so I have like the fundamentals

play25:26

pillar which is like somebody wants to

play25:28

learn how to use notion so that's all

play25:30

the notion fundamentals videos from the

play25:31

basics of creating Pages all the way up

play25:33

through databases then I have like the

play25:35

build guides and tutorials pillar that's

play25:37

like the task manager tutorial the

play25:40

tutorial on building a habit tracker

play25:41

personal portfolio website on notion

play25:44

those are typically I think if you take

play25:48

outliers out those are typically the

play25:49

most successful videos on the channel

play25:51

long term because they actually Teach an

play25:55

outcome that people want whereas the

play25:57

fundamental is like here's how to use

play25:58

the tool it's almost like a um you know

play26:01

here like here's how to speak French

play26:03

versus here's how to like actually go to

play26:05

France and and have a great life there

play26:08

that kind of thing I also have like the

play26:09

feature releases so this is a big thing

play26:11

notion is very communicative with their

play26:14

ambassadors about new releases so we all

play26:15

make content about those new releases as

play26:18

if they're Tech videos those videos do

play26:20

really well in the short term tend to

play26:21

pet her off after a month or so which is

play26:23

totally fine um but they are a great way

play26:25

to bring in new interest to the channel

play26:27

and sort of solidify your channel as a

play26:29

destination to do information about the

play26:31

tool when new features release and then

play26:34

I have like your typical like 10

play26:36

mistakes people make when they start

play26:37

using notion or 10 ways to make notion

play26:38

faster like your kind of popcorn content

play26:41

that would be like the fourth U pillar I

play26:43

would say I love that I love the idea of

play26:46

I want this to be the destination for

play26:48

people to learn this content because I

play26:51

think if you have that goal in mind even

play26:53

if you don't see the results and

play26:56

analytics that you hope to early on you

play26:58

can ask yourself intellectually is this

play27:01

serving that goal because I think in the

play27:03

beginning probably especially on a

play27:04

channel like this where maybe

play27:07

recommended won't be as fast to hit if

play27:09

you're doing a very specific tutorial

play27:11

you need to have a long-term View and

play27:13

really be willing to invest the time to

play27:16

creating the videos hopefully one of

play27:18

them hits but if you're hitting that

play27:19

goal of is this making this the best

play27:21

channel on this topic I think you can

play27:23

know you are doing the right things

play27:25

before you may see results hey if you're

play27:28

publishing content but you aren't really

play27:30

making any money doing it then I've got

play27:32

something for you check out my free

play27:34

professional Creator crash course in

play27:35

just a few days I'll teach you how to

play27:37

earn a living as a professional Creator

play27:39

just to click the link in the

play27:40

description oh and I I will say there's

play27:42

one more pillar I didn't think about

play27:44

this but with the AI voice video that

play27:46

came out a few months ago that video

play27:49

went through multiple rounds of feedback

play27:53

with my friends and colleagues over at

play27:55

nebula we have like a whole feedback

play27:56

channel in our Slack which is probably

play27:58

the best thing we we offer originally my

play28:00

idea with that video was to call it like

play28:02

how I take notes with my voice in notion

play28:04

with chat GPT or something like that we

play28:05

went through a bunch of different

play28:06

thumbnail revisions for that idea and

play28:08

then my agent Dave Pops in the chat and

play28:10

just says one thing would this be useful

play28:13

for people who don't use

play28:14

notion and I'm like well yeah because

play28:18

you get to just talk to your phone

play28:19

record a voice note and it becomes

play28:21

perfect transcript in summary it just

play28:23

happens to be using notion as the

play28:24

notetaking tool but yeah I guess a lot

play28:26

of people would like that even if they

play28:27

weren't using notion so we pivoted I

play28:29

didn't put notion in the packaging at

play28:31

all thumbnails just perfect notes no

play28:33

typing me holding up my phone with a

play28:35

note behind it and then the title is how

play28:38

I take notes or how I use uh AI to take

play28:41

notes with my voice without typing or

play28:43

something like that but no no mention of

play28:44

notion that's the video that now has

play28:46

600,000 views I think it's top three or

play28:48

four on the channel and that sort of

play28:51

acts as a wider net that is cast that

play28:55

brings in a bunch of people interested

play28:56

in this certain out come and then

play28:58

introduces notion as the tool to help

play29:00

them solve that problem and get that

play29:02

outcome uh and I remember noticing that

play29:05

zapier was very good at this type of

play29:07

marketing with their SEO strategy so for

play29:09

people who don't know zapier is

play29:11

automation tool like a no code

play29:13

automation tool where you can sort of

play29:14

connect apis together so like uh I got a

play29:17

new Google forms submission and now it

play29:19

sends me an email that's what you can do

play29:21

with zpp here all of their content is

play29:22

like the best email apps in 2021 or the

play29:25

best to-do apps in 2021 or um you know

play29:28

here's how to manage your calendar like

play29:31

very very broad because they're going to

play29:33

get a certain percentage of people who

play29:35

are interested in those broader topics

play29:37

who also are going to be like well I

play29:38

really want to connect my Google

play29:40

Calendar up to my notion for some reason

play29:42

oh I can use zaap here to do that so

play29:44

there is a sort of like fifth developing

play29:46

pillar on TF explains of creating these

play29:49

sorts of videos like the AI voice notes

play29:50

video that bring in people who may not

play29:53

might not even use notion or even know

play29:54

about it yet but then we'll be

play29:56

introduced to the tool

play29:58

in the video about this really cool

play30:00

broader thing that they're interested in

play30:02

so smart especially if someone's

play30:03

choosing a relatively new tool that may

play30:06

not have name recognition yet which I

play30:08

think is a good last question if I'm

play30:10

thinking about the strategy of creating

play30:11

a channel around a tool do you think

play30:14

that I need to be concerned about uh

play30:17

first mover advantage or is it better to

play30:19

choose a tool that already has some

play30:21

momentum uh that's a good question I

play30:24

don't know if it matters I'm kind of

play30:26

doing both I would say with notion I was

play30:28

not first mover um maybe I was one of

play30:31

the first big YouTubers to create like a

play30:32

mainstream video on it on the main

play30:34

Channel but in terms of like building TF

play30:35

explains August Bradley already had a

play30:37

ton of content Marie pulin already had a

play30:39

ton of content uh red Gregory already

play30:41

had some content I was definitely not

play30:43

the first player uh but the cool thing

play30:45

is like notion has a growing audience so

play30:47

there's a growing subset of that

play30:50

audience who wants to hear from someone

play30:51

like me and likes my style uh there's

play30:54

also subsets of the audience that want

play30:55

to hear about the topics and subtopics

play30:58

I've chosen to cover that maybe August

play31:00

Bradley or Marie pulin didn't really

play31:02

cover already I'm not sure that they had

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like how to build a simple task manager

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on their channels so I did that and my

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video did really well uh they have other

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videos that talk about other things and

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their videos did really well for that so

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I don't think it matters too much if

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there is a growing audience for

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something and you're passionate about it

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and you're building skill in that area

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that's a good good spot to be in

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regardless of whether or not they're

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other players to learn how you can

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Master the YouTube algorithm like Thomas

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check out this other interview I did

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with him where we talk about how he

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built his first channel to 2 million

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subscribers