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YouTube Subscribers Counts Don't Mean Sh+t in 2023... In fact they can work against you!

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Some of you know me and some don't. My name is Sergei, I'm an author/filmmaker/YouTuber and a lot of other things. I've been uploading to YouTube since 2007 and living the dream as a full-time creator since 2009.  For the bulk of those years nobody knew how to describe my career choice (myself included). This lead to countless awkward/clumsy conversations with acquaintances, family, friends and strangers. I suspect most people just thought I was lazy and didn't want to work a "normal" job like everyone else. At least that's what my in-laws told me right before we got into a three and half year feud, which almost destroyed my relationship with my wife (don't worry, we're much better now).  

Eventually, I got comfortable with being mis-understood and learned to brush off the dis-satisfaction of others while pushing forward and pursuing my goals of building residual income, creating value for others and being maximally free. As I built, my efforts were rewarded with view counts, free products, open doors/opportunities and even a little money.

Then something crazy happened... Something in society shifted rapidly and YouTubing became cool. Around 2017/2018 I started hearing people (especially 13 to 25-year-olds) say things like: "I want to be a YouTube Influencer when I grow up." I've certainly heard adults say this too, but it seems more consistent from younger generations. Even my in-laws changed their opinions about me and apologized for not understanding what I was trying to accomplish. This felt AMAZING, I'm not going to lie.

Long story short, my mind was/is blown from this 180-degree turn of events.

And just when I thought it was going to be smooth sailing, all my winning stopped. Social media platforms implemented ever-changing rules and regulations, which cut off access to my audience(s). Access that I worked really hard to amass. For example, despite having 196,000+ subscribers on my channel BoutenkoFilms in 2023, my viewership is pathetic and much worse than it was years ago (when I had a measly 13,000 subs). I've noticed this trend across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Tik Tok and Kickstarter.

This is stressful and completely deflating. So, after 16-ish years, I'm quitting (at least in the full-time capacity).

Before I go, I want to tell the truth so that future creators can have the opportunity to consider all of the pros and cons of such a career. Hopefully this will help folks make better, more educated choices as to what YouTube is and how to approach it. Two days ago, I published a new video doing just this. I'll link it below for those interested.

I'd like to emphasis that it's not my intension to dissuade or discourage anybody, but rather to share my experience. I've been thinking about this for a long time (years) and finally realized that I miss the real world. I'm sick of being alone all day and staring at computer screens.  So, I'm restructuring my life (effective immediately) to be part of the physical world again. And so far it's going really, really well! πŸš€πŸ•ΊπŸ€Έβ€β™‚οΈ

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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Sergei, I agree.  I got my silver play button too.  And views are still weak.

For me, it makes sense:  I let there be a lot of gaps in my youtube content.  Often going months without a new video.

My youtube income has always been pitiful.

But for me, I started on youtube to put out information.  Stuff I felt a powerful urge to share in a video format.  Not for coin.

You are posting this in the "residual income streams" forum.  And my philosophy about income streams is ...  kinda backwards ...   I share stuff for free and, in time, see if any money can be harvested.

In your video you say "what is the point?"  For me, the point is not the money.  Give a thousand things away for free - just helping people.  And then later maybe figure out a way to get those things to even more people through non-free channels.  

I have also been frustrated by youtube.  There was a guy here that had a new channel.  His videos were weak, and his view counts were about the same as mine, but youtube was paying him about four times more than me.  Bizarre!

Now I am trying to make a workee-job for virtual assistants.  They try to sell my stuff in a variety of ways - mostly using resources we already have (mailing lists, banners, etc.)  Hopefully they bring in more coin than they are paid.  

Kickstarter is squirrely.  We are getting better at it.

You have a mailing list right?  So you can email those people every time you have a new video.

$10,000 per year from youtube is way better than me.  I usually get about $200 per month - so about $2000 per year.  And i have more videos than you. 27 million views. Started 2007.  

If you are gonna switch gears and be money driven, then here is my advice:

    - on the evenings and weekends, keep giving stuff away for free.  Stuff you think is good and cool.
    - every once in a while, figure out a way to mash something into something commercial
    - in time, maybe your passive income streams will pay more than your new workee job

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Youtube has been saying for years that subscriber count doesn't count for much.  They only really keep it as there would be a huge fuss if they got rid of it, and it makes a nice vanity metric.

Instead, youtube wants us to focus on user engagement.  

In a recent interview, Mr Beast mentioned that the first five seconds of the video are the most crucial since thumbnails are on the way out and youtube often shows that 5-second sample.  Since I started doing that (and keeping my intro under 20 seconds - I don't need to tell them what's in the video, that's what the title is for, or who I am - again, they can read that if they care - that cuts out 30+ seconds right there), my CTR has gone up and my retention is finally over 60%.  

Something I discovered recently - a 2-week-old chicken's attention span is about the same as the youtube's audience.   where the chicken keeps watching, my retention is good.  Where they look away, it's low.  Where they peck the screen, it's really high.

My theory: there is no algorithm - it's just chickens wired up and pecking the screen.

On the whole, I'm not feeling the excitement I used to get making youtube videos.  They take 1-20 months to make a video and although I'm doing far better than I expected (I get almost a dollar a day - less than I did a year and several videos ago), I just don't feel the love from it these days.  Maybe when the weather gets cooler I'll finally get editing some of these projects.  
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