Some people are of the opinion that video is the way of the future. Indeed, there are people who make their entire living from regular videos posted to YouTube, and the associated advertising and merchandising opportunities. Of course, far, far more people try to start video blogs and fail. They take a specific kind of person, a specific kind of charisma, and the skills and technology necessary to make good videos.
Before I dig into giving you ideas for video blogs themselves, first let’s go over what it takes to produce quality video content. Video blogs aren’t for everyone, you see, and if you really want to make it, you need to be prepared for the work you’re going to have to put in.
There’s a lot that goes into a quality video, but it can all be boiled down to four things.
For video, the first thing you need to decide is whether you’re taking camera video or you’re doing something with CGI or animation. They both have their pros and cons. Live action video is easier to make, but you have higher demands in terms of technology. On the other hand, it can be difficult and time consuming to produce animation – just look at how long an episode of a cartoon show or a Pixar movie takes to make – but you don’t have to worry so much about having a good camera.
Camera is the first big video concern. You need to be able to produce video that renders in high quality HD, otherwise you’ll be left behind by the video community. For animation, it all comes down to art skills. Hire a dedicated artist, unless you’re an artist yourself.
Your editing, for both live action and animated videos, needs to be flawless. If you’re using basic Windows Movie Maker preset scene transitions, or your editing is stilted, people will be turned off. Slick video production is the key to a successful video blog. Without it, you might as well just be a podcast or text blog.
Audio is important in a few ways. First, your audio needs to be clean, clear, crisp, and balanced. I die a little inside every time I watch a blog video and hear fuzzy push-to-talk static from a built-in laptop mic as the audio recording device.
Audio also includes non-vocal aspects of your production, like background music and sound effects. You need to toe the line between stock sounds and “the same cliché noises everyone else uses.” You don’t want to fall victim to copyright strikes, but you don’t want to seem like the ultimate amateur.
Script is at once easy and difficult, and it all depends on how you feel in front of the camera within your chosen niche. You can’t typically just write a blog post and read it aloud; written communication is a lot less fluid than dialogue. Scriptwriting is an art, and will take practice to get right.
Acting, of course, only applies if you’re using live-action video for your posts. You need to be comfortable in front of a camera. You need to make eye contact with the audience, which means you can’t be staring at a piece of paper with your script printed out. You can’t stutter, you can’t mispronounce words, and you generally need to be good at what you’re doing. This will, again, take practice. It may take multiple takes of every video early on, until you get used to it.
Alternatively, of course, you can hire an actor for your videos. Depending on your niche and how much you want to be the personal face of your brand, this might be a good idea.
Now, about those topics. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that anything can succeed, given high enough production values, enough attention, persistence, and volume. Video blogs only tend to fail when they produce terrible videos, or when they don’t produce enough content on a regular schedule.
The topics I’ve provided below are all very general. They’re wide open topics within which you can find a niche and build up a successful video blog. It’s up to you to do the brainstorming, find the passion, and build the videos.
This is less of a topic and more of a format. Establish yourself as an expert in something, it doesn’t matter what. Maybe you’re a marketer, maybe you’re a chemist, maybe you’re a climate scientist, maybe you’re a blogger. Come up with a list of common questions asked in your industry, like a Reddit AMA for a career instead of a celebrity. Produce videos answering these questions and discussing the information involved.
Once you get famous enough to have an audience, that audience will begin to ask additional questions. At this point, you begin to become self-sustaining, and you don’t need to spend as much time coming up with the questions yourself. You just need to answer them and keep your viewers entertained.
A product review blog can be very lucrative, because you can thread in affiliate links through Amazon or eBay or a retailer of your choice. The problem is, you really need a budget to make an investment, or have a collection of something focused you can already use.
The key to affiliate marketing, and to a product-focused video blog, is to pick a narrow niche and dominate it. It’s tempting to just review anything you have lying around your house, but the lack of focus bites you. Viewers come in for your vacuum review and want more vacuum reviews, but can’t find another product they want reviewed in your catalog.
On the plus side, once you reach a certain level of prominence, you may be able to convince manufacturers to send you demo copies of items for review free of charge. If the publicity and referrals you generate for them are significant, you can benefit greatly.
Media reviews work in much the same was as product reviews, but you have more flexibility. I’ve seen successful blogs reviewing each episode of various television shows as they come out. Movie critics are a time-honored profession. You can review books, comics, webcomics, games, or anything else in media that strikes your fancy.
The key here is to make sure your reviews press on past superficial and dig into insight and detail. It’s the difference between “I liked it” and “I liked it, and here’s why.”
The vlogbrothers, a popular pair of brother Youtubers, have this style of interaction going. Their gimmick is trading off daily videos spending four minutes discussing complex topics and explaining them to the other, while millions of others get to listen in and become more educated about the world around them. There are also countless other explanation video channels, ranging from Vi Hart’s math concepts to explaining various fantasy concepts like Lord of the Rings mythology.
Normally, I would never recommend running a personal blog, because there’s virtually no appeal for them in any way shape or form. Very, very few people are interesting enough to captivate an audience, and those who are tend to be celebrities in other respects before they try to start video blogs.
That said, if there’s something compelling about your life, something you can support making hours of content about on a regular basis, by all means, try a video blog. The success of the previously mentioned Reddit AMA concept has led to normal people discussing their jobs all over the Internet, and that widespread interest has opened the door to the 15 minutes of fame for just about anyone. It’s just up to you to capture the hearts and minds of people who will stick around past those first fifteen minutes.
Hundreds of video games come out every year. More, if you count the expanding world of indie games and early access titles. Even more if you count mods for big popular games like Skyrim or the upcoming Fallout 4. The Let’s Play industry is huge, and it has made some people millionaires. PewDiePie, one of the most insufferable video game scarecam screamers of all time, has made seven figures off YouTube ad revenue alone. The Rooster Teeth folks, who started out with simple Halo comedy videos, now own a media empire.
Video game blogging is a packed industry, and it really requires a lot of volume. If you can play games for six hours per day and put out daily videos, you’re on the road to nerd stardom.
Obesity is a rising problem around the world, and there is and will forever be a market for videos explaining how people can improve their lives through diets, fitness, exercise, and gimmicks. There’s always a place, you just need to figure out the right angle to go at things. Do you like or hate supplements? Do you avoid exercise and promote diets, or do you ignore diets and promote exercise? Do you go for low-impact fitness and yoga, or do you go off the deep end with P90X? I’m not even advocating coming up with your own fitness plans, though if you have the education to do so without actually harming someone with misinformation, by all means, do so.
Much like rising obesity, there’s a looming energy crisis, climate change, and the prices for utilities and gas are perpetually on the rise. In this sort of cultural climate, people are often on the lookout for information about how they can save money on electricity, how they can help the environment, and how they can go green.
A green living video blog can take many forms. You can review green products and services, you can promote charities and organizations that make the world a better place, you can give tips and experiences you’ve had in going green, and more. You could even go the other side of the coin and point out things that specifically aren’t green, particularly if they’re scams trying to ride on the green label.
Everyone who lacks a job wants a job. Everyone who has a job wants a better job or a raise. Everyone who has those wants to retire eventually. By giving advice for education, applications, resumes, careers, and finances, you can carve out one heck of a niche. Financial information can be very lucrative, particularly if you start selling consulting or books on the side, promoted through your videos. Just try to make sure to give good advice, and avoid promoting anything that will get you in legal trouble, like a ponzi scheme.
Music is another broad industry with a lot of possible options. For example, you could review new albums as they come out, within a particular genre. You can follow a local music scene and review local bands, garage bands, and traveling artists. You can go from concert to concert and review and report on live shows.
The biggest problem with a video blog about music is the frequent need to play clips of that music, which means a lot of tricky rights negotiations in many cases.
Technology is constantly evolving, in a way that makes it sometimes hard to keep up with. Worse, sometimes you‘re stick with old tech and it’s hard to figure out how to use it with all of the available information pointing at newer versions with features you don’t have.
Worse, a lot of times when you do find information, it’s poorly written and hard to follow. That’s where a video blog comes in. It’s easy to use a screen capture program to capture using software or tech of some sort, and it’s equally easy to put a voiceover on top of it to explain what you’re doing and why. Tech tutorials are the closest thing to evergreen you’ll get with a video blog, so it’s a good nice to look into.
If there’s one thing people love online, it’s cooking resources. There are innumerable websites dedicated to all forms of recipes and cookery, from weird lifehack-style gimmicks you can do with ramen to recipes emulating fast food to five-star chefs at top of the line restaurants and the techniques they use.
If all of that fails, you can always come up with a gimmick, like Cutthroat Kitchen or Chopped, and come up with weekly recipe challenges. Once you attain some level of popularity, you can even take user submissions.
If you’re really desperate, you can join the “we’ll eat anything” channels that straddle the border between food channels and self-harm. L.A. Beast is a cool guy, and his channel makes him a good living, but the horrible substances he puts into his gut would drive a lesser man insane.
There’s a market for fiction, even if there’s always an apocalyptic sense of “people these days don’t appreciate art” that has been going on for thousands of years. Some successful video blogs have jumped head-first into the surreal, with one of the bigger recent projects being the Slenderman-focused Marble Hornets channel. If you have the creative talent and the video production skills, you can join the ranks of the strange and fictitious on YouTube.
For bonus points, combine this with a daily normal person video blog, only talk about events that gradually make it clear that the world you live in is not the world everyone else lives in. Never acknowledge it.
Cat videos literally power the Internet. If we were to ever run out of cat videos, particularly videos of adorable kittens or of cats freaking out, the Internet would crumble. In fact, recent legislation introduced into congress has tried to regulate cat videos under the guise of regulating the Internet, and a massive grassroots campaign has been waged to remove those restrictions and make them illegal.
What I’m saying is, posting videos of cats, or really of any animal, can be a great way to get a lot of views and followers. Some of the famous animals, like grumpy cat, can even become worldwide sensations.
UFOs, ghosts, spirits, and crypto zoological phenomena are always at the fringe of polite society. Whether you’re chronicling the times you’ve caught orbs on film, or you’re investigating ghosts in a local abandoned mental institution, paranormal videos and channels can often end up with small but very dedicated audiences. If that’s your interest, it’s a good one to investigate. Plus, with a unique personality, a local flavor, or untapped paranormal resources, you can find widespread appeal.
Those are just a handful of ideas I’ve come up with for the purpose of this post. There are, obviously enough, a nearly infinite number of other potential video blogs that can find great success. Just remember; you need to produce quality content if you want to succeed.