Yesterday, we released the 200th episode of Hilah Cooking (technically the 201st, but we screwed something up on our calendar). This is a pretty big deal for us because it also coincides with the three year anniversary of the show. When we hit these kinds of milestones I can’t help but do a little bit of reflection.
In some ways the 200th episode doesn’t feel like quite as big a deal as it was when we released the 100th video. When we started the project, my goal was determined to produce 100 episodes and then evaluate whether things were working or not.
It took us about 2 years to do the first 100 and that was right around when things started to feel like they were starting to work. All the numbers (views, comments, revenue) were moving in the right direction. If we had quit at 50, it would have been nothing more than an interesting and fun experiment.
This is a chart showing the growth of the Hilah Cooking YouTube channel growth since we started. The Blue line is the average of our daily video views. I’ve left off the specific numbers because the big picture is what I want to show here.
Just a few years ago I would have never predicted I would be spending almost all my time creating “lifestyle” content. Back then I was totally focused on making bloody low-budget horror movies. But I was feeling really burned out after my last feature and decided to give myself a year to just explore and experiment with what interested me. I spent a lot of time getting my internet skills up to speed and learning about the world of internet marketing and online video.
Before I knew it, Hilah and I had launched Hilah Cooking. Learning how to make a successful YouTube channel was a lot of fun and I found myself completely obsessed with internet video. I felt like I had found the perfect combination of filmmaking, publishing, marketing and the geeky search engine stuff I had spent so much time studying.
Perhaps the most gratifying part of it, was that there were a LOT of people who actually wanted to watch this stuff we were making.
There were many reasons for my hatred. The quality was terrible. The commenters were idiots. The interface was ugly. And particularly insulting to me: we didn’t get very many views.Â For all of these reasons, I spent very little time optimizing our YouTube videos and at the end of the first season we decided to ignore it altogether and just use it as one of our many upload destinations.
But during our summer break between season 1 and 2, I started to look at YouTube a little differently. Slowly but surely our videos had started to gain some traction and the comments were actually improving. Instead of just dropping by and writing “NICE TITZ” we started to get some very helpful feedback and questions from people genuinely interested in how to make the recipes in the videos. Even better, we started getting a lot...
One of the highlights of 2011 was being selected as one of the winners of the YouTube Next Chef program.
The Next Chef program evolved out of YouTube’s NextUp Program. Basically, the idea is to cultivate the next wave of up and coming talent on YouTube. The original program was not focused on a specific content niche. The second wave focused on cooking and fitness. The goal of the program is to help content creators take things to the “next” level and ultimately make a full-time living via YouTube.
As part of the program, winners received $5,000 worth of gear, training sessions conducted via Google Hangout and $10,000 in YouTube advertising.
Since I am a geek, I was most excited about the new gear. We shot for a year and a half on very low-end gear. It was an intentional decision to work with what we had and it worked for us for almost 100 episodes.
But, I was starting to get a little restless. After hanging out with some shooters for the Food Network...
We recently hit two important milestones with Hilah Cooking.
#1. We released Learn to Cook – our first digital book.
#2. We released our 100th episode. We’ve produced a new episode pretty much every Tuesday (except during our summer vacation).
With these two milestones, we’ve completed Phase one of our initial plan.
Yes, there has actually been a plan all along.
When we decided to start this project, I felt like we needed at least 100 episodes to decide whether or not the project had serious potential. I knew it would start out as something that was just fun to do on weekends – but would eventually start to feel like a lot of hard work. So I was committed to produce and release 100 episodes no matter what – and after that, we would step back, evaluate whether it was working or not and either stop doing it or figure out how to proceed.
While most of the feedback we've received about Hilah...
We launched Hilah Cooking about a year and a half ago and we’re still going strong. In fact, we’re going stronger than ever. I thought this seemed like as good a time as any to update everybody on our progress and share a few more audience building tips that we’ve learned along the way.
When I wrote the first post in this series – we had about 400 YouTube subscribers, 1,000 Facebook fans and were happy anytime an episode hit 100 views in the first 24 hours. As I write this almost a year later, we are about to hit 4,000 subscribers, we have over 2,300 Facebook fans and reliably exceed 1,000 views in the first 24 hours. Our website traffic has tripled and subscriptions to our email newsletter have exploded.
These numbers might not blow your mind – but I am extremely proud of them. We started this show from ground zero – with little more than a second-hand camera, an ancient iMac and a used shower curtain. We also had no idea what...
This post is about 2 months late, but the launch of Season 2 of Hilah Cooking has completely overwhelmed my world. Things are going really well with the show and as we approach our one-year anniversary we have managed to hit all the milestones I put into the original crazy “business plan.” From the very beginning, I wanted to do some kind of “live” event.
There were a few reasons for this:
Since launching Hilah Cooking a little over 6 months ago, we’ve built up what I consider to be a pretty impressive audience. The numbers aren’t astronomical, but we definitely have a group of avid viewers who are very engaged in the show. They really do make the recipes at home and send the videos to their friends. The numbers are growing at a slow but steady pace. For our first few episodes we were happy if we just hit 100 views, but now 3,500 is our baseline for a successful episode and we are always inching that benchmark forward.
As our Facebook following and YouTube subscriber counts have started to grow, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about how to build an audience for their web series. Keep in mind, I’ve only been doing this for 6 months and definitely don’t consider myself an expert. In this post, I’ll be talking about web series and not one-off videos. Everybody still holds on to the dream of producing a video that’s so...
The #1 question people ask me about Hilah Cooking is what kind of gear we use. Since I am a behind-the-scenes guy, I get all the tech questions from camera and filmmaker geeks. (Hilah gets the fun questions about food and cocktails and girl stuff.)
Usually, I hesitate to go into too much detail about our gear because our setup is so low-budget, but also because I am a huge believer in using what you can get your hands on. Filmmakers and photographers are notoriously geeky when it comes to gear. It’s easy to waste incredible amounts of time reading camera forums instead of actually producing anything. I have been personally guilty of this. But, if I’m going to do a series on how to make a web show, I should probably start with the gear.
When we conceived the idea for Hilah Cooking, I was unemployed and almost homeless and neither of us had any cash to invest in the show. We decided to scrape together whatever we could and start producing episodes...