20K+ Subscribers on a Static Image YouTube Channel! 📹
Josh Taylor shares his simple strategy for growing his podcast with video
Today’s issue is dedicated to all the podcasters making the much-hyped pivot to video. I’ve spent a lot of brainpower trying to crack YouTube lately, as I’ve recently revived an abandoned channel and started two brand-new channels. If you want to learn how I did it without compromising my writing goals and summer travel plans, here’s my latest article for Descript:
Part of my launch strategy for the new Podcast Bestie channel is offering early previews of each episode exclusively on YouTube. If you haven’t watched the latest with Arielle Nissenblatt, you’re gonna wanna catch up:
For this week’s Q&A, we’re hitchin’ our wagons to Josh Taylor of The Wild West Extravaganza, who has grown his channel to over 20K with a simple static image strategy. He shares his straight-shootin’ advice on YouTube for podcasters, so saddle up and enjoy the ride!
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Tell us about what inspired you to start podcasting and your show.
JT: I’ve always been a huge fan of history, especially the Old West era. I discovered podcasts back around 2013 and eventually found Timesuck — which is still my favorite show of all time. I already had a vague idea of starting a podcast, but then I heard the host of Timesuck, Dan Cummins, describe his journey to create his show and something just clicked. I went home and made a list of all the things I love talking about, and of the topics I wrote down, nine out of ten were Old West history related, and here we are!
Describe the process of producing an episode of The Wild West Extravaganza, from idea to final edit.
JT: I have an ongoing list of future topics, so once I decide who or what to cover next — usually, this is determined by my own level of interest in the subject — I start researching and writing. My show is scripted (because I forget a lot!!!), and I type the script as I research and usually go over this draft at least a dozen times before I’m ready to record.
I don’t really think about YouTube at this point in the process. All I’m doing is getting lost in the subject and trying to turn it into a great story. I have artwork for each individual episode, but since I’m covering historical figures who’ve been dead for decades, this is super easy. I simply find an old photo of whoever I’m discussing and spruce it up a little on Canva and that’s what I upload on my hosting provider, Libsyn.
The thumbnail for YouTube is a different matter. I use Canva for this as well, but I put much more time and effort into it due to the thumbnail being the driving factor for random viewers hitting play. I try my best to make it as intriguing and compelling as possible and make sure the color and font contrast well and pop with the photo. Sometimes I’m successful, and sometimes I fail miserably! Haha.
Once the artwork is created and the episode is ready to publish, I’ll upload it to Audioship.io. They take my mp3 and thumbnail, turn it into an mp4, and post it to YouTube. There are other services that do this (TunesToTube, Headliner), but Audioship is cheap, easy, and it’s just what I’m accustomed to. That said, I have been playing around with DaVinci Resolve lately so I may, in the future, use DaVinci to convert into an mp4 and just upload to YouTube myself.
After the video is on YouTube, unlisted or private, I’ll then go into YouTube Studio and customize everything. I’ll usually use the same description and show notes that I use for the podcast’s RSS feed, but sometimes I’ll change the episode title to make it more YouTube-friendly. I add a few hashtags, turn on captions, place an end card, turn on monetization, and hit publish.
How much time do you spend on the video part of your process for each episode?
JT: Maybe an hour at most. The uploading and customizing for YouTube takes five minutes. The rest of the process is just playing around on Canva to make a great thumbnail. Unless, of course, you count engaging with the audience, which, in my opinion, is a big part of it. I try to answer every single comment… even the negative ones.
You keep it simple with static images for your YouTube videos, but it seems to have been so effective! Your channel really pops. Where do you source your archival photos? Any other tips for how to optimize your videos and channel visually?
JT: I just use Google Images for photos. I’m relatively certain that the historical pics I use are considered to be in the public domain, but anything else that I may need, such as background images, etc., I’ll either get from Canva or Pixabay. My tip is to really play around with Canva and learn all of its features! I’m absolutely 100% in love with Canva and cannot sing their praises enough! I even use it to create YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels. Also, the experts will tell you not to use any type of text on your thumbnails but I do anyway while trying to keep it “on brand” by always using the same color and font.
You recently hit 20K subscribers on YouTube, and you’re growing rapidly — congrats! What’s your YouTube strategy? When do you release, what’s your posting cadence, how do you incorporate shorter clips and/or Shorts, etc.?
JT: My current strategy is to hyper-focus on YouTube and finally acknowledge that it’s a legitimate way to not only grow my audience but earn an income. For the longest time, YouTube was just an afterthought; I’m a podcaster, not a YouTuber! But guess what? I was monetized on YouTube long before I earned a penny from traditional podcast ads. And over half of my audience engagement comes from YouTube. If it wasn’t for the feedback I got with YouTube early on I almost certainly would have thrown in the towel. With that in mind, for the past couple of months, I’ve really been focusing on little things I can do to see increased growth on YouTube. However, for the vast majority of my show’s lifespan on YouTube, I was simply just using it as a place to repurpose my podcast.
I release a new episode every Wednesday morning. I’ve been busting my ass for the past 7-8 months to put out a new episode each week, and although it’s not easy, I’ve only missed one week so far. I will likely take a break in the near future, though, just to play catch up.
Right now, I’m not using shorter clips, but I am publishing Shorts. I’ll use yesterday as an example. As I was giving my most recent episode one final listen, just to make sure it was ready to publish, I was copying and pasting 60-second clips into my DAW. I ended up with about eight or nine clips that I then turned into YouTube Shorts via Canva. I uploaded each Short on YouTube but have them scheduled, so only one is being published per day at 4pm. (4pm is the time that YouTube analytics show most of my audience is on the platform.)
What was your first video that really took off? How long into your pivot to video was that?
JT: So I’ve been uploading my stuff onto YouTube almost as long as I’ve had a podcast, since early 2019. Almost exactly two years ago, I published an episode on this guy named Elfego Baca. I wasn’t very happy with it and didn’t think anyone would like it. For some reason, it blew up, and I gained a ton of subscribers. Still not sure why, but hey, I’ll take it!
Are there any specific strategies or techniques you employ to optimize your videos for searchability and discoverability on YouTube?
JT: Thumbnails, titles, episode descriptions, and content. All of the other little stuff I didn’t start doing until very recently. I’ve only been posting Shorts for about a couple of months, and I’ve only been using hashtags for a couple of months. The title and description are what the YouTube algorithm uses to present your episode to an eager audience, the thumbnail is what compels them to hit play, and your content is what keeps them listening. The more people that hit play, and the longer they listen, the higher your CTR (click-through rate) and AVD (average view duration) will be, thus causing YouTube to share your content further.
What about titles and thumbnails?
JT: Thumbnails I’ve already discussed a bit; I just try to make them super eye-catching, likewise, with titles. For my actual podcast — the feed that goes out to Spotify, Apple, etc. — I keep it simple. For instance, not to bore you with details, but I recently published an episode on a guy known as Liver-Eating Johnson. The title of the episode is simply “Liver Eating Johnson.” On YouTube, however, that’s not good enough. For YouTube, I changed the title to “The REAL Jeremiah Johnson aka Liver-Eating Johnson.” Fans of the hit movie Jeremiah Johnson starring Robert Redford may not know who Liver-Eating Johnson was or that he was the basis for the movie, but if they see “Jeremiah Johnson,” they’ll definitely know that name and, hopefully, click play to learn about the real-life guy. For the thumbnail, I have the words “CROW KILLER” in bold, bright letters. This was yet another nickname for the guy (all these Old West guys have a million crazy nicknames). It looks cool, and even if someone has no idea who Liver-Eating Johnson was and even if they’ve never seen the movie, hopefully, they’ll see the crazy-ass-looking mountain man in the thumbnail, read the words CROW KILLER and hit play just out of curiosity! Fingers crossed! I’m hoping this makes sense, as I do sometimes find it hard to convey my thoughts.
You get a lot of comments on your YouTube videos. Has it been like that from the beginning? What’s your approach to community, and how do you encourage that engagement?
JT: I’ve had a pretty cool little following on YouTube for a while! My initial reaction was to try and convince them to switch over to a podcast app, but I abandoned that fairly early. For whatever reason, they love using YouTube — even to listen to audio — and far be it for me to tell them to switch platforms. I encourage engagement by replying to nearly every single comment, liking their comments, and not putting myself above them. We’re all in this together, and we’re all learning together. And I listen! Some of the subscribers on YouTube are way more knowledgeable on these topics than I am, so they keep me on my toes. The only time I block anyone is if they’re being rude or mean to other commenters or otherwise being hateful or racist.
What’s the most common feedback from your viewers? Have you received any reactions from your audience that particularly stood out?
JT: The most common feedback I get is that I sound like Danny McBride. I disagree, but that’s what they say. The reactions that have stood out were the people who really opened up and shared how the show has touched their lives. A veteran recently commented that he has severe PTSD, and listening to The Wild West Extravaganza helps him sleep at night. So much so that he has begun recommending it to other veterans at the VA. This is extremely humbling, and I do not have the right words to express how this makes me feel.
Also — I rarely speak about this — but I’m a little over three years sober. When I first quit the bottle, I published a short episode titled “Chamberlain's Bayonets” about Colonel Joshua Chamberlain’s bayonet charge during the Battle of Gettysburg. Chamberlain and his troops were outnumbered; nearly all of them were wounded and out of ammunition. Instead of giving up or retreating, they fixed bayonets and charged the enemy, and, in the face of overwhelming odds, they were victorious. I recorded the episode mostly as a way to remind myself to stay sober, no matter how hard it is, and when it looks like I can’t win, to “get mean” and fix my own proverbial bayonet. I’ve had a few people reach out and tell me that this episode has helped them with their own personal struggles, so I find that very motivating as well. I don’t have a college degree, I barely graduated high school, I’m not a natural speaker, and I’m not a historian. I’m a dummy with a microphone, and I’m not above dropping a dick joke in nearly every episode, so when people are touched by my stories, I don’t take it lightly.
You have over 25K followers on TikTok. Tell us about your video strategy for social media.
JT: TikTok is a strange animal, and I haven’t quite figured it out. I discounted it at first until one of my TikToks got half a million views, so I’m still plugging away. My current strategy is to bulk create several short clips from each episode and post them all on TikTok, Insta, and YouTube Shorts, one per day. I think the main thing here is knowing how hashtags work on each individual platform and making sure that your content doesn’t have a watermark. Most will miss, but every now and then, one will hit.
Have you done collaborations with any other podcasters or YouTubers for the show? If so, have they been effective for audience growth?
JT: I haven’t collaborated with any YouTubers YET, but I have done a few feed and promo swaps with other podcasts. The biggest growth I saw was when my show was featured on Lindsay Graham’s History Daily Saturday Matinee. 10/10 would recommend.
Are you monetizing your show right now? If so, what methods of monetization have you tried?
JT: YouTube is the biggest source of ad revenue, followed by the dynamic ads in my RSS feed (AdvertiseCast). I have about 100 subscribers between Patreon and YouTube memberships, and I also get a few tips each week via Buy Me a Coffee. I recently rolled out merch, and although it’s selling, I only get like $2 per t-shirt. I’m also trying to do a little freelance consulting on the side, helping other people grow their shows, but this is still a new venture, and I’ve only had a couple of clients.
What advice would you give to podcasters who are looking to make a successful pivot to video with their podcast?
JT: YouTube has 122 million daily active users. No matter your niche or genre, I find it very hard to believe that your audience doesn’t exist on YouTube. You don’t need to be on camera for this to happen — my channel is proof. The challenge is getting YouTube to show your content to those who are interested in it. You do this by having properly formatted and engaging thumbnails, accurate and compelling episode titles and descriptions, and good content. This MAY mean altering your podcast for YouTube. For instance, if you and a cohost like to banter for a few minutes before you get to the topic at hand, you may want to edit a different version for YouTube that cuts straight to the chase. If you want to keep the banter and updates, add them at the end. Video will always outperform audio-only on a video-centric platform like YouTube, but having a video doesn’t exactly guarantee success, either. Your content has to be good enough to stop people from skipping to the next video. You should temper your expectations — there’s a good chance nobody will consume your content on YouTube. Then again, we run the same risk with podcasting in general. This is a hard nut to crack, but I truly believe you're increasing your odds by making your content available everywhere, including YouTube.
Anything else you’d like to add?
JT: I’m a huge fan of Podcast Bestie! Seriously, I listen to each episode! I think you’re awesome, and I’m extremely honored that you reached out!
Thank you so much, Josh! 🥰
➡️ Make sure you check out The Wild West Extravaganza website at wildwestextra.com.
➡️ For anyone looking for advice or help with their show gaining traction on YouTube, find out more about Josh’s consulting services at hatcreekaudio.com.
Check out the Label Free podcast: Join Deanna Radulescu on her journey, welcoming dynamic guests on her show who embody living label free! She connects with entrepreneurs, authors, artists, and coaches; all bring tremendous value to her audience. To Live Your Best Life, Live Label Free
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What’s YOUR top tip for growing on YouTube? And stay tuned for a Podcast Bestie YouTube follow thread later this week!
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