YouTube burn-out is a real thing. It’s such a real thing that they vlog about it. There is a whole community of people doing videos about this phenomenon, and not just wellbeing vloggers.
One team of hipsters that I follow is one of those we-travel-the-world-and-publish-yoga-videos-in-amazing-places kind of teams. They, too, have burned out.
How can two people, whose show-reel lives look like the calm, beautiful, energy-fantastic idyll, get so tired and sick that they not only burn out but post blogs that are literally calls for help?
What the hell is going on?
I’ll tell you. They’re indie publishers with self-imposed expectations amplified by their audience, and the nature of their chosen medium.
It’s critical for you to understand that being a publisher of a serial publication (like a YouTube channel, a podcast, a blog, a newsletter, a radio show, a TV show, a magazine) is a wildly different thing from being a publisher of single assets.
When you publish single assets, it’s stressful until the asset is done. Any promotional tours can be stressful too, sure, but it isn’t the same as constant pressure.
Serial publications exert a special type of constant pressure. If you haven’t experienced it, it’s like having a task whirring in the back of your mind. Every day that you don’t publish something, one little part of your mind is wondering whether you ought to. In today’s video-and-attention-churn, so is your audience. They will have memories like goldfish if you let them.
To go to the extreme for a moment, consider the stereotype of a news journalist. If you’ve consumed popular media at all in the past 30 years, your mental image may be the same as mine. It’s of a daggy, exhausted person with his shirt hanging out. He has a fag behind his ear (and one in the corner of his mouth). He hits the bar bar before gping home to an unimpressed wife. He hates his boss, he’s cynical, and nothing surprises him. If he’s in the newsroom at 2 am, no big deal.
The pressure of a 24⁄7 news cycle is insane. Hell, my experience of that was only in the music industry, and it was still insane. News desks aren’t what they used to be, because of Twitter mainly; but they are still full on.
It seems like a long way from an indie publisher on YouTube.
YouTubers don’t typically go into the production of their channels with their eyes open to situations like YouTube Burnout. Many simply care about building an audience. They will typically do whatever it takes. The more eyeballs they have, the more ad revenue they get.
Then, they get to 1 million subscribers, like the wellness YouTubers, and they break.
These guys ended up going home. They got themselves a house (the opposite of a nomadic ideal) in a fixed location. They started publishing emotional videos about how they can’t cope any more and need to take time out to regroup. They spoke about needing to build a team, and their gratitude for their fans who wanted to help.
It’s not an enviable place to get to. In fact, it’s the very opposite. Building an effective publishing arm that doesn’t suddenly start crying is far more preferable. At the very least, you can stay happy while you do it!
These YouTubers came to the realisation all of a sudden, when they realised they couldn’t reach any more.
And it was sudden because they didn’t act like publishers. They were reacting to a revenue model decided by someone else, on someone else’s platform.
Publishers don’t just own their platform and assets, but they plan ahead.
They know what is coming up, what they need to do, who they need on their teams so that they can do it. They know their resource capacity. They understand when their requirements are surplus to what they can deliver. They know how their assets will spin out into new ones, and they structure the work to deliver those new assets with very little hassle.
They also have an important grasp of where their own boundaries are!
Without all of this, you just go, go, go, go, go, go. You exist at the mercy of your audience, and take their involvement and comments personally. No videos today? they cry.
Non publishers: Freak out and make more content.
Publishers: Studies the production calendar and revels in the audience’s hunger, knowing that what’s coming up will satisfy this insatiable beast.
Hunger is the best sauce, as they say. Being comfortable with it is one of the hardest things on earth.
It’s not easy to allow yourself to create space, unless you have absolute clarity about what you’re doing now, and why, and where you’re going.
When clarity brings you calm and wellbeing, it’s priceless.
I tell you that having experienced it first hand, after first burning out like the YouTubers I’ve been telling you about.
A solid production calendar is your first stepping stone to that place of happiness.