About My Video Experiment

About My Video Experiment

“Always run experiments!” That’s what I always say.

The experiment I’ve been running lately is making YouTube videos, called 15 Minutes on Air. The purpose of these videos is to see if I can reach an audience of people who normally don’t read.

I can’t complain about the number of readers of my books, blog, and mailing list. But I’m sure there are many more out there who never read, and who could use a bit of help to create a better workplace.

Well, after nine videos I’m evaluating the results, and so far they’re not encouraging. The statistics of the videos are actually rather disappointing. 🙁 Sure I understand, everyone has to start at the bottom, but I don’t see any trend upwards either. Neither in views, nor comments, nor retweets.

Hmm, what could be the issue here…

  • Maybe I need a different format/style for the videos?
  • Maybe I need other topics or other guests?
  • Maybe nobody on YouTube is interested in this kind of stuff?
  • Maybe my marketing and promotion should be improved?
  • Or perhaps it’s a bit of everything?

You may not realize it, but making 15-minute videos is quite a lot of work. I estimate it’s between two and three hours on average of inviting, preparing, interviewing, editing, and uploading. I know many other things I could be doing with that amount of time! 🙂

I don’t regret any minute of any experiment I run. But experiments require observation and evaluation. In Lean Startup terms: the metrics tell me it’s time for me to pivot. What do you think I could do?

Better marketing? Other videos? Or other content (no videos)?

I’m curious.

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  • Gerardo Barcia

    Hi Jurgen,

    I tried to watch all videos and truth are very good and useful content. Maybe the problem is that sometimes the comments on the videos does not make sense. Sometimes only we want take notes.

    Don’t you consider use some additional format to summarize the videos? Any presentation? A teaser trailer ? Sometimes 15 minutes can be long to figure out if interest me.

    Anyway, I like your work with this videos. Go on!

    • jurgenappelo

      Thanks, but that means even MORE work for me. 🙂

  • http://fluidcircle.net/ Michał Parkoła

    15 min is loooooong. Maybe try 5 min?

    • jurgenappelo

      I can’t have a meaningful conversation in 5 minutes.
      TED talks are also not 5 minutes. They’re 18 minutes.

      • http://fluidcircle.net/ Michał Parkoła

        How about under 5 min sketchnote-style videos for bite sized knowledge and inspiration and longer podcasts w/out video for meaningful conversations?

        I listen to >1h podcasts all the time but YouTube videos above 2 min sit in my queue for a long time 😉

        • jurgenappelo

          Sketchnote-style videos are FAR more work. Think about 10 to 20 hours for a 3-minute video!

          Podcasts: Hm, maybe.


  • Henrik Johansson

    It’s good content. But time to consume video is precious. I always prefer reading, because I can do it anywhere and simple. Next to reading I prefer just listening – podcasts. Because I can consume audio when I can’t read, for instance when walking to/from work. So, 15 minutes of video costs me 15 minutes at home, 15 minutes of audio is free. Try a podcast! / Henrik of Brewing Agile.

    • jurgenappelo


  • tina

    Weeelll – let’s answer this with a question – how often do YOU watch
    videos to get information of the kind you provide in your vids? I have
    noticed that as a literate person who is strapped for time (which I
    think is pretty much your audience) and whose only free time might be on
    public transport (where connectivity can be flaky or slow) I really
    HATE it when people do a vid for something that could have been a couple
    pages of text. I don’t want to be forced to sit through 15mins of
    “uhms” and “ahs” and “let me introduce soandso” and “so nice to have you
    here with us today” and that little anecdote that’s not really on topic
    and not really all that funny instead of being able to skim the
    contents like I can do with text.

    Vids have their place – getting
    iliterate people interested in something (you want to reach that 16yr
    old school dropout who surfs FB all day long? yay, vids are your way to
    go), or where understanding the process is vital (eg all those “we show
    you how to replace your iPhone battery yourself” vids), or just for fun.
    But gathering information that’s just information is not it –
    especially when you’re strapped for time and literate. So unless your
    performance in your vids is breathtaking (say, like CGPGrey) it’s just
    not worth it to watch it as a vid.

    • jurgenappelo

      Thanks, I agree with most of your comments. But asking me what I watch is not a good question. I don’t watch TV at all. That doesn’t mean nobody should be making TV programs.

      But you might be right that it’s simply not the right audience.

      • tina

        I never meant TV or what you watch in general. I’m thinking from the open source development perspective where success usually comes from “scratch your own itch” projects. Assuming that your audience is pretty much a self-selected group of people who are somewhat similar to yourself (or at least aspiring to become so) then this becomes relevant – do YOU watch vids about *your type of content* on YT? Or do you wish there was more content like that on YT? And if not, why not?

        Because if even you yourself don’t see any added value in watching vids about that topic then why would your audience? Ok, sometimes an audience is more different from oneself than one thinks. But if they don’t beg you to please, please offer your content in vid form AND if they don’t snatch up the new channel when you try it out for the time you have then you can usually assume that the ARE after all like yourself in this respect and that they really DO dislike watching this type of content as a vid for the same reasons you do.

        Which are probably the same as mentioned in several comments here – there’s no added value in the vids compared to written format but vids are much more impractical for a hectic lifestyle with fragmented time. Written is good because you can always skim (or sneak a peek while in a meeting) and podcasts can be interesting for people with long commutes where they can’t read but can listen (and are bored anyway). Vids don’t fit neither scenario which is why people expect A LOT of added value to invest that amount of time to sit still and watch.

        You know what? Come to think of it there IS a scenario where busy adult people might be interested in a vid – when they do their cardio on the stationary bike. And many gyms do have free WLAN nowadays. But then the vids would need to be a lot more energetic and please crank up the volume, too, because once your blood gets pumping people don’t hear so well anymore (plus there’s usually quite a lot of noise at the gym). But then you’d even get away with 20min or even longer vids because 20mins is considered the min amount of cardio you should do in one sitting by many.

        • jurgenappelo

          Thanks, great input! 🙂

  • Alan Dayley

    I have enjoyed several of the videos. I thank you and your guest for doing them.

    The results you report here are helpful to me. While video can be powerful, you are showing that the “ROI” can be relatively low.

    I am rethinking my own video plans and leaning to podcasts.

    • jurgenappelo

      Great, maybe you can share those ROI experiences with us. 🙂

  • Manuel Pais

    I agree with the time issue mentioned by others.

    Personally I won’t watch a vid (even from someone I respect a lot) unless the topic is straight up my alley of interest. On the other hand I do try to read your daily blog posts regardless of the title because I know more often then not I will find a gem or two in there and it only cost me a few minutes.

    Time is very fragmented these days and attention spans longer than 5 minutes require (or lead people to believe they require) planning for.

  • Flavius Stef

    Also in lean startup terms: could you do more customer discovery? Do you ‘get out of the building’ enough?

    After all, there are on average 200 people watching each video. Who are they? What are their needs? Why do they watch the videos (unlike some commenters to this post, myself included)? How do they find out about the videos?

    Could you build a persona and pivot around it?

    Hope it helps.

    • jurgenappelo

      Thanks for your suggestion, but in this case I disagree.

      I’ve traveled all over the world and listened to the problems of thousands of people in more than 30 countries in my classes and at conferences. I don’t believe I need any more input about people’s needs. 🙂

      What _I_ need is figure out what are the best channels to reach those people and how to let them know my book(s) offer ideas that could help them.

      And besides, the few people who watched my videos could (theoretically) be entirely the wrong people, who don’t buy my books. In that case I’m not that much interested in their needs. Others may offer coaching or consultancy. 🙂

  • Robie Wood

    I enjoyed the videos. I like “meeting” the authors and hearing a synopsis of their ideas in their own words. So far, I’ve purchased and read four of the books referenced in the discussions. It works for me.

    • jurgenappelo

      Wow, thanks!

  • Lars

    I like to get to “know” these experts in person – but 15 mins. is usually an amount of time that I have hard time finding (connected to the web).
    Also, to find/collect information and insight, I very much prefer reading, as I can pick the speed myself. (That’s why I would never watch the news on TV).
    And from personal experience I know how much hard work videos are – generally the shorter the more work. Doing a transcript of the most important content, would be nice – but gives away the story and is more work.
    So, you’re probably quite stuck – and as you said, you’ve talked to thousands of potential viewers.
    I would weigh in your personal needs a bit more. Enjoy having that talk, use your preparation for it and what you personally take out of it. And then maybe you could use that rainy Saturday per year to do a best of clip, stuff that you find really cool? That would then be a nice video project, I’d definately watch.

  • Parisa Entezami

    You can try the style of InfoQ interviews.

    I mean you can have the video’s in your blog and the content of it can be placed next to it, for those who want to know what’s inside. from the text they can know does it really worth to watch or not?

  • Rini van Solingen

    Hi Jurgen, as you know I am making short videos/interviews as well for some time now. You should as you have been the prime guest three times ;-). I share your observations and have some replies as well.

    1. How do you measure impact? In principle the goal is impact. Number of visitors does not necessarily mean the same. You must be careful concluding that a lower number than you are used to from your Blog means: lower impact. At the same time, I confirm that 200 views compared to 5.000 reads does indicate something….

    2. Videos improve presentation skills. I have always wanted to improve on presentations skills, but learned that through my videos I was forced to watch myself perform. Painfully and embarrassing often…. But it really helped. So, there is value in recording yourself and ‘wasting’ all those hours watching, editing, watching, watching again, of your own performance. So, what is the goal with your videos? You might have a personal improvement goal served too with them…..

    3. How do you connect with people in a blog? Relationship building and really understanding someone is much easier through a conversation. But why would they talk with me? I have had the pleasure and honor to sit, talk and be inspired by people I would not have the change to talk to without a video interview recording. Some examples: Steve Denning, Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber, Jurgen Appelo (well….he used to be my programming supervisor at the university so might have given me a humble 15 minute or so 😉 ), Redmond O’Hanlon, Erran Carmel, Henk de Velde, Kent Beck, Roman Pichler, and many more. These people were a great inspiration to me, which would not have happened without the video interviews (at least not with a real face to face ‘connect’).

    4. Videos make great training material. I have learned that videos that can be used for training purposes are viewed much more often than interviews or monologues. So, I am now changing my tactics a bit by questioning myself whether my Vlog would be useful in someones training. Trainings give great impact! And don’t look at the viewed numbers then, because most trainers download your video and show it offline. Lots of views and viewers, but no metrics that show you that impact…..

    5. Videos can be watched on much lesser moments than blogs can be read. Reading is even faster too, though the experience is different. As such I make small summaries in writing for a video on youtube and my blog, or in your case, you could write a Blog on the main points and include the video for more background. That gives your audience the opportunity to still get the message, even when they are unable to watch the video at that time. For me: I watch your videos in the evening when drinking a coffee and/or smoking a cigar. That time fits me. Reading your Blog I can do much easier and on more occasions. However, the ‘connect’ with writing is much different than with video.

    6. Skill takes time. How long did it take you to understand how to write and what to write about? How long did it take to grow your audience for your blog? For sure you should be able to grow faster with your videos than with the writing, but it takes time to understand how to do it well and what people really want.

    7. Writing: content. Video: fun. People expect content in writing. The main reason to read is to learn and be inspired from the content. Video is different. Video requires fun in additon. All the videos I have recorded that contained a fun element are watched more often AND keep continuous viewers to be added. The (boring) content videos drop dead after I upload one or two new ones.

    Pfew….that is 7 points. Good number. Let’s stop now.
    These are my main lessons from the past 4 years. I have learned a lot from recording the videos and it brings me a lot. Is this recognisable? Is it helpful?


    Rini van Solingen

    P.S. You could see your Blog as promotional material for your books. Could you see your videos as promotional material for your talks?

    • jurgenappelo

      Wow, great insights. Thanks, Rini!
      I’m going to think about it some more, and probably run some new experiments soon.

  • Jean-François Gilbert

    How did you promote them ? I come here almost daily and it’s the first time i hear about the videos. I’ve probably missed something.

    • jurgenappelo

      Well, that’s strange. Because ALL videos have been posted on this blog as blog posts in the last few months. No idea what you’ve been looking at if you came here every day. 😉

      Also, all videos were promoted on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+

      • Jean-François Gilbert

        Well, I just made a fool of myself did I ! But seriously, I think it shows how I’m learning from blog posts. It looks like I’m unconciously filtering out the videos when I see them and look for written content. I guess that’s how I like to learn. To each his own

        • jurgenappelo

          Good point! 🙂

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