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BOOK REVIEW: YouTube: An Insider’s Guide to Climbing the Charts

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Producing successful online social media is such a conundrum—producing quality content is one thing, but how do you create something that the online community will make viral? The stakes are higher now that marketing vice-presidents have noticed the power of online social media: companies are producing promotional videos for YouTube and Facebook profiles, hoping people will latch onto them and adopt the brand promise.

So how do you capture this kind of viral devotion? In the case of YouTube, it might make sense to buy YouTube: An Insider’s Guide to Climbing the Charts. It’s written by a YouTube heavyweight (Alan Lastufka, once one of the 100 Most Subscribed Comedians on YouTube) and an expert on do-it-yourself video production and promotion (Michael W. Dean). Lisa Donovan, a “YouTube star” who parlayed her video bits into a short run on MadTV, says this is “the only YouTube book worth getting.” So the pedigree is there for YouTube: An Insider’s Guide to be a true classic, with unique techniques you won’t find anywhere else.

Proven principles for success

The truth, which the book demonstrates very well, is that the path to success is really based on two simple principles: quality content and quality promotion. YouTube: An Insider’s Guide devotes a lot of pages to storytelling, video direction, shooting, editing and the fundamentals of producing a video people will want to watch. The information in this section is solid but I didn’t really learn anything I didn’t know already—readers who are already experienced producers will not be particularly thrilled by this section.

Fortunately, the majority of pages are dedicated to Alan Lastufka’s deconstruction of YouTube and techniques for YouTube-specific promotion. I learned that YouTube has its own culture and community of users, and by adopting the community one can end up being adopted themselves. Key techniques such as commenting, leveraging third-party social media, the YouTube Partner program and video responses are all covered; very few are covered in depth, but there isn’t a whole lot of depth to begin with. Alan says just enough to make readers dangerous with YouTube.

The author’s rants

YouTube: An Insider’s Guide falls short in some respects. I liked Alan’s writing style, which was authoritative yet fairly informal, but Michael Dean sometimes came across as somewhat…odd. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in Chapter 14, “Closing Arguments,” which has almost nothing to do with YouTube and everything to do with Dean’s ramblings about what’s wrong with the Internet, why C-SPAN is better than any news show, what’s wrong with the world, what’s wrong with “The Man,” and how to life life right among other topics. Now I’m all for personal manifestos, but not in a book like this. The other thing that bothered me a little was the book’s dependence on a handful of YouTube celebrities (Lisa Donovan, Kevin Nalty, Hank Green and a few others) to show the celebrity potential in YouTube. It seems the same seven “celebrities” are discussed over and over, and I had heard of none of them until I read YouTube: An Insider’s Guide. I’m not sure “celebrity” is an accurate word to describe these YouTube users, and it makes me wonder if true fame is achievable within the confines of YouTube.

Conclusion

I recommend YouTube: An Insider’s Guide for anyone looking to start up and promote a YouTube channel with quality content—a casual YouTube user could get some good information by reading this book as well, but it is really written for content creators. There aren’t many books out on the market about YouTube, and this has perhaps the most knowledgeable authors of the bunch so it’s a great buy.

YouTube: An Insider’s Guide to Climbing the Charts
Alan Lastufka and Michael W. Dean
Published by O’Reilly
Rating: 8/10
US$29.99