Growing an Outdoor Show on YouTube

Tyler from MN asks,

[D&S OUTDOORS VIDEO TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS] Hello Bill! My name is Tyler Smith, I and my best friend (Jared Doty) have started a YouTube channel called "D&S Outdoors" (D&S = Doty and Smith) where we self-film and produce hunting and fishing content currently on YouTube only. Here is our Channel Trailer: I am looking to ask you a couple questions regarding Hunting videos and building a loyal audience. Based off of your own filming success and video quality, I really value your opinion/knowledge of what it takes to make good videos on a consistent basis. With that said, here are the questions I have for you Bill. Questions: (We like the idea of story-telling/commentating as the video unfolds) Q1. From our buck videos (BELOW), do think our story-telling allows the viewer to connect to the story well? Are there any ways you think we can improve regarding the viewers connection? (My best video) (Jared's Best Video) (My 143 inch buck) (Building Relationship with Viewers is a Goal) Q2. With us as a small channel getting started, what options do you feel are best with creating a following and relationship with viewers? Here our my current ideas regarding building relationship with viewers; Consistent update vlogs in-season and off-season, or livestream periodically with news updates. We feel like we know the direction we want to go in the outdoors career field with this possible company. Getting help or insight can help us learn and grow faster. Especially help from a person like yourself, whom we trust the knowledge and experience of regarding building a company, filming, and hunting. Thank you SO MUCH for taking time out of your day to help us, for this is not a short exchange. We all have our own schedules in life so we understand if you don't get back to us right away. We wish you the best success, Tyler, Jared, and the D&S Outdoors team.

Bill responds,

Topic: Growing an Outdoor Show on YouTube:

Growing an Outdoor Show on YouTube

Many people think that shooting a few deer on camera is enough to create an audience. Those days are over. You need to create value for the viewer in exchange for their commitment of time.


I watched some of your work. Congrats on your start.  Growing an audience for your outdoor show takes time and persistence and a very good plan.

I will start this answer out with the standard disclaimer: don’t spend a ton of money on this at first until you learn the ropes and see the audience grow.  Most people do this during their spare time until they reach a big enough following to become useful to the outdoor industry.

That is when they can start to make money and that is when they switch over to this work full time.  Or they use the video series as an extension of their video production or social media marketing business, etc.

In the meantime, just have fun and learn as much as you can.  With that in mind, I have learned that just showing hunts and fish being caught is not enough anymore.

Maybe 15 years ago that would have been enough to create a following, but there are literally thousands of “hunting and fishing shows” on YouTube and almost none are making any money at it. To make money, you have to create value for two groups, the viewer and the companies making up the industry.

You start with the viewer and the sponsors will come later.

Or, if your following becomes strong enough, like The Hunting Public, for example, you can make money from ads placed on your videos by YouTube and from affiliate marketing programs (where you get a commission from products sold) and from merchandise you sell.  This is probably the easier route as it really takes a lot of effort and time to get sponsors these days.  Marketing managers are worn out from fielding requests from everyone with a YouTube channel asking for sponsorship.

I elected to go with sponsors when I started Midwest Whitetail because I just didn’t know any different. I also went that route because I needed their “seed money” to buy better cameras, hire editors, etc.   They took a chance on me because of our existing relationship from my years as an outdoor writer.  So it worked out for me.  But if I was starting up now without those relationships, it would be way, way harder to get their attention (and their money).

So, you have to focus on creating value for the viewer first and then you can worry about trying to make money down the road.  Again, maybe the money making part comes from something more tangible that you do, like custom video editing, social media management, marketing support, photography, etc.  No matter what route you go, it will take time, like I said.

Your formula about consistently posting new content is critical, but don’t overlook the fact that the viewer really needs to get something in exchange for giving you 10 or 15 minutes of their life. If all they get is to see some young men shooting a whitetail or catching a fish, they will soon move on to something else.

How do you create that value?  It has to be one of two ways, in my experience. Either you need to be really good at story telling and teaching using the videos to do that subtly, or you have to have a really interesting personality. I never had the big personality, so I had to focus on teaching and taking the viewer along for the ride.  I feel like the current Midwest Whitetail guys are mostly from this mold – credible so they are worth listening to and good teachers.

Others have been successful with personalities. Michael Waddell is a screaming example of that group. But for most, the personality driven attraction tends to be short lived before people have seen it and moved on. The best formula for success is to have both the interesting personality and the knowledge that gives you credibility and allows you to teach.  That is the goal to work toward. You have to know what you are doing in the field to create value for the viewer long term in this kind of media. Again, that is my opinion. It just takes time.

Go for it. Keep learning and improving both your filming and editing skills.  Watch a ton of tutorials online about how to improve both and as you get better you will see opportunities to use these skills to make money supporting marketing departments with media. Eventually, your own credibility as outdoorsmen will start to come through to the audience and then you can become what is now called an “influencer” and the industry will start to support you financially.  It is a long road, but you will never get there if you don’t start or if you give up when it gets tough. Good luck. (1/7/22)



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