📊 ClassNotes 015: It takes ~282 videos to reach 1M subs on YouTube

📊 ClassNotes 015: It takes ~282 videos to reach 1M subs on YouTube
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How long does it take to build an audience?

A few weeks ago, we answered that question by looking at successful newsletters.

This week, get ready to nerd out on some YouTube data to see exactly how many videos you need to publish to hit those coveted milestones.

horizontal bar chart showing youtube subscriber milestones
It took Marina an average of 282 videos to reach one million subscribers on each of her YouTube channels. Designed by Ilya

In 2020, a group of statistics went viral across Twitter, showcasing the volume of content needed (e.g., number of videos) to reach four subscriber milestones (see tweet below).

Even though this is not the earliest/original tweet with this information, it appears to be the one that pushed it viral.

Most people's initial reaction to these numbers wasn't positive. To even reach the lowest tier of 1,000 subs, the data said you'd have to publish a weekly video for 3 years… insanity.

Thankfully, there was more to the story, and a number of established creators calmed the chaos. They did this by opening their stats for public consumption to show what it really took to achieve growth on YouTube and beyond. 

One creator did a particularly great job at this: Marina Mogilko.

The Queen of YouTube

Marina was in a unique position because she was one of the few creators who had multiple active, growing channels — two of which had already passed the 1,000,000 subscriber mark.

Furthermore, all 3 channels were in different niches: lifestyle, language learning, and business education. Let’s touch on a few main points from the chart.

Her first channel, Marina Mogilko – a vlog, in Russian, about her life took the longest to reach the first 3 milestones. But even so, she reached them fairly quickly. It took her a little over a year to hit 10k subscribers with 39 published videos (less than 1 per week), and only one more year to reach 100k subscribers with 152 videos (she moved to published 2x per week).

Her second channel, Linguamarina, where she teaches English as a non-native speaker, found almost immediate traction. Within 6 months she’d hit the 10k mark with weekly videos, and 1 year later, she reached 100k with only 90 published videos (almost exactly 1 per week).

Her third channel, Silicon Valley Girl, leveraged not only everything she’d already learned about building channels but also her previous audiences. What followed was lightspeed growth. Within a month of weekly uploads, she reached 10k. And within 5 months, the 100k plaque was in hand.

Here is one of her most popular business-topic videos from the Silicon Valley Girl channel.

Even with such impressive growth, the million-subscriber mark still required immense effort. For the first and third channels, they required just under 4 years of consistent publishing. The second channel focusing on language required 2 ½ years.

How to grow your channel 2x faster

I could write an entirely separate issue on the takeaways from this data, but let's pair that down to only the most useful. 

Serve a big market.

At any given time, 1.5 billion (yes, with a "b") people are learning English around the world. Her channel, Linguamarina, just surpassed 8 million subscribers this past summer. It required the same amount of content and time as her other channels and yet has dwarfed their size by millions of subscribers and hundreds of millions of views. TLDR — play in bigger arenas.

Everything matters.

Marina closed her original post with this advice, “Learn how YouTube works, learn about SEO, thumbnails and titles.” It all matters, but you don’t have to master everything at once. Choose one element and make that better for the next 10 videos. Then another one for the next 10. And repeat until you’ve hit the goals you’re after.

Audience size is a byproduct of content volume.

I wrote about this all the way back in ClassNotes 002. The only shortcut to growth is publishing more. Even virality has its limits. A viral video or post is like lighter fluid. It works best if there's already a pile of content to set ablaze (i.e., lots of older content for new people to enjoy).

Prune dead branches.

This is a hard one, but you’ve got to know when a project is not worth pursuing. Give yourself a defined milestone and timeline (try 10k subscribers within 1 year with 52 videos) — and if it doesn’t reach it, move on to the next opportunity. As creators, we love our projects. They’re extensions of ourselves, of what we want to see in the world. But an idea that isn’t growing will only hold you back from one that will.

1. For committed YouTubers, it takes an average of 3-4 years to reach 1,000,000 subscribers.
2. Experiment with multiple concurrent projects to see which ones have the biggest growth potential.
3. A failed project does not make you a bad creator. Keep going and keep publishing. Growth comes to those stubborn enough to chase it.

In two weeks, you'll see exactly why some people manage to grow their niche audiences in record time while others struggle to gain any traction at all (hint: it has to do with "ecosystems").

— David

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