Panel Nerds: Why You Shouldn’t Post on YouTube


panelnerds-i-disagree-sir21Who: Alex Zalben (Elephant Larry), Sam Reich (College Humor), Lizz Winstead (The Daily Show), Jon Friedman (The Rejection Show), Nate Sloan (The Apiary), Carol Hartsell (Drink at Work), moderated by Alex Goldberg (ECNY Awards)

What: ECNY presents “Why ‘You’ Shouldn’t Post on YouTube” (part of the Friars Club Comedy Film Festival)

When: September 27, 2009

Where: The Friars Club

Thumbs: Up

With a panel titled “Why ‘You’ Shouldn’t Post on YouTube” hosted at the Friars Club, you can’t blame us for expecting a roast to break out. But there were no acerbic send ups of YouTube’s inadequacies, and the back and forth did not follow that route. Instead, the discussion became a rebuttal of the panel’s premise. Why shouldn’t you post on YouTube? We don’t know, because this panel argued — and agreed — that you definitely should be posting your videos on YouTube.

Sam Reich, representing College Humor (who, with 30 million views a month, has the 21st most subscribed channel on the site), led the pro-YouTube charge. Every panelist had some success either putting videos on YouTube or in spotting videos on YouTube to highlight as others’ successes. Why is that success so important for up-and-coming comedians? The panel agreed that if your goal is to get your name and your work out there, YouTube is a great venue. As Reich said, “Your YouTube presence is your business card.” Jon Friedman took it a step further, stating that part of being an entertainer today is about building your brand online and moving up the ladder.

There were a few things on which the panel agreed that YouTube was not the answer, though. The main weakness of posting video on YouTube is the lack of opportunity to monetize your work. Though College Humor made $500,000 on YouTube this past year, the $250 per quarter Alex Zalben is making is much closer to typical. The other group of people who may wish to avoid YouTube is people trying to create cinema or art house fair. YouTube is not the site for that, but sites such as Vimeo may eventually become that place, the panel said.

You can’t yet make money on YouTube but you sure can make “you” on YouTube. If the site is viewed as a place to build a presence, you should follow the advice of the panel, and not its title.

What They Said

“People try for five years to get Internet fame in order to get a job to actually do your art, when you could have spent those five years actually getting better at your art.”
– Carol Hartsell thinks you should do what you want to do and not what you think will be popular online

“MyDamnChannel used YouTube to push their brand. They posted on YouTube to bring their content to people, but they used YouTube to bring traffic back to their own site.”
– Nate Sloan explains the give and take relationship creators have with YouTube

“We went through the dot com bust, now I feel like we’ve been through the dot content bust. Sites built on the idea of networks creating content have failed.”
– Sam Reich, explains why you might be better off owning your own content and using it for promotion and not money

“I can not.”
Jon Friedman’s complete answer to “Can you make money on YouTube?”

“$1,000 per hit”
Alex Zalben’s answer to the same question

“If you are funny in 140 characters, I will follow anything you send me. Don’t discount that as part of your promotional tool.”
Lizz Winstead, who comedians should seemingly want their tweets to reach

“In the next three years, I think we’ll absolutely be seeing the half hour internet show.”
– Sam Reich, who will probably be the one directing it

“The Daily Show has a 24 million dollar budget and I am in my living room paying people with beer and ham.”
– Lizz Winstead doesn’t like when people complain about the quality of her online video

What We Thought

  • Jon Friedman has made a number of videos with Jenny Slate. He said that after she dropped an F-bomb on the season premiere of SNL, there was a huge spike in views for those video, proving once again that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
  • Everyone admitted to using their friends to comment on videos to get the snowball rolling.
  • On a rainy Sunday in New York, there was a sparse crowd for the panel. For those who missed it, we tried to cumulate a list of advice given on the panel for people looking to produce comic videos on YouTube:
  1. Respond to current news and cultural conversation (Lizz Winstead)
  2. Appeal to nerds (Sam Reich)
  3. Don’t get too down about negative comments (Everyone)
  4. Be careful with self editing. Have other people look at your work (Lizz Winstead)
  5. Keep it short. (Everyone)
  6. Consistently put up quality videos. When one hits, people will look at your back catalog. (Alex Zalben)
  7. Don’t always put yourself in videos. Show that you can write or produce for others. (Lizz Winstead)
  8. Make sure it’s actually funny (Alex Zalben) and focused on a single idea (Sam Reich)
  9. Hook the viewer in immediately, within 10 seconds (Jon Friedman)
  10. Make sure the sound is good. People have to be able to hear it (Carol Hartsell)
  11. Make sure your video is shot in focus. (Alex Zalben)
  12. It must have an appealing title, description and thumbnail (Sam Reich)
  13. Use Tumbemogul to upload your video to many outlets at once (Alex Zalben)

Panel Nerds Etan Bednarsh and Danny Groner are New York-based writers and avid panel-goers. Want them at your panel? Email them here:

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