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Joerg Sprave

‘‘ What really counts is the amount of views EVERY video will get, even if there is zero viral effect. ’’

By Joerg SpraveOctober 29, 2017

  • 2,748
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Hi Joerg, can you briefly describe your channel to new viewers?

My channel is all about inventions, destruction and stunts. Most of my inventions deal with home made launchers and weapons – slingshots, crossbows, bladed weapons, air guns, but no firearms.

Often I build crazy things that are pretty drastic, but have zero practical use.

I launch toilet brushes, vampire stakes, playing cards, even bowling balls, recording the destruction in HiSpeed. My content is always funny and upbeat, lots of things get destroyed – but I don’t shoot at living creatures, never.

Tell us how you came to make your first slingshot. What materials did you use? What was it about slingshots that sparked a lifelong hobby?

My dad taught me how to make a simple slingshot from a natural tree fork and discarded inner tubing when I was maybe 9 years old. I loved these things dearly, even sold them in school for a while until the headmaster found out about that little business of mine… But then, other things captivated my attention. Mopeds, girls, cars, then college education and finally my career as an executive manager in consumer electronics.

I came back to slingshots when I was over 40, found out about the much better rubber band material (gymnastics bands really) available today, while browsing an internet forum.

I tested it out. My home made slingshot that I made with the new latex (that cost less than $5) outperformed my $1000 compound bow. That was the spark, really!

Joerg, I heard you started your own company after university! Can you walk us through your professional background? When and why did you decide to start a YouTube channel?

I got my “Diplom” degree in biz admin (today you would call it a master’s degree) in ’89, when I was 23. Back then home computers really took off – those were the days of the Amiga computer. The thing was hugely successful, the first mainstream game console really, but it was delivered naked – very little RAM and no hard drive. This opened up a huge market for peripherals, and I happen to have a brother who is a technology genius. He is two years younger than me and was still finishing his degree (he is a physicist), but we decided to start a company developing, manufacturing and selling Amiga add ons.

AmigaComputer

It was a very bumpy ride at first and we gradually moved away from the Amiga, designed our very own computers, mostly dedicated to video editing – a big hype back then. In ‘97, one of our products (a stand alone editing system) hit the sweet spot and sold like crazy. We made a ton of money, planned an IPO, like everyone in the industry way back in the late ‘90ies.

But then the bubble burst, times were getting tough for small CE corporations and we had to sell the business to a publicly traded company in 2010. I stayed with that corporation, on and off, until 2016, in various positions. I was a VP of online marketing and sales when I decided to dedicate my time 100% to my YouTube channel. But I still do some consulting with them from time to time.

I started my channel in early 2009, basically to test how the output formats offered by our editing system worked for YouTube uploads. Don’t forget those were the days of format wars, with a million competing compression methods and storage devices. Most people still filmed on tape, and you can’t upload a tape onto YouTube… So, I needed test material for those experiments. See if the aspect ratio worked, if audio and video were properly in sync, such things. I had nothing, so I took my camcorder and filmed my latest hobby, slingshots. Put the videos up on the forum and was excited to see that they got 20 views in no time! So I kept uploading, and pooof! Had an audience. From then on I was hooked.

I’m curious… did your YouTube channel (of weaponizing everyday objects) have an impact on your professional life?

Yes. In fact I will probably never get a C level position again, simply because my huge footsteps on the web. In conservative Germany, C level executives have to have a completely clean background. So I kind of burned the bridges. In daily biz life, some people thought I am crazy and not trustworthy, making a clown of myself. Others thought I was the only person in the company who understands how the world ticks today, and some people even congratulated me on my success. But there was no way I could have been promoted, simply because people thought my heart was into slingshots and not into televisions and audio speakers. Which was/is the truth, in all fairness.

So now, after almost 30 years of going into an office every day, in suit and tie, I am a free man. I run my own one-man-show, can do what I want, and have (almost) no sorrows. I feel blessed and enjoy myself immensely.

This is truly the best time in my life. So far, anyway 🙂

Jorg-Sprave-LargeSlingShot

Your channel experienced viral growth in July 16 – picking up over 162K subs in one month. (Amazing!) What happened? Also, what is your approach to growing subs?

It is the viral videos that always boost subs and views, bringing new people to the channel. All of the spikes you see in that curve have been caused by such viral hits. I released my video “Katana Mythbusting Extreme” on June 22nd, 2016.

It was a huge viral hit and is my most successful video to date, with over 11 million views by now, almost 4% of my total views. This is what brought in all the new subs in July 16.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how to engineer viral videos, analyzing my own clips over and over. YouTube gives you great tools for that (analytics). I even released a video about my findings.

[Daniel: This video cover Joerg’s hypothesis on how to create a viral video – a must watch for all YouHackers]

As a conclusion – there are certain elements most viral videos share, but there is no guarantee. Random remains a huge factor if it comes to that.

But I do think the sub count is overrated. Older channels like mine have a lot of “passive” subs. Means, people clicked on the button at some point but don’t care for the videos really. They probably have hundreds of subs.

What really counts is the amount of views EVERY video will get, even if there is zero viral effect.

That is the bottom line, those are the followers that form the core of your channel.

I have maybe 150k of those, less than 10% of my total subscribers. I try to maximize that number instead of hunting for more “corpses”. How do I do that? By answering comments, messages and mails, by maintaining an active Facebook page, by reacting to fan suggestions, by showing up at YouTube events, by keeping my promises as good as I can.

But most of all: By doing a good job entertaining my fans, even though they have watched hundreds of my earlier videos. THAT is the real challenge.

Were you impacted by YouTube’s recent round of demonetization? If so, what impact did it have and how have you changed your approach to monetization?

In fact, I am very much affected. This is a major disruption in my life. My videos are mostly OK – seems like I am one of the few weapon related channels that made it to the “good” side of YouTube’s content analysis black box.

But 26 of my videos (mostly older videos that were getting virtually no additional views anyway) were demonetized. I appealed, but since those videos are so low in terms of new daily views, YouTube gives them last priority. So they still stand demonetized. That isn’t a problem – but it seems that channels with a certain amount of “less ad friendly” videos are being put on a blacklist for the recommendation engines.

You must understand that most of the views for my new releases come from my subscribers, and that still works great. But views for older videos are usually generated by the “recommended” system, attracting new people that watched other videos that are like mine. Not being recommended anymore means almost no new subscribers – and also no more viral videos. You can clearly see that in the subs curve. Subs going south ever since the new policies were introduced. That is the same for many weapon related channels.

I think YouTube needs to find a better balance between making their advertisers happy and still allowing unconventional content. Right now YouTube is much more strict than television. You can’t discuss war, can’t discuss weapons, can’t do rants – except if you are the CNN channel. Independent channels are now limited to goofy content, pretty much. All of my demonetized videos contain much more harmless things than the “Mythbusters” did every day on television.

I believe if YouTube keeps these guidelines, then they will open the door to their competitors. We will see a rise of independent video platforms that so far never took off. But that will take time, and I am happy that my cost is under control as my income has decreased and will decrease further.

I now do a lot more sponsored videos in order to compensate for the much reduced adsense income (down 70%). This works for me, but it does repel parts of the audience and I have to prepare for a shrink down of my channel. That is a first, in all the past nine years.

But I am a seasoned professional. Ups and downs are nothing new to me. I will take my channel through this crisis and still enjoy my life immensely.

After finding huge success with this channel, what has become more important to you and what has become less important?

Wow. That is a good question. My life has completely changed, really, nothing is the same anymore. I used to care what my bosses thought and said, watched the sales figures closely, stomped out PR fires in daily operations.

Now I spend a lot of time reading comments and messages, watching my views and answering emails. But I also clearly put more emphasis on my appearance, as I am now an entertainer running an outdoors channel, and feel I need to look like one. So I dropped 40 pounds, worked out like crazy and got a dental job done.

My old suits are now waaaayy to big for me, and I love that.

JoergSprave-Outfit

Let’s talk about a Zombie Apocalypse. Which one of your weapon(s) are you arming yourself with? What does your wife get?

I am an avid follower of Max Brooks, who wrote the amazing book “Zombie Survival Guide”. It is hilarious, but also well thought out. He believes gunshots are veritable dinner bells for the Undead. Makes sense to me.

JoergSprave-ZombieAttack

So, I’d arm myself with a powerful slingshot and lots of spare bands as it will never run out of ammo (pebbles work OK). I would also take my repeating crossbow as it is silent and accurate. My Zombie hammer is the perfect side arm. My wife would simply carry her rolling pin (a fearsome weapon!). She can run much faster than me, so I will have to deal with the brunt of any Zombie attack, I guess.

Seriously, I don’t REALLY believe in the Zombie apocalypse. But it is a fascinating scenario and I enjoy immersing myself into it. Plus it gives me ideas for my channel!

Your projects require an enormous amount of planning, investment and building. What makes it worth it? What happens to the weapons after the video?

I really enjoy making the weapons. I can lose myself completely during a build, forgetting time, skipping meals, even missing “The Walking Dead” reruns on TV 🙂

Pressing the trigger on a weapon that I invented, designed and built all by myself, for the first time, is the best moment really. Will it break? Will it shoot? How well?

So much tension, all those hours, focused on a tiny moment in time. Nothing beats that.

Presenting my inventions to a huge audience makes me more proud like you can possibly imagine.

But after that, I pretty much lose all interest in the things. They are on video anyway, and I throw them on what my wife calls “the pile”. I actually am not a weapons maniac, and I have no need to go armed. Nobody ever attacked me, after all. I don’t enjoy harming or killing any creature (except mosquitoes maybe) so I don’t hunt either. Therefore, on the pile they go.

Back in 2015, an art gallery actually took 70 of my weapons (basically the whole pile at that time) and displayed them in a mono exhibition, for two months. They see my stuff as art made by someone who does not consider himself an artist (me). That made me proud, but when they brought the stuff back I discarded most of the things, except a few of the best ones.

I don’t care for things. I care for people.

What’s the worst advice that you hear often?

A lot of people want me to discuss politics. You know, the immigrant situation here in Germany, Donald Trump, 9/11 and so on. Now of course I have a strong opinion on most of these issues, but it would be extremely stupid to discuss them on my channel. Some of my subscribers would agree with me, most would be indifferent, but some would totally disagree and leave my channel. So there is no benefit in that, but I would clearly lose subs. So if you want to know where I stand politically, you have to have some beers with me, then you’ll know.

What’s next for you (and The Slingshot Channel)?

Joerg-Sprave-YouHackers-Main

I will adapt to the situation with the new policies. I plan to open a new channel about rubber based crazy inventions that aren’t weapon related. I plan to start with a crazy full auto rubber based nutcracker for the season 🙂

On my main channel, I will go much more harmless too. But I will also open up an account on one of the uncensored platforms where I will go much more extreme than I ever did before. I will put teasers for these videos on my main YouTube channel, guiding people on to the uncensored version.

So hopefully the world will get to see many more rubber based inventions, destruction and fun for a very long time!

But I will also soon release my first mobile game, called “Slingshots vs. Zombies”. It is an action game that allows people to test out my best inventions against wave after wave of increasingly dangerous Undead, with lots of my signatory laughs and expressions. Beta test has started already (2000 testers) and people love it. I hope it will be a success, especially because the sole programmer, a 21 year old genius from Finland, deserves it much more than I do.

Gear Info

  • Filming

    Filming camera: Panasonic HC-X1000
    Filming lens: Stock

  • Sound

    N/A

  • Lighting

    N/A

  • Editing

    Laptop: Lenovo Horizon 27
    Editing software: Casablanca Bogart

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Connect with creator

Channel growth

16K

Subs/month

1.8M

Total subs

281M

Total views

0.7%

Sub rate

Time spent per video

30 hours

Planning

3 hours

Filming

3 hours

Editing

5 hours

Marketing

2 comments

  • James Noir

    Jorg – You belong on network TV. Is there something like Mythbusters in Germany? Or perhaps pitch your own pilot episode to Netflix.

  • Bryan3478

    It’s been a while since I heard “Amiga computer”. Interesting to hear your experience with the internet boom – must have been one crazy ride. I ended up watching many of your videos… And I sincerely hope Bill Gates answers your call 👍