In this episode, I talked to Samir Chaudry. Samir is the co-host of the popular YouTube channel, Colin and Samir. He and his business partner, Colin Rosenblum, have built a really interesting enterprise. It’s been fun getting to know them.
We talk about how they built and structure their entire business, and what drives revenue. Then we get into storytelling, and at the end we even talk about designing the perfect day, what’s driving growth on YouTube, and much more.
They’ve got a show, they’ve got a newsletter, a bunch of different stuff. It’s a fun story of two people who were shining in a specific niche, took what they learned from that experience, and are serving the broader community with their knowledge and wisdom.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How to avoid being overwhelmed as a creator
- How Samir & Colin developed a culture around their content
- Tips for curating your content
- The journey to over 500K subscribers on YouTube
Links & Resources
Samir Chaudry’s Links
- Follow Samir on Twitter
- Colin and Samir on YouTube
- The Colin and Samir Show on Apple Podcasts
- The Colin and Samir Show on Spotify
- The Publish Press newsletter
- Colin and Samir on Instagram
I give this advice all the time: if you’re lost or confused as a creative, the only way out is to create through it. That’s it.
That’s scary advice, but it is the truth. The one thing we never stopped doing—if you look back at the past five years on the channels—we never stopped uploading.
We just didn’t. We kept making content, even in the lowest of lows. That was the thing that we will do no matter what. We just kept creating.
In this episode, I talked to Samir, of Colin and Samir fame, from the YouTube channel. They have built a really interesting business, and it’s been fun to get to know them. They’re in the process of switching over their newsletter to Convert Kit.
In this episode, we talk about flywheels. We talk about how they built and structure their whole business, and what drives revenue (it’s mostly sponsorships). Then we get into storytelling, and at the end we even talk about designing their perfect day, what’s driving growth on YouTube, and so much more.
Quick little backstory before we dive in: Colin and Samir both played lacrosse in high school, and they actually ended up meeting through lacrosse videos they were both uploading online. Over time, they built a YouTube channel about lacrosse. They turned it into an online TV network about lacrosse that was acquired.
After that, they spent a couple years at the company that acquired them. Then they went out and decided to make new content specifically for creators.
They’ve got a show, they’ve got a newsletter, a bunch of different stuff. It’s just a fun story of two people who were really shining in a specific niche. From there, taking what they learned and serving the broader community with it.
So, I’ll get out of the way. I think you’ll enjoy the episode.
But before I do, go ahead and write a review. If you could write a review on Spotify, iTunes, or wherever you’re listening, I would appreciate that. Then maybe tell someone else about the podcast. Over the last handful of episodes, we’ve had a lot of growth, and that’s fun. It reminds me of that in addition to doing the show, I need to drive growth for it.
So, it’s good. It’s fun to see the numbers go up. Fun to hear more people tuning in and listening. So, with that, I’ll get out of the way. Enjoy this interview with Samir.
Samir, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me. I’m excited.
Alright. I was watching one of your interviews that you did with Lilly Singh. She talks about this moment where she’s over at another YouTuber’s house for the first time. He talks about how he’s like, “Yeah. I bought this house with YouTube money,” and it rocks her world, breaks the mold of what she thought was possible.
So I’m wondering, for you and Colin, or you in particular, was there a moment where you were that mind blown? Like, “Wait, I can actually do this. I can build a business?” Any of those kinds of things? Anything stand out for you?
Yeah. It’s a good question. I think what’s interesting is I can more remember the moment where I was like, whoa, this might be impossible. which is, you. know, back in 2000. 11. When I graduated college, I took to YouTube to start uploading videos about lacrosse, which is the sport I played. And, you know, had this, this big dream that we could create a modern day sports network about lacrosse.
And I had talked to some people who worked at YouTube cause I went to school in Northern California. And you know, what I kind of understood was you upload videos to YouTube and then YouTube pays you. And there’s people making millions of dollars on YouTube. again, this is 2011, so there was actually only a few stories like that, but I was pretty quick to believe that that that was possible.
And I remember uploading and uploading and getting into the partner program. And then the first time it showed estimated revenue and it was like 43 cents. And I remember the moment of taking a step back and being like, wow, This isn’t what I thought it was going to be. so I’d say like, I remember that inverse moment very well.
I think what was interesting was from then it was a gradual experience of, you know, finding our way to revenue and making it a career was very different from us than it was for other creators create are like Lilly Singh was pretty quick to having like a large appeal and to, reaching, you know, a mass audience.
We were in a niche audience, a very small niche audience that didn’t really have a culture of advertising or video advertising. And so the way we monetize that first was doing. Creative projects like building websites for people. And, you know, we even designed stickers for a lacrosse company. Like we were just doing any creative project and using our YouTube channel as lead gen.
It wasn’t until years and years later, when advertising revenue on the channel through sponsorships became a real factor.
Okay. So with the lacrosse YouTube channel, you’re saying it was lead gen for an agency basically. And not even like an official agency, like a, like a scrappy we’ll do anything for you kind of agency.
That’s exactly right. It was just like, you know, the only way people could understand it in 2011, especially in sports where sports media was, was saved for television, right? Like it was, that was TV. it was not what was happening on YouTube. And I think for us, it was just people looking at us being like these guys can make good videos. That was basically it. And then people would come to us And, say, oh, if you could make videos, we assume you could take photos. And we assume you could do graphic design. And, you know, that’s, that’s exactly right. It was, it was just a top of funnel for people to understand our creative talents. And for us, we just needed to keep the lights on so we could keep uploading YouTube videos.
What would the point when it actually worked to start getting that sponsorships? Was there a certain number of viewers or was it more like a certain level of business acumen on your part or connections?
Yeah. I think there was a certain level of, you know, business acumen that had to come from us, understanding how the media business worked, and also developing like a menu of products that people could buy and understanding what the market wanted to buy from us. Sponsorships was just not one of those things for a long time, until, you know, there was a level of audience, a level of brand and, Th the, the hot word, I think in our space, but like, to be honest, it was community.
I think once people started to recognize that there was a regular set of people watching, who were willing to do what, you know, when we said, Hey, let’s all do this thing. Then they would all do that thing. And recognizing that we were becoming community leaders in our niche community, I think is when people started to take notice and brands took us seriously because we, we knocked on the doors of a lot of brands, including Nike, including under Armour, you know, walking into their office, saying, we are the hub for this.
You guys have invested in lacrosse, you have lacrosse equipment. We have that audience. And I don’t think anyone took it seriously until we started doing certain community initiatives where we would, you know, say, Hey, we’re all going to post about this on this day. And then all of a sudden, you’d see every lacrosse player, you know, posting, a certain picture or a certain campaign on one day on Instagram or on Twitter.
And like, I think that’s when it becomes very loud in a small community when everyone is doing the same thing and there’s one singular, you know, leader of the pack.
Okay, so break that down. Cause I think a lot of people take the advice of like being the big fish in a small pond, you know, choosing your niche, but you’re talking about a specific strategy to be a lot more vocal in that space. So what were you doing to like get people to rally behind that one thing in and demonstrate that you were the leader there?
I think what we recognized was it in any community, you, you want to feel less alone, right? Like you want to feel that there’s people like you. And I felt that as being a member of the lacrosse community, there was not very many people here in Los Angeles who wanted to talk about lacrosse, who wanted to.
You know, share ideas about lacrosse, who wanted to get excited about something that happened in lacrosse. So the internet is really what opened up that door and created a situation where we could have that collective conversation. Now, I think what a lot of people need in a community is guidance on what to talk about or how to talk about it.
And so we really, I would say it’s like kind of when Instagram launched, we used to do it on YouTube, but we would just issue, you know, ideas about what to post about, or actually do call outs. Like when it started snowing, we just asked people to send us photos of them playing lacrosse in the snow and.
You know, all of a sudden people were sending us pictures. So you started to realize that constraints are super helpful for communities to increase internet interactions. And engagement is just saying, Hey, on this week, we’re all talking about this. Or we’re all posting photos about this. Now you can actually go around and whether it’s through a hashtag or just, you know, through being a part of that community in the comments of a YouTube video, start to engage with others who are like you.
And I think today, you know, 10 years, 11 years later, we’re seeing that happen on discord. We’re seeing it happen through Reddit communities. We’re seeing it happen in all different facets of, of the internet. But you know, at that early stage, I think that’s what we recognized was we went quickly from thinking, oh, we’re a television network on the internet to, we are actually community leaders and tribal leaders, that are programming conversation, interaction, engagement, for this, this group of.
That’s super interesting. I’m getting people to take the same action and demonstrate like, Hey, I’m a part of this community, or even just, this is what we’re talking about this week. Is there an example of how you do that with. Yeah, the Colin Samir show. Now that we’re doing that same concept.
Yeah, I think, you know, for us, we like to think about everything we do with, with the colonist spear channel. Like we’re, we’re curating, you know, what’s happening in the creator world. Cause there’s a lot, there’s an abundance of information, which means there’s a scarcity of attention. And so for us, we are, you know, zoning in on what you should be attentive to.
And then more importantly, why that matters to people like. And this concept of people like us is always been an important part of our career from the beginning, you know, in lacrosse, it was, Hey, you are people like us. We are people like us. you know, this is a collective group of people who all share the same identity and same, things that we’re excited about in the creator world.
I think there was a void of, of, of a voice of what is the thing we should all care about right now. And how can we talk about this and, and, and share, excitement around it. And so through our, our weekly show on Monday, you know, we pick a topic that we feel is, you know, the biggest topic of the week in our opinion.
We’ll talk about it, we’ll break it down and we’ll, we’ll talk about why it matters and we’ll, we’ll see, you know, conversation in the comments of the YouTube video. We’ll see conversation in our DMS, we’ll see conversation in, on Twitter and. You know, for us, of course, that’s not like we are not the single source in our space of what people are talking about, but we want to be the space where people can come and say, I heard a lot about that thing.
Why does it matter to people like us, to people like me and coming to Collin and smear to understand a perspective on why it matters? So we do that through our weekly show. Every Monday, we also do it through the newsletter, which is a, the published press. It comes out every Tuesday and Friday. And that allows us to go a little bit deeper with three stories in each send.
And what we see a lot of there is in the replies of that newsletter is people wanting to engage and, reply back to our perspective with their perspective or in agreeance or something else, or some other news that they find important and want to hear our perspective on. And so I think today, it’s, it’s very similar where it’s, we are all a part of this one community.
We all are creators. We care about what’s happening in the world of creators. We care about these new roadmaps that are being developed this career. You know, making money off of your own creativity off the thing that you’re passionate about, but with all of this information coming out on an hourly basis, like what should we all be talking about?
What are the, what are the highlight moments that actually are defining this space?
So I think curation is incredibly important. in a lot of these communities where I know I’m a part of the community, but I need help understanding what matters. and I need help understanding why it matters. And then that gives me a basis to have a conversation with someone else in my community where I can have common ground with them because we both consume the same thing. We both heard the same topic. it was reinforced to me that that topic matters and now I can go and, and, you know, pass it along to someone else in my.
Yeah. And I can see that, that really shift from commenting on the conversation, helping people understand the conversation too, at some point down the road, driving the conversation where this thing might be happening in a very small area, knowing, noticing it And then you’re saying, no, no, no, this. is what you should pay attention to.
And that becomes the broader conversation in the creator community.
They’re also say that in both instances, this was not a neither business or channel or content was this incredibly well thought out content strategy in advance of. Hey, we’re going to do it like this. We want, it was both times around. It was Colin and I, you know, growing up as lacrosse players, feeling like there was a void of a community where we could plug into it was something we wanted.
We were creating something for our younger selves and for our present selves, that we wanted to exist second time around with Colin and smear. It’s the exact same thing. Like when we started on YouTube in 2011, as I mentioned, I didn’t have that much information about how it worked. I didn’t know what community I was a part of.
I felt very isolated, felt like I was on an island trying to do this as a career. And I wanted a hub where I could turn to hear stories about how other people were doing it, get inspired. you know, I love shows like how I built this. I loved hearing about entrepreneurs, but I felt like they weren’t covering the entrepreneurs that I was connecting with.
People who are doing it through their own content or creativity. So, you know, over time it was just, it was not a. Let’s launch this channel about creators. It was a four year process to find our content and find our voice through just repetition of making, making, making, and making what we wanted to exist and what was interesting to us.
And, I think that’s really important that, you actually, you actually do want to make what you’re making and you care about what you’re making and you would make it because for four years, we did make it with like the colon and smear channel. We uploaded two for four years without making money from it.
And we really care about these stories. We found a format that works. We are speaking to the community that we were always speaking to. It’s just bigger now. and we’ve been able to brand it in a way and package it in a way that it’s becoming a business. but this is just something we wanted to exist.
We are a part of this community. We felt like this show that we’re making, we wanted to exist. I think that’s a really important part of creating for a community is that you’re a part of that community and you deeply
Why it needs to exist.
Yeah. Okay. There’s a lot that I want to dig into there. I want to, for people who don’t know your story, I, when I go through the lacrosse side a little bit, before we dive in, kind of give that backstory. So you scaled the lacrosse channel and that whole network, until you exited, what, what kind of that, like maybe the time period at first revenue through to, you know, actually selling the channel, what did that look like?
Yeah. So, you know, again, for first revenue in was just like creative projects. I think it was building a website for a pro lacrosse player. I think that was it. and I think they paid us a thousand dollars to do that. And I remember there was three of us involved. Colin was one of them and Julian was our other, partner in that.
And I remember all of us being like, how crazy is it that someone’s willing to pass a thousand bucks to design their website? and so I think, you know, that that was the early stages I don’t know if I still have access to them, but I remember putting together a pitch deck for a brand showing them that we had 300 subscribers. And I remember being really excited about that and, and pitching to them saying that, although we have 300 subscribers, I know that all 300 of them are your customers. because all we talk about is lacrosse. So like it’s, it’s nearly impossible for them not to be interested in your product. Right? Yeah.
So it’s, I just remember knowing that very well with our pitches that. You know, if you got a million sports fans together, it’s still not as powerful as our thousand lacrosse fans for you specifically. And that story was, was very powerful. Our first, like advertising agreements were more like custom content because there was no real culture around like integrations at the time.
It was more, you come produce this thing and then you put it out on your own YouTube channel. And so it was very like custom. We would fly all over to, to produce something and then distributed on the channel. And, you know, these deals looked like a thousand bucks here, 2000 bucks there. So not, not enough for all of us to, to get paid and make money, but where we did find revenue was in those like creative projects that we would do freelance, freelance gigs that were in and out of lacrosse, just creative work that we could find.
Now what was happening though, was the community was building. as the audience started building, I think, you know, what was really helpful for us was we had a very tight connection with the platform with YouTube, YouTube, was very supportive of what we were doing. They were really interested in sports and they had a, a deep desire to become a home for sports.
And one of their desires was being a home for live sports. And so we all got together and figured out how to live stream on the channel. And YouTube helped us with that. And one of the first things we did was go out and acquire live rights. And we went from, you know, uploading content that we’re like vlogs and highlights and news and analysis to becoming the largest distributor of live sports on YouTube.
And that really helped build the community because we were offering free live lacrosse and there was a scarcity of that, you know, it was not on ESPN. It was not on any of the major networks. So we became the home from high school all the way up to professional lacrosse. We were distributing on our channel and you could watch the games live.
And that was one of the biggest growth drivers, because it’s almost like these moments for the community to come together like appointment viewing allows for the community to actually all come together at one point in time. And so there was a bit of a snowball effect in those first two years of we knew we wanted to upload a piece of content every single day.
Sometimes it was a live game. Sometimes it was Colin and I hopping on and talking about what we thought about in the world of lacrosse. Sometimes it was, you know, a highlight package. Sometimes it was a 15 second clip. Like it was all types of content. We just knew we needed the doors to open every day.
So, so the community could come in and talk. and so as the community started growing, I think there was, there was very tangible feel to it. I think YouTube knew it And YouTube was helping us tell that story quite a bit. They were connecting us. we were talking to people from UFC, from NBA, from other sports leagues because YouTube wanted us to tell the story of how to build a sports network on the platform. and that was really helpful for us. And, got us enough exposure to, you know, eventually a company called whistle sports, picked up the phone and called us and said, You know, Hey, what you guys are doing in lacrosse. Like we believe the future of sports is going to be on social. And we like what you’re doing for lacrosse.
We want to replicate that across all verticals. And you guys have a two and a half year headstart, figuring all of this out. So we want to buy your network. and we want to bring your team on to help us do the same. And I would say to be honest, that was the, you know, it was, it was unbelievable from a validation standpoint because we, we were like, there was really hard times in those two years of understanding if we were wasting her time or not.
The thing that kept us going was the audience and the audience’s excitement in what we were doing and providing a value to this community. but it was hard because there was not much validation outside of that. And this moment was like incredibly validating and something that, where we realized we were doing something of value in that, there was a model here that could work and.
You know, selling the channel and selling the business and enjoining the company for us. Of course, it was like an awesome moment of, success and accomplishment. But more importantly, it was an entrance to the Colin. And I always called this, our MBA where we, we walked in and we learned how the business worked.
This was a company that had raised a lot of money, had a lot of high stakes. We were employees, 17, 18, and 19, and we had to make this work. And so now we went from being excited about growing an audience, finding odd jobs, to make money, to being in a situation where we didn’t have to do odd jobs anymore.
We could focus a hundred percent on the channel. We were surrounded by people who had experience in media who knew how to sell. We had a legal team, we had a creative partnerships team, and we got to sit in a room and in a, in a more relaxed manner. understand how the business worked and then apply that to what we were doing in lacrosse and then develop a model that could be replicated.
You know, from a decision-making standpoint on the acquisition, it was either that, or keep doing odd jobs and uploading, it was a pretty simple choice because I knew that, you know, doing this would introduce us to the world of how this actually works, not how it worked in our scrappy startup way, but how this business actually works.
Are you able to share any of the numbers or details from the acquisition or like what view counts were at the time or anything like that?
Yeah. I think the channel, honestly, I think the channel had like 80,000 subscribers at the time. I think our viewership was no more than, you know, it was, it was, depending on, on the content. I think we were probably doing like 20, 30,000 views of it. At the time, outside of that, I can’t share the number on the acquisition. but I will say like, we all were like probably the best part of it was that we all got salaried. And like, there was this like deep breath out of like, oh my God, we were making money doing this. you know, the acquisition from like a buying the channel. I don’t think anyone knew how to price, something like that.
And I think that was both, you know, in our favor and, and, you know, also parts of it were, were disadvantageous that it was so new and fresh, but overall it was
What year was that?
That was 2014.
Okay. Yeah, that’s still very early.
So fresh. Yeah. It was a net positive because of the fact that we got, you know, high level jobs doing what we wanted to do and that we were able to have like a liquidity event that, that made the past couple of years, like make sense.
What was the, like for you, one of the biggest or a couple of the biggest takeaways from your time at whistle sports, right? You got to see inside how a bigger company works. You said it was your MBA. What, what were some of those takeaways where you’re like, oh, I don’t think I would’ve learned that, you know, outside of I have this opportunity.
I think, I learned a lot about sales. That was one of the most important things. I was very close with the chief revenue officer there, who, you know, now is at, at Barstool and, and, I was very close with the CEO and the president and, understanding in depth how to sell a media property was probably one of the biggest things I learned, because that informs everything that informs content that informs your formats.
It informs how you, you know, how you develop your, your, your platform. and you know, one of the first things we did. Once I started to understand that, you know, one of the most helpful things was that the company was also representing dude. Perfect. Which was one of the biggest sports channels on YouTube and still is today. and they had a very defined format, right? They had this trick shots format that. just was, so unbelievably replicable. and every company picked up the phone and said, we want to trick shot video with dude. Perfect. And it was something that I started to understand from a format development perspective that although, you know, social media is very new and people are consuming it very differently.
There’s still roots from television, from what we’re all used to that. Are required to make this a real business. And one of those was, was, you know, developing a format, developing a process around that format where you could replicate it developing, you know, rituals and the audience, as I mentioned, the lacrosse network was we were uploading every day, but every day it was a different type of video.
We stopped doing that, right. We took a step back and said, how do we develop a show? And so similar to what we’re doing today, we had a show that uploaded every Monday that broke down the most important news in lacrosse and our perspective on it. And. When we did that, all of a sudden that show built a culture around it built a community around it.
It was called the weekly watch. And so what we do is we would pull together all the biggest clips in lacrosse and put them out every Monday and Colin, and I would talk about the headlines and then clips from our community. That again, to call back to what we were doing earlier on that show, we would call out what type of clips we wanted for the next episode for you to be featured.
So all of a sudden everything we were doing got packaged into one format that that made sense that was sponsorable. You could have the weekly watch presented by Nike, which was a thing that happened. You could have, this segment be presented by a company you could have. we were able to then.
Back into a very clear cut story of what we were selling. What was the product, what were the metrics around that product? What did the inventory look like? and for things that, for like creative, which is so intangible, you have to make it tangible. You have to make it a purchasable product. And I’d say that was the first lesson in whistle. and it’s interesting because the business, informed our format, which then made our creative better, which then made our whole experience as creators better. Cause we developed consistency, a process around it. We were able to, after every Monday upload say, how can we make next week’s better? How can we make it better?
How can we make it better? How can we make it better? And then, you know, what we would continue to do is develop new formats that would upload on the channel. so rather than uploading random videos, we were developing series and formats that, that had a brand, them had a culture to them, how to ritual to them, and the audience could latch onto the network.
And that’s when we started to see much bigger.
Yeah, I’m just noticing it go from all of these random clips or like, whatever, whatever we can find to upload today, because we need to upload every day, to the whole channel, having a flywheel, the whole business, having a flywheel of your actually your community engagement is feeding. You know, the weekly show is being advertisers and on from there.
And you’re like, okay, I understand how this whole thing works in concert rather.
Being a sporadic set of things.
I’d also say the second lesson that I learned, around this is as creators. It’s very confusing. What your, what your job is, especially in the beginning, like your job is to create your job is also to sell your job is also to distribute. Job is also to be the content strategist. Your job is to do all the things, and understanding what jobs we still we needed to do as creators and what jobs other people could do in developing that trust. I think allowed us to understand, you know, what does it mean to scale. and that was a really important lesson because when we stepped out, we knew what we, what we were building towards. We knew the, org chart of what we wanted to build. So the way we looked at it, you know, when we were, when we were first starting, I was the CEO, I was the head of sales. I was, I was all the above. I was legal counsel. I was everything. you know, at at that level. And then I had, you know, amazing, partners in, in Collin and Julian to help me with the creative and I was also the host. I was the talent. I was, it, it was all the above. Right. And so when I think we started to realize when we went into whistle, was that being a creator?
You weren’t necessarily, you didn’t need to be like at the top of your organization, you actually could be more in the middle and you needed to be on the content strategy side. you had to be on. obviously on the creative side, you had to like deeply understand the audience and, and, and care, about the content you were making.
And you had to spend all your time doing that. And you could build, you know, an operations person. You could, build out to a revenue person. You could, and those could be separate agencies that can be in-house people, but, you know, operations and revenue, I think were two things that we learned. We w if we didn’t do, we could make better content, we could invest more in the format.
We can invest more in the connection with the audience. and so I think you start to learn, at least we did in that time, what we needed to do and what we could. Have other people help us with,
Yeah. I like that because you’ve built a lot of structure, you know, not in, a full business around, you know, not just the channel, but the newsletter and everything else. So let’s dive into that. What did it look like to move on from whistle sports and go independent again?
You know, there’s this really interesting, experience that Collin and I both had where we were loving this new found freedom of being creators of, you know, being less involved on, on the business side. you know, still involved. We were still in every pitch. We were still in you know, a lot of it, but we had so much support that we loved this feeling of being creators and.
I think, you know, being, being 21 and starting that business and selling it at, at 23 And 24. And now, you know, at this, at this time being 27 years old and what I had the only thing I had done in my career, or, sorry, I think it was 26, whatever, it doesn’t matter. But, the only thing I had done in my career was make, make the lacrosse network and work in sports media. I think there’s like a natural developmental stage in your twenties where you need to experiment and explore that I was as, you know, being, being in any startup, like you are laser focused, it’s a blinders on, you’re doing one thing. You need to do it extremely well. You need to find what works. And then, you know, replicated scale that one night calling and I had dinner and we were just like, what if we were just creators that could make content about. and this was largely inspired by a movement in YouTube of people blogging specifically Casey Neistat, vlogging talking about his life and you know, talking about just anything he wanted to do in this kind of like flexibility and freedom he had, that was very attractive and appealing to us. And I think there was a, there’s a few moments in your career as an entrepreneur where you’re lucky enough to have a level of naivete. and there was two moments for me. One was coming out of college thinking I could build a sports network myself. and two was this exact moment thinking that I should just rip the cord, leave the company and start over from scratch. with the confidence that within, you know, a month I would just build back up to the same, you know, revenue level.
We would build a brand and it would, everything would be fine. and we just decided we were going to leave. And I remember when we told, you know, the, the, the company and, you know, people started to learn at this point, I think there was around a hundred people in the company and the speculation was that Colin and I had raised money to go do like, a sports agency, and take some of the clients and, and, you know, do something.
And I remember hearing that, I was like, wow, that, is so not what we’re doing. Like, we are literally going to, leave And, then just explore our creativity. And, you know, everyone around us was like, it’s a pretty bad idea. Like my, I remember my dad being like, why would you do that? Why don’t you just talk to the people at whistle about whenever you feel like you’re not doing, just try and do that because things were going really well. Like nothing was going, nothing was going bad. It was just Like, I would say 98%. what I wanted to do, I was getting, you know, paid very well to, to create YouTube content and to develop, you know, formats and work with creators and work with brands. I just had to explore. I had to, I didn’t have a choice. I knew if I didn’t do it, then, then, then I didn’t know when I would do it.
And so Colin and I just left and I remember that first week there was like day four out of the company, Colin picked up the phone and called me and he was sitting on the beach and, he was like, Hey man, what did we just do? Like, what are we doing? I was like, I don’t know. I don’t know. I am not positive.
Like I have no idea what we’re doing and we just decided to make that was it. All we knew was we, we wanted to make and we got together and we created a channel called the Collins. And we were like, we’re just going to explore. We’re just gonna make here. And we just committed to uploading one video a week.
And I think we were hit with a rude awakening at that moment where, you know, we had a show that about a hundred thousand people were watching every week. We had blooded our first video and a thousand people watched it and we thought the audience would carry over. Not really thinking like, oh yeah, that’s the lacrosse community.
They want to hear us talk about lacrosse. They don’t want to see our art films. And we started uploading these like very artsy video essays about Los Angeles and our ideas about life. And, you know, just anything that was happening in our head, we were making content about and thousand people were watching.
And, that was a very, very. Scary time. it was both creatively liberating where we were so excited about the work we were putting out were pouring hours and hours into the work. And then recognizing we had, we did not have a community. We did not have any path to building a business. It was not going to be a seamless, Hey, we were doing this thing over here and now we’re doing it over here.
And it’s the same business. it was not that at all. And yeah, that that’d be gone. I would say some of the most challenging years of my career.
Yeah. I mean, people can, can dive in on the channel more and see like exactly that path of, of building up. Wasn’t that I’m curious about right now is what the flywheel looks like for you today in the business, you talked about the, you know, the Monday show the the weekly newsletter, but then we could break down sort of the content flywheel and then the revenue flywheel, as those come together. and so to make it a three-part question, cause those are the worst and we might as well just keep going. but like a little bit about the team as well. Cause you’ve got, you’ve built a whole team around this.
Yeah. So you, you, you know, you fast forward five years and somehow we figured it out. the only way I give this advice all the time, if you’re lost or confused as a creative, the only way out is to create through it, that’s it? I think that’s, that’s, you know, scary advice, but it is the truth. Like we, the one thing we never stopped doing, if you look back at the past five years on the channels, we just never stopped uploading.
We just didn’t, we just kept making, even in the lowest of lows, like that was the thing that we will do no matter what. And we just kept creating, today how the flywheel looks, you know, One thing that we found to be really important is that w you know, in representing a community, or creating content for our community, we paint everything through the lens of our perspective and our experience over the past 10 years of uploading content to YouTube and being creators.
But we want to have a diverse set of voices. So I’d say, you know, one of the most important things we did, around where the show is today is develop a writer’s room. And that happens on slack. It’s about 15 different people from the creator space, from different facets of it, creators themselves, people work, you know, with creators, people are just enthusiasts and and love mining. you know, what’s happening on, in our space, where every day constantly stuff’s being shared in there and, and perspectives are being shared. And that I think was. One of the most important things we did where it used to just be in a vacuum of, of, or not a vacuum, but just in a small space of just calling and I going back and forth, talking about what we, what we cared about in the creator space, and then we’d make a video about it.
But expanding that to include more voices. And I think our ultimate goal is actually to include more and more and more allows us to have this diverse content diet, where we are consuming stuff from our community, from all different, different places. From there, we kind of look at it as like a top of the content funnel where we can then decide where those pieces go.
Right? So like here’s, the stories we find. Interesting. And then we meet as a creative team here in LA in person and talk about and brainstorm which one would make a good YouTube long form episode. What would make a good YouTube short? What would make a good tweet? What would make a good newsletter article?
And this all gets painted through the lens of our value prop, which is to educate and empower the next generation of creators. And I think that’s a really important piece is that all the stuff at the top of the funnel has to pass through these different pieces. And I’ll give you those there’s four specific pieces that it has to pass through.
Number one, it has to be relevant to our audience. So first thing is everyone on the team has to deeply understand who the audience is. We define it as aspiring creators career creators. People in the creator industry. And then we have a fourth bucket, which is, non-believers just kind of like tomorrow’s supporters, people who maybe have no reason to believe in the creator economy yet, but you know, through our content, they will convert.
So we understand everything through those lens. Is this piece of content relevant to that audience? You know? Yes or no. That’s our first checkpoint. Our next one is, does it deliver on the value prop? Is it educational? Can you actually learn something about how to be a creator? Can you learn something about how to work with creators?
Can you learn something here? that’s a really important piece. You know, we always say what’s the creator takeaway. What’s the takeaway for the industry? How does the, you know, what is the actionable takeaway from this story? If there isn’t one, then it’s, it doesn’t really fit into our content.
The next one, which I think is incredibly important, it’s something I talked about in our first business. Well, is process, does this fit into our process? Does it fit into one of our formats and how can it very easily fit into either our writing schedule or our video schedule or our podcast schedule?
Like if it doesn’t fit into that, you know, it’s a great idea, but it just might not work for us.
Is there an example of something that you like made it fit the audience may pass it, their filters, and then just didn’t fit in the process. You’re like, we want to do this, but it doesn’t fit the process. And so we’re moving on.
Yeah, a lot of times that’s interviews, you know, like a lot of times we want to interview, someone, you know, luckily what’s interesting is early on a lot of those didn’t work, create our interviews, create our interviews are fantastic. we love hearing perspectives from creators. A lot of times it’s really challenging because we want to do them in person. you know, we can do them over, over zoom or over Riverside, but one of the challenges is that an interview, the way we cut it is. Very straining on our team. Cause we, we like really, really invest in the storytelling of an interview where we might record for three hours, but we’re only putting out 35 minutes.
And so it’s actually way harder than doing an episode where it’s just calling and I, and who can control the story. you can’t really control the story as well in an interview. And then additionally, like, you know, the reality of YouTube is it’s all based on click-through rate, right? Are people going to click on this?
Are they going to, is the audience going to find this interesting and at scale, a lot of how our business works is, is viewership on YouTube. So the type of creator we can interview, who’s going to be support supportive of, of click through rate and something that at scale, a lot of people want to watch.
There’s a limited, grouping of, of creators that that’s going to fit. It’s going to hit all those buckets that said, as we developed, you know, the, the newsletter, the published press. We are now including a lot of creator interviews there. And now we’re starting to explore, like, what does an audio show look like?
That’s creator interviews. Cause we think it’s important, but it doesn’t right now fit into our video process. We were able to get it fit into our written process. and so that’s an example where there’s a creator who reaches out has an amazing story. We want to cover it. It doesn’t work for the show, but it works for the press.
You know, or it doesn’t work for the show, but it works for a YouTube short. So it does have to funnel through this process, to make sure that we can produce a best in class show. Every Monday. the last, piece is monetization. So you start at the top audience value prop process monetization, from a monetization standpoint, we, you know, we’re in the media business.
We have to make sure that this story fits into one of our processes that is also connected to our monetary. So, you know, does this fit into the published press? Great. You know, that’s a monetized platform, the YouTube channel, great. That’s a monetized platform. you know, we have to evaluate stuff based on that as well,
Yeah. I liked that process because as a creator, you can get pulled around to so many different things, right. You could make literally anything on a Monday morning and you’re like, what, what are we going to do? It could be, it could be anything. And so having that to keep you narrowed in refined, there’s a lot of things that I write about that or that
I want to write about that aren’t a fit because I follow a similar process.
And so then I like just put them on the ideas or the not now bored. And then you can evaluate that like every six months and go, oh, Is this going in a direction to where this would be more interesting because I’ve written down eight of these things that require a different format,
A different audience, but it’s, you’re not like deviating from your plan every week in a small way.
I think it’s one of the challenges of being a creator is, you know, we talk about this where, you know, creators start out with something they want to express, like for us on this channel, we want it to express the experience of being a creator. so a lot of what we told in the beginning was our story about being a creator.
Then we started telling other creators stories and, over time, what ends up happening as you build a business around it is you go from being, you know, an artist with the desire to express, and you start sliding over the scale over to being a distributor. So a distributor is like someone at Netflix or, or out of a movie studio, who’s making decision on what to make based on, you know, the audience.
That’s why we see Spider-Man then next Spiderman than Spider-Man than Spider-Man because people are gonna buy tickets to go see Spider-Man. and so we also have to make decisions like that, right? As a creator you’re right in the middle of being an artist and being a distributor, probably with shading more towards a distributor, because you’re thinking in terms of, you know, what is the audience want to watch?
And you actually have to play a dance between the three things that for us define your content market fit. It’s what does the audience want to watch? What does the platform want? And then what do you want to make? And if all three of those boxes are checked, you’re, you know, you can really find a fit and a format that works.
But two thirds of those boxes are, you know, what the audience wants and what the platform wants. And, you know, I think that’s where as you start to develop a process around it, it can get really challenging. but you have to also want to make it. That’s the one third part of that 33%. And if that’s not there, it’s not going to work. but you have to think like a distributor
To make this work.
Is there a time that, there’s things you really wanted to make? that just don’t fit where you’re like, you know, as a creator, I want to do this and as a distributor, it doesn’t make sense.
All the time, all the time. but there’s ways where you can start to think about how to distribute that, right? Like there’s a lot of behind the scenes content that’s happening in our office that I find to be really interesting. I’ve always wanted to kind of log it and give a little bit of that.
Like startup feel where you’re getting a peak, you know, into our world, our process, how everything works right now, that would, if we added more content, it would strain our current team. we don’t really have a distribution outlet because on the Collin and Samir channel, people are expecting the Collin and Samir show every Monday, they’re not expecting blogs. but you start to think, you know, if we can develop a process around that, I think he maybe could go on a secondary channel or maybe that could go in our Patriot or subscription. Right. Maybe it could go, in the published press more, which is actually something we’re doing. We have a segment called under the hood in our newsletter where we talk about things that are working and not working in our own creator journey.
So that’s an example of, again, something that like, I have a desire to tell a story, it has to go through this process of understanding, like is irrelevant to the audience to have a value prop, which process does it fit into? Is it on one of our monetized platforms?
Yep. So on monetization, what’s the breakdown between the different, like, what are the main monetization channels that you have now? And what’s the revenue split between them?
The lion’s share comes from sponsorship. If not a hundred percent, comes from, comes from advertising and sponsorships, those are split across different formats. but we are, we are a partnerships business. we have sold merch, we’ve sold an NFT, we’ve sold a storytelling course. but our business runs on partnerships and I think what’s important is like anyone who’s in the media business, that’s still the primary business model is partnerships.
And so, you know, for us like partnerships on the Collin and Samir show to be specific, I would say make up 95% of our work. so that, that tangibly looks like every Monday. When you watch an episode of the show, you will see an advertiser. You’ll see a link in our description, you’ll have a call to action.
And we like to focus on very relevant advertisers. All of our advertisers, buy, you know, packages across multiple episodes. we like to have fewer advertisers that buy for longer periods of time so that we can tell more stories with them. We can develop them as characters in our universe, and we like to curate those advertisers in the same way.
We curate our stories, which are what matters to this community and why does it matter? And so if you look at our advertisers, they’re, they’re all, relevant to creators and how to turn your career, as a creator on right. How to flip it on how to turn it into a career. that’s all of our advertisers.
So the lion’s share 95% of our revenue comes from brand sponsorships. our YouTube ad sense is like pretty. The pretty like minimal piece of that pie, but it’s becoming more significant as our viewership is increasing, but we’ve never connected any part of our business to platform revenue. I just don’t believe in it.
I think it’s too variable. There’s too many things that are out of our control. So, you know, we, we put out a tweet, I think last year or no, I know last year, YouTube, from the platform we made $107,000 on 107 million views on the platform. And so, you know, that is now getting more significant. I think the majority of that revenue came in Q4 as our channel started to experience exponential growth as the ad budgets are more significant in Q4.
But you know, we don’t connect any part of our business to,
You’re not saying now that I have this ad, since revenue, I’m going to
Like I’m going to use this to cover this person salary and all that. Cause it’s just not predictable enough.
It’s just not predictable. So we don’t, we, we like to think of things like monthly recurring revenue and monthly recurring expenses. And, you know, we’re spending like I can be, I can tell you just flat out. Like we, we, we spend probably like around 60 to $65,000 a month just to operate the business. And so, you know, we, it, it gets pretty significant.
We have 10 people that work with us right now. we have a growing now office space that we need to house those people. And, we have equipment, we have traveled to different creators places. We just, we have a lot going on. And, you know, we have to, we have to look at our, our revenue and our, partnerships in ways that, that are supportive of that.
Yeah, I’m always interested in the, in the team creative approach. There’s a lot of solo creators out there and you’ve gotten heavy on the team side and I think it will result in a lot less money in the short term and a much more substantial business and a lot more money in the longterm, as you are able to build out systems rather than, you know, like four or five years from now being like, oh man, as a solo creator, I’m so burned out because I’ve been doing this grind for a long time, But I had tons of profits the early days or in the, let’s
Period. You want to comment on that side of it?
Yeah. we are, I think we, as creators are just naturally, built for teams Like Colin and, I both also grew up playing team sports, you know, both playing lacrosse. And what’s funny is we, we talk about our office as like it’s a creative team. Like everyone has a different role. in the episodes, everyone has a different role in the team and, we all have to work in concert.
So I think from a just lifestyle desire perspective, my dream is to walk into a room of creatives and build things together. Like that is, that is just my dream life. So I naturally just gravitate towards team. I also think like having. Like creativity is so much about collaboration and with Collin and I being, you know, the talent, the guys who are also building the company, the entrepreneurs behind it, as we start to build and build and build, we also have to find ways to scale ourselves and we wanted to do that early.
So for example, like if we’re getting on the road to to go do a speaking engagement or, for example in March, we’re going to be at south by Southwest for a week. If it’s just him. and I, like, we can’t make a show every Monday, it’s going to be really hard. as We start to grow as, as thought leaders in the space as, as creators in the space.
So, you know, we wanted to build a foundation of how can we make our content on a weekly basis, no matter what. And that comes to, I think it comes back to that concept of process and being very process oriented. So. You know, we were making videos that only Colin and I could make. We were making videos that were blogs that were very personal.
We were making videos, that had a different style every time. And, you know, we brought on an editor who was supporting us and, you know, we were also making a podcast every week and we started to realize that the podcast was something that we would make every week, no matter what, no matter how busy our week was, we would record a podcast.
And that’s when we took a step back and said, well, now that we have some support, you know, someone to help us editing, what would it look like if we filmed the podcast and he cut the podcast. and so that was one of the first things we did, you know, and start to look at that. And then we looked at that and we said, could we do that every week?
And so we started actually uploading that to a second YouTube channel, once a week, filming our podcast and, and, and putting it out. In weeks where we were struggling to put out a YouTube video, we were always putting out a podcast on YouTube and that’s when Colin and I took a step back and said, I think we need to focus in on this podcast.
I think this talk show format is the one that we can make And the one that we can build a team around, because there’s a foundation where it’s relatively simple, right? It’s you and I talking, it’s a three camera set up. we know we can have help doing this. We know we can record this. We can go for a week and it can be edited. and that gave us a foundation of what to build on top of, right? So it was us filming that, picking the topics, trying to, you know, make the storytelling work in a talk show format, putting B roll on top, you know, putting graphics. And then basically every one of those desires became a new team member, right.
A new role. Hey, we want to have more animations because we believe. As we’re educating people, it’s easier in visuals and we’re developing curriculum that, that require animation. So let’s get an animator. Hey, we know we need an audio engineer or, Hey, we know we need, music in some of these parts.
And then we’re going to start selling 62nd ad integrations in this. We need someone to cut those out integration. So we basically built templates for what the show could look like, so that if we were gone, the show could still be edited and the show could still come out. And we knew what the next week’s show looked like.
Like I can tell you every Monday, this year, there’s going to be an episode of the colon and smear show. It’ll have, you know, the same intro sound, it’ll follow the same format. It’ll be a, you know, it’ll be about the same type of topics. And so that predictability allows you to layer creativity on top of it.
You build like a foundation of a format that, you know, you can make. and then you can build on top of that. And I think we also know that. In this world, it’s not four episodes and then you’ve made it right. It’s hundreds of episodes. So if you, if you need to produce hundreds of episodes, you need to know what those episodes are, and you need to be able to have a foundation where you can just get improved 10% every time. you know, if you’re reinventing the wheel every week, you’re going to go a little crazy.
Yeah, I think you see that in, I mean, any show that’s on television, you see that where they have these set segments here, they’re going to their correspondent here. Like whether it’s comedy or news or whatever else, they’re
Putting it into a format that they can tweak rather than leave it up to chance. we just have a few minutes left and I’d love to touch on growth for a second. the champions has hit 500,000 subscribers. Congrats. That’s a huge, huge milestone. two-part question here. What are the things like what’s actually working to drive growth and then maybe what’s something that you thought would work that just, it.
I think to drive growth, like the thing that we’ve always, you know, thought about is just like we could, we care a lot about organic growth, but one thing that’s happening is just like YouTube is a library. There’s a compounding effect, like compounding effect, right. and compound interest is incredibly powerful for us.
And so as we went through nine months of uploading the, exact same format, you know, every Monday people can watch multiple videos. And if they’re interested in one, they’ll likely be interested in another. So for example, over the week, we didn’t upload for three weeks during the holidays. And we grew from 500,000 subs to 530, 4,000 subs.
And we did an upload And so that means, and what we’re seeing is like in the, in the channel did seven and a half million views during those three weeks. So. And those views are on old videos, meaning like we’re building an evergreen library of content and that is something that’s incredibly powerful about YouTube specifically, it’s a search engine, but once someone finds it, the algorithm is going to recommend them similar content. And if your content follows the same format, it’s easy to latch onto. It’s about the same topics that will compound. It just will. And I think that’s something that we’ve we are starting to experience now is that every upload is not just providing value that week. it’s providing value in like getting essentially archived into a library that can provide you value for the next 10 years. you know, Casey Neistat for example, is still driving millions of views a month and he doesn’t upload. but he has a library of content. That’s interesting. And so I think that from a growth perspective, that’s why it’s important to find a format. And that’s why it’s important to be consistent because.
You can build a library that can pay dividends over long periods of time in terms of what, what we thought might work. And hasn’t, I don’t know if I can think of something specifically. We have tried some paid marketing, very little experiments and paid marketing does not work for us at least. And maybe we don’t know how to do it on YouTube, but I think that the most important thing, like I’ve just basically completely thrown that out the door and said the most important thing for us is to produce content.
People actually want to watch and more importantly, people want to share. and then we have enough of it that they can watch five episodes in a row and never be, never feel like there’s a lack of, of content or value.
Yeah, that’s good. okay. The last thing that I want to touch on is you’ve made this move, you know, starting with YouTube and then going to a newsletter. what were some of the things that you’ve learned in that? Actually, I guess first, why make that move? you know, why launched the newsletter? and then second, what did you learn in the process of getting the first 10, 15, 20,000 subscribers?
Yeah. So for us, you know, similar to what I talked about with the podcast and the show, it was about, you know, there’s a, there’s two things that it was about. One was covering more stories. YouTube is incredibly specific. What you can make a YouTube video about what you can build a thumbnail around is incredibly specific.
And that felt and feels limiting at times. And so we wanted a space where we had a direct relationship with the community that was interested, and we could provide stories that the only barrier was if we had a, you know, a good subject line and had developed a good rapport with the audience, that they would click and open it and read it, it wasn’t a barrier of algorithms.
It wasn’t a barrier of title and thumbnail. It wasn’t a barrier of, you know, view duration. It was a barrier of like, are you a part of this community? Are you interested? Then we are going to curate the stories that mattered. So that was number one. Number two was around this, this idea of scale and being able to scale beyond our ability to create video or create audio or beyond the voices of Collin and smear and add more perspectives in the room, we’ll get there.
But, you know, even right now, we have an awesome writer who writes a newsletter every week. We have a team that, that, you know, helps us edit it. Colin and I are still the managing editors and very much in the weeds of every word that gets sent out on a Tuesday and Friday, we are extremely involved. but you know, we can do that.
Like again, go back to a tangible example when we’re at south by Southwest, I have no concerns about getting to two or even three, if we’re at that point, at that time newsletters out and covering six amazing creator stories that are providing value to our community and our audience. So that ability is really liberating because during that week, even when you think about our video sites, We’re not going to be in our studio.
Does that means we have to prerecord something. We’re not able to react to any news that happens unless we do it in audio form or, or in written form. And so building that format that allows us to have a deeper connection with the audience, allows us to have a process that’s reasonable, scalable. And then I’ve just believed that like newsletters for me personally, like I’m a part of the newsletter community.
I enjoy receiving newsletters. I enjoy reading stories. I enjoy curation. And I also think that newsletters support both rituals, routines, and. Where the newsletters that I’m subscribed to, if you look at my list of, of newsletters, they kind of tell you who I am and what I’m interested in. And when I opened them, I like feeling like I’m part of that community.
I like feeling like, you know, and, and, and being reinforced that this is, this is my identity. This is the community. I’m a part of. And also like the ritual and routine of like, for us, when we send it on a Tuesday and Friday, if you’re someone who opens on those days, you’re grounded and you know, it’s Tuesday.
And I think that’s cool. And I think that’s, that’s really fun. And like, you know, it’s Friday and we’re going to round up what happened in the week. So, you know, I think building those rituals and routines of like, on Monday, you get the show on Tuesday, you got a newsletter on Friday, you get another newsletter and trying to now fill out the week of helping you build a content diet in a routine, and feeling in touch with the community.
That’s, that’s, what’s important to us.
Yeah, I love it. I figured I love how meticulous or deliberate you’ve been with building a business that supports the life that you want. You know, so you have the team around you as a creator. You, you know that like one on a day-to-day basis, you want that in person studio, where you can show up And, you
Work with a creative team. but then you want to build a system that lets you not be in the studio that lets you go to. south by or somewhere else and have all the steelworks.
Lifestyle design is so important for creators. When we stepped out and had this vision of an aspirational lifestyle, being solo creators, it was really lonely. It was really scary and isolating. We quickly recognized that’s not what we wanted.
We actually wanted to be a part of a team. We wanted to have an office to go to. We weren’t the guys who were going to be fully remote, and flying around, and doing things like that. We wanted a home base.
So, I think writing down what’s important to you as a creator is a really good exercise. We do this thing called “The perfect day,” where we regularly will update it, and both Colin and I will write down what our perfect day looks like. I’ll write it from morning to night.
I wake up, I have a slow morning where I can have a cup of coffee with my wife. I can go on a walk. I can journal. I can read. I can walk into our office. I can brainstorm with our team. I can produce a show. I can edit the news. There are certain things that I think just writing down what’s important to you. We’re fortunate enough to now build our business around what’s important to us.
But we did this exercise even when we didn’t have a business and we couldn’t figure anything out. We were trying to manifest what we wanted all of this to become. Colin and I had coffee on Saturday and said, “I can’t believe this is it. We did it. This is what we always wanted.”
It’s a good feeling. It’s really fun to get to as a creator. Through your content, through my content, we’re trying to do the same thing of helping as many other creators get to that point where they can be like, I’m spending my time the way I want. I’m earning my money the way that I want. I’m creating things in the world that I’m really proud of.
Where should people go to subscribe to the newsletter, the channel, everything else?
So, if you want to subscribe to the newsletter, go to ThePublishPress.com. You can sign up there. You’ll get an email every Tuesday and Friday. If you want to check out our content, just search Colin and Samir. You can find us on YouTube and across the platforms. But if you want to watch the videos, it’s every Monday on YouTube, and you can also listen on Spotify, or Apple, or however you listen to podcasts.
Thanks so much for coming on.
Yeah. Thanks for having me. This is awesome.