My Sixth Year as YouTube Creator (statistics + retrospective)

Every new year I reflect on the previous year and set new goals. Last year has been my most successful year on YouTube so far, and I'd like to share some statistics and thoughts. I will also go over how my email newsletter is doing and where I'm headed. And finally, I'll set myself some goals for 2022.

Previous years: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021.

Simply Explained at a glance

Let's start by looking at my YouTube channel. Here are the key metrics:

  • Six years on YouTube (up from 5 years 🤪)
  • 11 new videos uploaded (↘️ down from 30 last year)
  • 9,949,706 views (↗️ up from 3,808,855 last year)
  • 168,647 new subscribers (↘️ down from 220,824 last year)
  • 573,258 hours watched (↗️ up from 220,824 last year)
  • 3:28 average time watched (➡️ equal to last year)
  • 10 members on YouTube(↗️ up from 8 last year)

I'm very happy with these numbers. As mentioned in the introduction, this has been my most successful year on YouTube so far.

YouTube Statistics

But these numbers only compare 2021 to 2020. Let's put everything into context and look at the last 6 years, starting with the amount of videos uploaded per year:

chart-videos-uploaded.svg

There's a clear downward trend of fewer videos being uploaded each year. There's a good reason for this: I started by uploading tutorials like "how to host a website on AWS S3". These were short and easy to make videos, so I made more of them. Then, at the end of 2017, I made an animated explainer video on asymmetric encryption. It got more attention compared to my tutorials, but it also required more effort to make. I liked it so much that I only worked on explainer videos from 2018 onward (with the only exception of 2020).

Interestingly, many creators think you need to upload a lot of videos to gain traction on YouTube. But that hasn't been my experience. Even though I uploaded fewer videos over the years, my views and subscribers have gone up:

chart-subscribers-gained-per-year.svg

chart-views-per-year.svg

Looking at 2021 in particular, Simply Explained gained less new subscribers compared to 2020, but it had 2.6 times more views (thanks to my video on blockchains, NFT's and mRNA vaccines).

I'm very proud of these numbers and the videos that make this possible. To me, each view represents a person who is curious, willing to learn and chose one of my videos to educate themself. That's huge!

And finally, let's look at a metric that blows my mind: watch time. While the graph is almost identical to the "views per year", it's interesting to see the actual numbers. In 2021, people watched my videos for half a million minutes!

chart-hours-watched-per-year.svg

Consistency & thoughts on "the algorithm"

When talking about YouTube analytics, you always have to talk about "the algorithm" and how it's screwing you over.

Many YouTube creators say you have to post regularly in order to be successful on YouTube. It's supposedly the only way to beat "the algorithm" and rake in the views. But as you can see from my analytics, that hasn't been my experience. My channel has grown a lot, despite posting fewer videos and not sticking to a regular schedule.

What gives?

Well, here's what I think.

YouTube, as a corporation, wants only one thing: generate more revenue. How can they achieve that? By having more eyeballs watching videos and watching as many of them as possible. In other words: promote videos that keep people on the platform and punish videos that make people leave.

I don't believe that posting regularly will help you grow faster. It might help to find your niche or your tone of voice, but the algorithm doesn't care. Instead, the algorithm is designed to keep people on the platform as long as possible.

But take this with a grain of salt. This is my opinion and experience, but I obviously don't know what would've happened if I had regularly published new videos. Maybe the channel would've grown faster.

(Achieved) goals of 2021

With that out of the way, it's time to look at the goals I set myself last year. I didn't have any numerical goals because I wanted to focus on making the videos that I want to make and not make videos that would perform well.

You might think: "that's easy to say with 300,000 subscribers," but keep in mind that my channel is a hobby. I have a full-time job that pays my bills so I can "afford" to ignore sponsorship deals for products that I don't believe in. I can handle it when my AdSense revenue goes to zero. My livelihood doesn't depend on YouTube, so I remind myself every year to have fun and not treat it as a business.

Okay, back to the goals that I set last year and how well I did:

  • Stay healthy and keep exercising
    I ran 800km last year, so I definitely crushed this goal! I only took a break when my son was born, but now I'm (slowly) going back to my regular schedule of 3 runs a week. Running helps clear my head, solve work-related problems, and come up with new video ideas. Heck, sometimes I dictate voice notes while running because I came up with a cool analogy or explanation.

  • Regularly work on new videos (one day a week)
    This is tricky. I thought about working part-time and dedicating a day per week to making videos. But for various reasons, I didn't pursue this. Time for a different strategy in 2022 (more on this in a minute).

  • Migrate this website from Jekyll to Eleventy and start using Tailwind
    This was a geeky goal, but I migrated this site to Eleventy, which has been amazing. I didn't switch to Tailwind though, and I probably won't until I redesign this website. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Goals for 2022

My goals for next year are similar to last year. I will not set any numerical goals.

I like the idea I had last year: not setting any numerical goals. So that's what I'll do this year as well.

  • Work more regularly on videos (again)
    This year I want to work more consistently on videos. In the past, I would frantically work on a new video, release it, and then do nothing for a few weeks and repeat the process. This year, I'd like to dedicate a fixed amount of time each day to work on videos or blog posts. An hour a day could be enough to some light research or write part of a script.

  • Learn to write and animate properly
    I've never taken the time to properly learn how to write engaging scripts or creating cool animations. I feel like my content would benefit if I learned how to do these things properly.

  • Continue to not worry about YouTube Analytics
    Last year, I barely looked at my YouTube analytics. In the past, I would obsess over analytics and freak out if my weekly views were 5% lower than normal. But now I realize that it's out of my control. I don't know how the YouTube algorithm works. I don't if or when it will recommend my videos. All I can do is focus on my work and make the best videos that I can. That's where I have to draw energy from and that's what do in 2022.

Maybe you think these goals are too vague and not measurable. That's true. But these allow me to keep sane and not pressure myself into even more work. Deal with it ;)

Newsletter

One more thing to mention about last year: I started a monthly newsletter! I come across so many cool blog posts, videos, articles, books and games, and I can't make videos about all of them. The newsletter gives me a way to share these findings with a wider audience. Plus, it can't hurt to build an audience on multiple platforms!

I sent out the first edition in January 2021, and so far it has grown to 191 subscribers. That might not seem like much, but I haven't promoted the newsletter in any of my videos. I've only tweeted about it a couple of times.

This year, I want to grow the newsletter by mentioning it in my videos and experiment with different layouts and content that I'm sharing there.

Thank You!

As always, I want to thank everyone that has watched my videos and read my blog posts or newsletter. Your support really means a lot to me!

Reach out to me, say hi, or ask a question via Twitter.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and enjoy the new year!

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