13 March 2018

Africa: One of Africa's Successful Youtubers You've Never Heard of Talks About Passionate Content, Mother Tongue Languages and Monetizing Channels

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(file photo).

Vusi Sibiya is a soft-spoken but highly knowledgeable YouTuber who has both set up successful YouTube channels for media organizations and sells advertising for channels. Russell Southwood interviewed him and discovered his commitment to African mother tongue languages and understanding how digital media in Africa works.

What do you do and how did you come to be doing it?

I am a producer in the television industry, with a career goal of establishing a digital broadcast media enterprise that will have the preservation of African languages and the culture of Ubuntu as its key focus and value propositions; trading a creative mind and valuable technical skills in the era of the digital revolution for the advancement and preservation of all African languages and in particular the Zulu language.

It is my firm belief that for our people to overcome the oppression of past colonial injustices; the travesties of which; today also finds itself rooted in the subconscious minds of many, the revival needs to begin with Africans embracing our own cultural heritage and it is through the distribution of media content that is empowering the culture of Ubuntu created in our mother tongue languages that we will be able to rise to our full potential as African people.

How did you get involved in working on You Tube channels and advertising for them?

My involvement with YouTube came after having struggled to get buy in from the locally dominant MVPD - Multichannel Video Programming distributor, to consider providing such channels as Disney, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, etc. with dubbed audio offering that would be in isiZulu and seSotho; so that we could begin to arrest the eroding of our mother tongue African languages from an early age.

I had also proposed that such channels as Discovery, History, as well as various others be also provided with a dubbed audio offering that would be in the popular, most spoken African mother tongue languages; and cited as an example the similar case as is common across Europe for such content to be made available with audio dubbed into German, French, Spanish, etc.

Unfortunately, this was shot down at the same time where same MVPD was having such Afrikaans channels as Kyknet offerings forming part of the bouquet offerings which we were having to pay for whilst there was clear reluctance on the part of the local MVPD to cater to the people who formed the masses and had a definite need to advance the preservation of their mother tongues.

Although, it was still in its infancy as a platform that would be able to serve the masses locally, I began the exploration of YouTube as a content platform in 2008 and established a partnership with the local radio station broadcasting in isiZulu to create the YouTube Channel UkhoziFM PictureStream. From this exploration, of looking to create a channel to serve content that would be in isiZulu that would be advancing and empowering our cultural heritage of Ubuntu, I then developed an interest in the monetization of content on YouTube which eventually lead to becoming a Google Engage Partner.

How does it work for you as an agent of You Tube?

The benefit derived from being a Google Partner agent has primarily been with grasping how media content distribution is evolving in the digital revolution and being able to foresee the real challenges that one would be faced with in the pursuit of my career goal that I've already described.

Internet access locally, hasn't as yet reached into the masses of the rural population and the cost of data for those who do have access remains high and prohibitively unaffordable for streaming media content. The monetization from YouTube is definitely audience volume driven and there are very few channels locally that would be generating sufficiently sizable audience volumes to generate the kind of income that would allow one to be involved full-time on YouTube.

Being an agent has the advantage of being able to invoice customers for the skill of setting up YouTube campaigns for clients and there are indeed some agencies that are able derive huge benefits for clients and are also able to generate income for themselves.

In my experience, however; Google is in a balancing act of having to incentivize content creators to upload their content onto YouTube with a promise of revenue generation and at the same time, as a Google partner agent, these popular channels may not be having the audience that converts to sales for a client that one is running a campaign for. Moreover, as a content creator seeks to become fulltime on YouTube, they learn and apply optimization tactics/tricks to their channels and content that will maximize monetization of each video. This doesn't always mean that a client working with you as an agent is going to be benefiting from views or impressions which are on the very same channels that YouTube wishes to entice to remain on the platform with more revenues.

In my opinion, having come from the traditional broadcast media world; the budget wastage in comparison to gains is now becoming increasingly proportional on both platforms but with YouTube you do have representative and more quantifiable statistical data that is of interest to advertisers. However, I'm still finding that with traditional broadcast media there's definitely a greater impact on conversion to sales with customers and a definite direct correlation to frequency of running of campaigns.

Give me some idea of how many monthly views some of the channels you're involved with get?

The channel which I partnered with Ukhozi FM to create - UkhoziFM PictureStream - has between 175,000 - 250,000 monthly views; the LesediFM PictureStream which is the seSotho radio station's channel has between 75,000 - 125,000 monthly views; and TOX TV channel which features and showcases Gospel Music and productions from EclipseTV has views between 600,000 - 750,000 monthly views.

Which YouTube channels do really well in South Africa and why?

I do find it most enthralling that amongst the Top10 channels in SA measured by views, is Disney Channel Africa, Cartoon Network Africa and TheSupaStrikas and this certainly serves as encouragement given that my exploration of the YouTube platform began with looking at an option for serving content in mother tongue African languages and have a focus on arresting the erosion of our language at an early age by having such popular children's content dubbed into isiZulu and seSotho amongst other indigenous African languages.

The Top channel in SA with the most views is Kruger Sightings and there are several top performing wildlife YouTube channels in the mix also doing well. Music channels also perform very well and SABC News is also amongst the Top10 measured by views. (see Top 10 listing in Social Media section below)

In my assessment being able to upload many videos is particularly useful to growing a channel in SA and that is where SABC News has been successful because their focus is on more uploads and not so much on views per video; and because their content is mainly current affairs, viewers tend to regularly find content of interest when searching trending stories.

The Kruger Sightings channel is also having plenty of content that is submitted through the app, developed by Nadav who created the channel and app, with a purpose of having visitors to the Kruger National Park sharing their wildlife sightings given that not every visitor to the game reserve will be lucky enough to see attention-grabbing as well as fascinating behavior of all the animals on every occasion. The frequent uploading of content that is of interest to one's niche audience is what will always help to grow one's channel.

What's the balance of access between mobile, tablet and laptop?

On the channels where I have access to analytics: Mobile watch time and views ranges between 55% - 65%; computer/laptop ranges between 32% - 42%; Tablets is just under 5%; and smartTV & game consoles is under 1%

What advice would you give someone running a South African You Tube channel on how they might reach more people?

With the recent developments in monetization for partnering of YouTube channels that require watch time of 4,000 hours in the past 12 months and a minimum of 1,000 subscribers, my advice would be to only get involved as a content creator on YouTube if you are going to put in the effort and be serious about building your channel. There are useful learning materials as well as video content from YouTube and Google as well as other creators on the YouTube platform that will definitely assist one to successfully approach building and growing one's channel.

Be sure that you always create content that is for a specific niche rather than attempting to be a Jack of all trades; and it will certainly be most productive to be involved with the creation of content that you are passionate about sharing and truly believe that it can be influential in changing the lives of people who will derive benefit from the content.

What You Tube channels do you enjoy watching yourself?

The channels that I enjoy watching on YouTube are such channels as Video Creators that offer valuable insights on developments with YouTube and how to work your way towards having a successful YouTube Channel. I also watch Trevor Noah's Daily Show videos and other African comedy channels; and just like the majority of YouTubers, there are plenty of VEVO music videos that I regularly watch.

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