Story Telling is at the Heart of YouTube; the Five Pillars of Content

I’ve been boning up on the newest developments in cyberspace at Social Media Week seminars in New York. This annual ritual is taking place in eight cities around the world with Twitter aficionados tweeting all the goings-on to their followers.

Today I attended a YouTube presentation. It was awesome. I learned there are five primary “pillars” into which most videos fall: informative, entertaining, conversational, useful and inspiring.

The two presenters, Lauren Siegel and Ali Pulver, are creative content specialists at Google, which owns YouTube. “Story telling is at the heart of YouTube,” they said. They called it the “digital campfire” with people gathering to hear new stories every day. The site also has the elements of a “general store” where you can pick and choose exactly what you want from an endless barrel of videos.

Just a couple of mind-boggling statistics and then I’ll move on. People are watching 2 billion videos a day on YouTube and every minute 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube. Wow!

Lauren and Ali discussed each pillar and gave examples of how companies and ordinary individuals have developed huge followings.

Informative: Making knowledge more accessible.

One example is Khan Academy with 1,700 videos, 24 million views and one faculty member Sal Khan, the founder. He covers subjects as simple as how to add, divide and multiple fractions. He’s got Bill Gates interested in exporting these learning tools to underdeveloped countries. “How to” videos is one of the fast-growing categories. In effect companies and individuals with a huge number of subscribers are becoming distribution channels for information.

"Conan O'Brien"

Conan O’Brien

Entertaining: Bringing us into new worlds and extending the experience.

One example is how Conan O’Brian kept himself in the limelight until his non-compete with NBC expired and he could get on with his new cable talk show. The vignettes starring the host are really kooky and fun and he dubbed his followers Team Coco. That’s the name of his YouTube channel now where you can see episodes of his talk show.

Live streaming extends access to concerts such as those of the rock group Bonnaroo, sponsored by Ford. On-site attendance at concerts is 75,000, but the live streams reach 43 million viewers.

Conversational: Inviting dialogue and community participation

Toyota turned its YouTube video channel audience into brand advocates with 50 humorous and irreverent videos launching its Swagger Wagon. Millions of viewers tuned in. The You Tube promotion was just once piece of a campaign that integrated TV and other media channels.

Useful: Offering tools for engagement

Seal of the President of the United States

I have to say I was unaware that a few days before his State of the Union Address, President Obama made himself available to answer questions on a wide range of issues submitted by and voted on by YouTube users in “Your Interview With the President” moderated by YouTube’s Steve Grove. Obviously the President understands the power of YouTube in reaching constituents directly, unfiltered by traditional media.

By the way, YouTube offers a nifty tool called Moderator that allows you to “collect commentary, questions, or ideas on your YouTube channel and watch the best ones rise to the top. It’s easy – you bring a group of people together on a topic of your choice, and leverage their collective wisdom to vote on the best video and text submissions.”

Inspiring: Helping us to realize our potential

Lauren and Ali showed the case study of Panacea81, “the everywoman as beauty queen,” as they called her. Lauren Luke, a UK housewife, decided to make a series of video tutorials about how to apply makeup. Sounds simple enough. She now has 448,007 subscribers and her videos have had 104,224,397 views.

Well, if you think I’m giving you a link to visit my YouTube channel, you’re mistaken. That’s my next project. Me, on video? Should I lose weight or get a face-lift? Nah. I’ll just visit the Panacea81 lady for some tips on makeup.

Leave a Reply


  1. Jeannette,

    Thank you for synthesizing this presentation for us. Many people get truly stuck around what type of content to use to create a video, and this post simply shows us the 5 main pillars…which is so freeing.

    I have personally found that informative videos best work for me. People are constantly on Google and You Tube seeking information, so the tutorial style videos really are attractive. If you are interested in starting to work with tutorial videos, I highly recommend a free tool called Jing. You can download the software through TechSmith makes the software. The only downside is that you can only create a five minute video, and You Tube is now allowing videos which are a bit longer. If you want something longer, Camtasia Studio (also created by Tech Smith) is fee-based screen recording piece of software that gives the end user a great deal of options and flexibility. For more info, go to download a free trial (made for both Windows and Mac).

    The great thing about starting with a tutorial style video is that the end user can get accustomed to their voice, the video recording device and the step by step layout of a video before going to a straight on face/head recording.


    • Bea — thanks so much for your informative comment. I will check out these different options. Video is the future and anyone can do it without being a professional. These tutorials will give me (and others) the opportunity to practice first — and while practice will not make perfect it will surely make what I do better!

  2. Thanks for breaking this down. I’ve always thought any video, story or even marketing campaign is always a success when it pulls at you emotionally. I definitely have to do more video. I pulled a few posts with video and I could see how much of a difference it made. Thanks for this resource, Jeannette.

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