The Build Cycle Podcast #051 – Uscreen’s PJ Taei on making money streaming your own videos

This episode is a mix of “how I built this” and “how to make money making videos”, with equal parts business strategy, startup story, and best practices for monetizing your videos. The expert is Uscreen founder PJ Taei, who built a video-on-demand platform that lets you sell your own streaming video content. His story shows the value of creating the right features, proving you can find paying customers, and charging enough for your product. And for aspiring video content creators out there, I think you’ll be both inspired and motivated by some of the stories he shares about his customers. The short of it? Sounds like you can make a lot of money by selling your video content to the right audience, and we talk about how to do just that. Lights, camera, action!

DISCUSSION TIMELINE

01:38 – Where did the idea come from?
03:38 – How many customers do they have? Who are they? What is Uscreen?
07:10 – Testing the concept, proving the business model.
13:10 – What about the bandwidth?
16:08 – How quickly can video producers start making money?
17:20 – How to set the right price for your videos.
18:20 – How long should your video be?
22:12 – More best practices for making money making videos.
25:00 – Getting your videos on Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, and other platforms.
29:04 – How do they market their own business?
31:45 – Why not just post to YouTube and get sponsors or ads?
33:50 – What are the most popular video channels and topics?
38:38 – What are the most successful channels doing right?
41:54 – Keep it consistent.
42:50 – How did he find his customers?
44:30 – What keeps him up at night?

POST-GAME ANALYSIS

how to set up your own streaming video channel behind a paywall and make money off your videos

Around the 7 minute mark is when we start getting down to the nitty gritty of building a good, profitable company. PJ talks about how he tested the concept and realized he needed to sell something that he could charge a lot of money for. Why create something that only makes a few bucks a month when you could sell something that makes a few hundred (or thousand!) bucks a month…per user? Before he started selling anything, though, he talked to people who were already creating and selling videos and asked if they’d pay for a better service that offered the features he was planning. No sense in making something no one’s interested in paying for, so do your homework.

PJ also talks about building things too big, or too complex. A lot of us want to please everyone, so we keep adding features hoping to give everyone what they think they need, but end up with something that’s hard to use Or hard to manage and upkeep. Or both! Better to start small and simple and make sure the user interface is dialed.

How to make money & create great videos

One of the biggest mistakes he sees producers making is undervaluing their content. He says to charge enough for your work, with a $10/month rate being a good starting point. Other tips for creating a successful video channel include:

  • Offer mini courses on single subjects. He calls it “micro learning” and it means you don’t need a ton of content to start, but it needs to be well organized.
  • Drip the campaign out over time, which can make small catalogs seem bigger.
  • Keep the videos under 6 minutes each.
  • Upload the premium content behind the paywall, use the rest to lure new customers in.

What I found surprising was how few people he says are watching streaming video natively on smart TVs, but they are doing so through AppleTV or Roku or Chromecast. That said, make sure your video is watchable even on the smallest screens, because a lot of people are consuming them on mobile.

As far as monetization goes, PJ Brings up two good reasons why you shouldn’t put your premium content out there for free and run ads on it or get sponsorships – because they just don’t make that much money, even if you’re getting tens or hundreds of thousands of views. The other reason is because you’re showing your videos right next to your competitors’ videos, which means it’s hard to keep the eyeballs focused on your content.

Get the Audio Right

Speaking of keeping people focused on your content, successful videos probably focus more on the audio than the video. Nowadays you can shoot amazing quality video on your smartphone, but if the audio is bad, people won’t stick around to watch it. PJ and I both use small lapel mics, and I also use a Bluetooth mic for my Sony A6000, because the built-in microphones on phones and most cameras are not good once you move more than 4-5 feet away from the subject. One of my good friends, Carlton Reid, hosts The Spokesmen podcast and uses the iRig HD 2 and iRig lav mics and recommends them highly, too. I use the Zoom H5 audio recorder for my podcasts, but it can be set up with stereo, shotgun, handheld and other mics and even mounted to the top of a DSLR if needed. Another avid videographer friend uses the Rode VideoMicro Compact with great results.

To get good audio for your video, you need to consider ambient noise and wind noise and choose the correct microphone for the job. Here’s a quick primer on different types of mics and their advantages:

Keep it Consistent

Another tip for producing great online video is to keep the format consistent. Use the same opening and close, use the same graphics, keep the environment the same (as appropriate), and minimize variables that don’t add to the story. Why? Because they can become distractions that can annoy your customers and detract from their ability to focus on the content. Sometimes these distractions are so small that the viewer may not consciously notice them, but they just know something isn’t right and they end up not getting a good vibe from your video.

Links & Resources

  • Uscreen.tv
  • Uscreen.tv/blog has resources for making money from your videos
  • They use HubStaff as a remote time tracking tool
  • Trello is one of his favorite tools for organization
  • See microphone links within the article for my suggestions (they’re affiliate links, which helps support this Podcast…thanks!).

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