Welcome to YouTube Millionaires, where we profile channels that have recently crossed the one million subscriber mark. There are channels crossing this threshold every week, and each creator has a story to tell about YouTube success. Read previous installments here.
This installment of YouTube Millionaires is brought to you by creator fintech company Karat Financial.
Coltyy just wants to do cool stuff.
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The Canadian YouTuber and TikToker–IRL name Colton Macaulay–has always been interested in making art. That passion originally led him to pursue photography, but the more he posted his photos on Instagram, the more he realized he was equally, if not even more, interested in sharing his behind-the-scenes stories about snapping the perfect shot.
That’s how, in early 2020, he ended up on YouTube. Once he started making videos, Macaulay realized ones where he pranked friends and family seemed to get the best traction. This proved especially true when YouTube launched Shorts, its TikTok challenger. Macaulay, who’d posted long-form content up to that point, wasn’t sure if posting Shorts would pay off, but a creator friend of his assured him that if he “trusted the process” and posted regularly, over time he’d gain an audience.
Turns out his friend was right. Within about six months of posting his first Shorts–a mix of prank content, adventuring and exploration videos, and wildlife clips–Macaulay’s uploads were amassing tens and even hundreds of millions of views each, and his channel had hit one million subscribers. (Yes, we’re featuring him a little late here; in the past year, he’s gone from one million to more than 3 million subscribers.)
These days, Macaulay posts near-daily installments of short-form content on both YouTube and TikTok, where he has 10 million followers. And he’s got big plans for 2022, starting with a series of videos about overnight excursions into Florida’s Everglades. Short prank content has been his bread and butter, but this year he wants to branch out, pushing back into longer-form videos and zeroing in on his love for the outdoors and wildlife.
We’ll let him tell you all about it below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: We know this was a little bit ago for you, but what did it feel like to hit a million subscribers?
Colton Macaulay: It happened very fast. I’m gonna be honest, the first hundred thousand was a lot harder than a million. It was my biggest goal I’ve had on social media since I was a kid, and it didn’t feel real to me. It felt like a dream.
Tubefilter: So the first hundred thousand was hard to get. What made your channel take off and got you from a hundred thousand to one million?
CM: The first 250,000 subs were through more long-format videos, the full videos on YouTube. That’s how I got my first quarter of a million. Then after that I started posting Shorts. I was one of the first creators to hear about Shorts, through a friend of mine, and he said “Just trust the process. It takes a bit of time for them to go viral, but give it about a month, and they should start taking off.”
Almost exactly a month in, I woke up to all of my Shorts getting millions of views.
Tubefilter: Everything took off at once, then?
CM: Yeah. As soon as I started doing Shorts, I think it was within five or six months that we hit a million. Now we have three million.
Tubefilter: When you first started Shorts, you already had a growing TikTok account. Did you pull content over from TikTok to put on Shorts?
CM: Yeah, I did.
Tubefilter: What made you start a TikTok account?
CM: The whole reason I actually joined TikTok was to get my following bigger over on YouTube. I had no idea that I would enjoy TikTok to this level.
@coltyy Decided to prank my friend!😊 Please forgive me!🥺 @nohemyorosco ♬ Blue Blood – Heinz Kiessling & Various Artists
Tubefilter: What made you originally launch a YouTube channel? When and why did you decide to start making content?
CM: I’ve always loved to create. I was really big into photography—first it was art, then it was photography, and I’d actually won a handful of awards for my photography that kind of led to me putting myself into the content.
Then I noticed that content was generating more likes, and I thought it would be kind of cool to start creating maybe some videos about my images. I just like to adventure, and film that kind of stuff. So I thought, Why not? I already do a lot of crazy stuff that most people wouldn’t want to do, let’s post it out there and see what happens.
Tubefilter: So you already knew what you wanted your channel to be when you launched it.
CM: Yeah, I’ve always been a really outdoorsy kind of guy. I like wildlife, I love adventures, so I wanted my content to be adventure-style. It definitely has changed a little bit based off how social media works and how the algorithm works. I really wasn’t planning on doing prank content, but I guess that has been added to the list.
Tubefilter: You keep an eye on what sorts of videos take off, then, and try to make more of that content?
CM: Yeah. The content I’ve noticed people enjoy the most is the pranks, so I definitely have made a lot more prank videos over the years than I planned on, and I would say I’ve seen a lot of videos in that area do very, very well.
And I’m going to give an example—it’s not a very good example. This is kind of a weird series I did. But I saw this series where this guy was drinking purple Gatorade for five days straight and explaining what the side effects were that happened.
And I was like, That’s kind of lame. Like, Gatorade is so diluted. Half a drop of food dye would probably create the same color of purple as Gatorade.
So I decided, right, I’m gonna drink food dye. And it went viral globally and showed up in I don’t know how many languages and news channels and whatnot. But yeah, I do base some of my content off what other people have done if I believe I could one-up them.
Tubefilter: What does your content production process look like these days? Do you produce the same content for TikTok and YouTube Shorts, or do you make different videos for each platform?
CM: No, they’re pretty much exactly the same. On YouTube, you probably will see a little more content.
Now, my YouTube versus my TikTok…Another thing I’m fairly well known for is flips and stunts, things like cliffjumping. Things that a lot of people probably wouldn’t do and might be a little bit dangerous. TikTok is very, very, very picky about that, so I can’t do any flips, jump off cliffs, or do fitness challenges that might look slightly dangerous. So a lot of that content is only on YouTube.
Tubefilter: Have you replaced that kind of content on TikTok with anything else? Prank videos?
CM: It’s been experimental. I’ve been testing different things, trying more skits, more jokes. Those don’t seem to get removed or taken down, but they don’t really hit on the algorithm nearly as much as what my other videos get. It could be a thing where I’m just going to have to see how they do over time.
Tubefilter: Where do you come up with ideas for your videos aside from paying attention to trends? Do you ever take suggestions from followers? Do you have a list of things you want to do?
CM: Yeah, sometimes I go live [on TikTok] and we’ll brainstorm some ideas. Someone’s idea might give me a whole other idea that could be more wild than what I see other creators making.
The majority of ideas just come to me throughout the day—I have really bad ADHD. So I’m like out there 90% of the time. So a lot of my ideas just show up in my head and that’s when I go in my notes app on my phone and just write down everything that comes to mind.
Tubefilter: How long does the average video take you to make?
CM: A couple hours.
Tubefilter: What does the average day look like for you? How much time do you spend overall producing content? Do you do your own editing?
CM: When it comes to the Shorts, I do all of my editing. I’m kind of picky on how I do stuff. The one thing that I’m most known for is probably my voiceovers. All my videos are about a minute long on the dot, and I do voiceovers. I like to tell the story of what happened, whether it was a prank or a challenge or adventure.
Like, yesterday—and I think we’re doing it again today—we went for seven hours to the Everglades in the middle of the night, going to see what kinds of creatures and stuff we could find. I’m probably going to turn it into a series, since we did find a lot of different reptiles and whatnot, and then I’ll do voiceovers explaining how the night began and what the plan was going in there. Then I’ll eventually show what we found.
@coltyy Decided to pull a prank on my family and friends!😈 Their reactions should be interesting! 😳 @chaseirl ♬ Creepy doll – Dark Fantasy Studio
Tubefilter: Do you have anyone else working behind the scenes with you? Or do you collaborate with other creators at all?
CM: It’s changed a lot. I was raised in Canada, so I would make content with a couple of friends or family. It was very much that until about a year ago, when I decided I should probably meet some other creators and learn some other ways to make income in the States, since I was like, the only creator up in Canada. Over the last year, I’ve still kind of kept to myself. I made contact with some other creators, but I don’t really care to collaborate too much. I probably should do more.
Tubefilter: Have you noticed any differences in your audiences on YouTube versus TikTok?
CM: Yes, I have! On TikTok, it’s about 50% female, 50% male. And I’d say my YouTube is probably at least 70% guys, maybe 30% girls. Some of the content I used to post on TikTok but don’t post on YouTube was kind of…I wouldn’t say it was thirst traps, but in the beginning I did post a lot of fitness stuff that probably gave me more girl followers. That’s changed since, though.
Tubefilter: Are there any age differences?
CM: I think my YouTube audiences is older. I think probably the average on TikTok is 16, and on YouTube it’s 18.
Tubefilter: What’s your favorite part of making content?
CM: The adventures I end up going on to make content. I’ve gone on some crazy adventures. I’ve explored a lot of caves that led to rivers underground, caves that haven’t been explored by many people. And last night I held a bunch of crazy reptiles I’ve never seen in my entire life.
And you meet a lot of people along the way as well, like I met a lot of artists I had been listening to my whole life.
Tubefilter: What’s been your favorite place to go?
CM: I’d say Costa Rica.
Tubefilter: For any specific reason, or…?
CM: It was just the whole scene. I’m huge into wildlife and I love being outdoors, so being in the jungle and seeing these beautiful waterfalls and wild monkeys is just wild. It’s pretty cool.
Tubefilter: What do you have planned for this year?
CM: For this year…Actually, it’s another reason I’m in Florida: long-format content. I’m trying to push longer videos. I have some things to upload, but I guess you’ve got to have some specific things in the description and whatnot for it to go wild. And my friend, he’s got like 3 million on YouTube and doesn’t do TikTok or anything, and he understands how this stuff works. So I’m hoping he’ll show me the ropes and then I’ll eventually start posting all my long-form videos that I have ready to go.
Tubefilter: So your ideal is a mix of short- and long-form?
CM: Yeah. I’m going to continue to do TikToks, I’m going to continue to do Shorts, but the long-form is definitely in this year.
Tubefilter: Where would you like to be five years from now?
CM: Five years from now…Hopefully I’ve got that diamond Play Button. [laughs]
I don’t know where I’m going to be in five years. I don’t think I’m going to have a family at that point, but my content’s kind of set up so eventually when I do have a family, I want to get into family content.
I think I want to be doing the same thing, just on a bigger scale. A lot of the income I’ll make will be placed right back in content. I want to do MrBeast content, but the only thing is his videos cost a lot of money. One video I’ve already poured a couple thousand into is the video where he got buried alive—I have a coffin that we’re making in Canada. However, our engineers were way too slow making it and ground, well, froze. So now I have to wait till spring to finish it.
But yeah, basically, more challenges, bigger scale.
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