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.
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YouTube Shorts is becoming kind of a big deal.
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At the platform’s last quarterly earnings report, it said its TikTok competitor now rakes in more than 30 billion views every single day, and is drawing enough of an audience that it’s actually making a noticeable dent in the number of people watching long-form content.
That, of course, doesn’t mean long-form content’s going away. But short-form is now inextricably part of the digital video ecosystem. And for established long-form creators like ZHC, aka Zach Hsieh, the rise of Shorts provides a double opportunity: on the one hand, it lets him make more content for viewers of his long-form videos; and on the other, it lets him reach an audience of people who might not be keen to watch 20-minute videos of him painting houses, cars, and boats, but are willing to tune in for a 30-second recap.
If you know ZHC, you’re probably wondering why he’s being featured on a column that celebrates YouTubers hitting one million subscribers, since his main channel has a whopping 24 million subs.
The answer is, we’re not here for his main channel. We’re here to talk about ZHC Shorts, a channel he and his team launched in September 2020, just after Shorts debuted. Over the past year and a half, Hsieh has filled the channel with more than 180 videos, many of them challenges with his girlfriend Michelle Chin. Today the channel sits at a little over 2 million subscribers, and nets around 80 million views per month.
Hsieh’s still more involved with content on his main channel than short-form. But Shorts, he says, is a valuable way for him–and other creators–to experiment with new kinds of videos and to reach new people who might convert to long-form viewers.
His bottom line: If you’re a YouTuber and you’re not making Shorts content, you should be.
We’ll let him tell you why below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: We’ll start from the ground up! For somebody who might be reading this and has not seen any of your content, who are you, where are you from, and how did you get started on YouTube?
Zach Hsieh: My name is Zach, my main YouTube channel is ZHC. We do a lot of art-based content. We do a lot of challenges. We do a lot of big videos where we paint things and give them away, like cars and houses. We got started maybe like five years ago, just started out with basic art content and slowly started expanding the team. And that’s how we got here.
Tubefilter: What’s been your favorite part of being on YouTube so far?
ZH: I think my favorite part of being on YouTube is just getting to interact with all the fans and getting to put creative content out there for so many people to enjoy and watch. And just building a community from that I think is very fun to do.
Tubefilter: How did you get started in art?
ZH: I was into art when I was a little kid, and I think somewhere in high school, I decided I really wanted to choose a career path. I decided to try out art because I remembered I used to be pretty decent at it, so I started doing art more and more and practicing. And then I found YouTube, where I could combine my skills of art along with videos and content creation.
Tubefilter: What was the point where your main channel really started to take off? I remember you did several videos about and with MrBeast that did really well.
ZH: I think the first part where I started to take off was when we started painting things and giving them away. And then we did really well when we were just collaborating with all these great creators, MrBeast being one of them.
Tubefilter: What appeals to you so much about being able to give things away to people?
ZH: I feel like giving things away to people is just fun, and you get to see their raw genuine reaction. It’s really exciting to see someone just light up, and the shock on their face when they get something out of nowhere.
Tubefilter: We’re specifically here about your Shorts channel. When did you start making Shorts?
ZH: When Shorts came out, we made a Shorts channel and just started experimenting a little bit with that. I think back then it was hard for it to take off and not a lot of people were trying it, but we quickly realized that posting Shorts is a fun new way to interact with your audience, because not everyone has 10 or 20 or 30 minutes to watch a ton of long-form content, but short-form content is really easy to watch and to make on YouTube. Especially with all the tools creators have now, it’s really easy for people to find creators through Shorts, and I feel like that’s a goo way for new people tof ind their content.
Tubefilter: We talked to someone recently who said he considers Shorts and TikTok like commercials for his YouTube channel.
ZH: Yeah. I think we’ve definitely noticed a lot more people finding us through short-form content and getting into our long-form content because they first noticed us through short-form. That’s so much easier for a new viewer to watch rather than like a 20-minute video.
Tubefilter: Do you feel like you’re seeing a lot of conversion from Shorts over to your main channel?
ZH: Not necessarily directly converting viewers there, but I think it’s a good way to make more content for my community to interact with, and a lot of people do find new Shorts content.
I feel like people who watch Shorts are different from the people who are watching longer-form content, but we have noticed a couple people finding us through Shorts and then starting to consume longer-form content because of that.
Tubefilter: What do you think are the strengths of short-form compared to long-form?
ZH: I think the strength of short-form is mostly just how watchable it is. Like I mentioned before, I think a 20-minute video is very hard for a new viewer to watch, whereas like if you post 10 to 30 seconds, it’s very easy for them to start consuming content that way. And it’s much faster-paced as well.
A lot of people watching the 20-minute video are going to be fans that trust the creator and enjoy the content already. So I feel like short-form content is a very good way to reach new people.
Tubefilter: How do you structure your time? Like how much time are you spending on short-form these days versus long-form content?
ZH: I don’t spend a lot of time on Shorts. For me filming Shorts is maybe like one to two hours a week.
I have a small Shorts team that actually comes up with all the creative, comes up with scheduling, gets all the props, gets everything set up, and edits all the videos. For me, since my creative team can do all that, all I need to do is step in and film the videos. And since short content only takes up to 60 seconds, it doesn’t take a long time to film compared to our regular videos.
Tubefilter: How long does the regular video take you to film?
ZH: A regular video can take anywhere from two days to a month.
Tubefilter: Oh, wow. Okay. Definitely longer.
ZH: Yeah. Yeah. Much longer.
Tubefilter: So how many people do you have working with you behind the scenes on Shorts?
ZH: I’d say right now we have around three people. Michelle, who’s in a lot of our videos, she’s very good with keeping up with the latest short-form trends, and she’s very good at finding out what works, what doesn’t, stuff like that. So I have her finding different trending topics online, finding different trending soundtracks, and she comes up with creative.
So I will walk into studio and she’ll kind of tell me what we’re doing that day, whether it’s challenges or stuff like that. And then she records that for me. And after that my job is done, and then she goes in with our post-production manager for when we post that and how we go about it.
Tubefilter: How different is that process from your long-form process? Do you approach approach things differently with long-form?
ZH: I would say for long-form, since there’s so much that goes into it, I’m more involved in the pre-production and post-production. With Shorts content, it’s pretty straightforward, for the most part. I think I give some ideas here or there, but it’s a lot easier for someone to direct that whole team so it’s easier to edit and we can post a lot more.
Tubefilter: Do you see yourself continuing to post short-form content alongside your long-form?
ZH: I think short-form content is, is great in so many different ways. Just being able to grab a viewer’s attention, and for new viewers to find your content. I think we’re definitely going to keep doing it in the future. It’s been very useful so far, and it’s helped us not only just bring viewers into the content we already have, I think it also allows us to explore different genres of content.
What we’ve realized as creators of short-form content is that it’s really easy to experiment with different topics, different video ideas, and sometimes if those video ideas do well on Shorts, they have a very good chance of doing well for your long-form content, too.
Tubefilter: Do you feel like Shorts allows you to be a little more spontaneous or daring?
ZH: Yeah, so if we were doing a long-form video and it absolutely did perform well, we would probably lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. Whereas for Shorts, it allows us to constantly experiment and change things up without too much downside if it doesn’t do well, just because we’re posting so often on Shorts.
Tubefilter: What has the growth rate been like on your Shorts channel compared to your main channel?
ZH: Views-wise? It’s definitely a lot easier to get views on Shorts. I think just because it’s so easy to post so many videos, it reaches so many eyes. I think short-form content is easy to binge-watch as well. I’ve talked to a couple people and they can just spend hours and hours swiping through Shorts.
Tubefilter: Do you feel like people who watch your Shorts are less engaged with you personally than people who watch your long-form?
ZH: I would say there’s a certain level of connection you can get with long-form content that you can’t necessarily get with short-form content. I think it’s like a different type of fanbase, because the fans that watch the short-form content, I think there’s not as much room for you to show your personality or what you’re thinking or your experiences or how you overcome hardships and stuff. But it is a very good way for the viewer to get interested in you and start watching the longer-form content, where you can start showing your personality more, and what your life’s like. And I think that’s where you build your strongest audience.
Tubefilter: Do you have any plans for the rest of the year that you’re excited about?
ZH: For Shorts we’re just constantly experimenting with different types of content. We’re going to try some higher-budget Shorts to see hwo those do, because so far we’ve done mostly low-budget, quick Shorts. I’m very curious how we would do with a huge set-up, something larger-scale like the rest of our productions. We’re working on some big videos, building out the team, and I think it’s going to be a fun year.
Tubefilter: What is the number one thing you think has helped you succeed as a creator?
ZH: I think the number one thing for all creators to succeed is just constantly learning. Soaking in new information. I think in the creator industry, you talk to so many talented people who are surrounded with great people as well, and if you’re constantly learning and asking questions, you’re just going to keep expanding that knowledge. I feel like the more people you know in the space, the better you’ll do no matter what type of content you’re posting.
Tubefilter: Is there anything else you feel like readers should know?
ZH: I would just say: use Shorts. Shorts is an amazing tool. It’s really been blowing up and I’ve seen a lot of creators find a lot of success through posting Shorts. If you’re an aspiring creator, you should try it. Right now.
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