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.
Colin Rosenblum and Samir Chaudry know what’s up on YouTube.
Actually, they know what’s up across the entire creator space. They started their own Colin & Samir channel in 2016, but they’ve been in the creator business for more than a decade now. They originally met working on the The Lacrosse Network, a YouTube sports network focused on–you guessed it–lacrosse. After selling that channel, they went to work behind-the-scenes, producing content with creators like Dude Perfect and Yes Theory.
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When it came time to launch their own channel, Rosenblum and Chaudry didn’t stray far from their roots. Their content focuses on the creator ecosphere from the creator perspective. They keep an eye on rising trends like the Minecraft renaissance and rising creators like Ryan Trahan, plus regularly check in with longtime YouTube pros like Emma Chamberlain and Rhett and Link to profile how their channels have flourished into businesses.
With all that being said, while Rosenblum and Chaudry talk a lot about other creators’ growth, they don’t talk much about their own. Not until recently, that is, when they headed to VidSummit to host a panel called “Why it Took Us 10 Years to Hit 1M Subs.”
Their channel wasn’t actually at one million subs when they stepped onstage. It was close, but not quite there.
But, in the middle of their talk, they hit the golden number, and it’s a moment they’ll never forget.
Check out our chat with Samir below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: Congratulations on hitting one million subs! I hear you hit it onstage?
Samir Chaudry: That’s right.
Tubefilter: Can I hear this story?
Samir Chaudry: Yes, I can tell you this story. We had been tracking towards a million. We had a speaking engagement at VidSummit, so we were going to give a keynote at VidSummit, and the comical title of it was “Why it took us 10 years to cross a million subscribers.” We thought it would be funny because we were about 4,000 subscribers away, if we put the subscriber count behind us while we were talking to see one or two subscribers tick up and down, and just make it an interactive thing
We gave our talk and then moved into Q&A. While we did Q&A, we threw up our live subscriber count behind us. I think what we didn’t fully think about was a lot of the people who make up our audience are creators themselves, and they have their own audiences and their own reach. The room essentially started tweeting out and posting about the concept that we had our live subscriber count behind us, and the subscriber count went up faster than I’ve ever seen anything before, and definitely faster than we’ve grown before. We were able to cross a million subscribers standing onstage in a room filled with our audience.
Tubefilter: That is incredibly cool.
Samir Chaudry: There’s a ton of videos of it on Twitter and YouTube. It’s a really interesting thing because at first, I was almost disappointed, in a weird way, that it was going to happen in this way, because we had been planning all these different things internally of like, “Should we have a dinner with the team?” “Should we throw a party ourselves?” and actually struggling to figure out how to celebrate the milestone, trying to figure out, how are we supposed to celebrate?
Then, as I was standing onstage and looking out, recognizing that as digital creators, we very rarely get to have physical in-person experiences with our community where we actually get to feel the energy of the room, it quickly went from being confused and disappointed that it was going to happen onstage, to this like, oh my god, this is the best possible outcome of celebrating this milestone, and just like truly this feeling that a million people were there, to me, is incredibly unimaginable.
I cannot close my eyes and envision what it looks like to speak to a million people, what a room full of a million people looks like, what a stadium full of a million people…I can’t envision that, but being in a room of a thousand people who deeply cared about the work that we’re putting out–that, I think, almost reintroduced a deep sense of purpose for us, and this recognition that we are providing value to this group of people. It was really, really exciting to get to experience it in person.
Tubefilter: Let’s step back for a second. Obviously, people in the industry and fellow creators are all going to know who you are, but for anybody who’s reading this and isn’t in the industry or maybe isn’t familiar with you and Colin, can you give an introduction about you guys and how you ended up starting the channel together?
Samir Chaudry: Yes, sure. Colin and I have been working on YouTube for the past 10 years across different channels. We started our career 10 years ago with a sports network on YouTube. We actually were able to sell that company and move on to work with creators behind the scenes producing for them–creators like Dude Perfect and eventually Yes Theory.
All along the way, we’re incredibly passionate about YouTube and this modern world of entertainment, this world of permissionless creativity where you can put up whatever you want and have an idea and upload it yourselves. All that is to say we developed this incredible passion for how much YouTube had changed our lives, and meeting all of these inspiring people.
Our coffee shop conversation was always about creators. A lot of our friends were creators themselves. Around 2016, when we had left our last company, we started a channel called Colin and Samir, really just to publish whatever we wanted. We started with just publishing things that we were interested in, little mini documentaries, pieces about our friends, and then that grew.
During the pandemic, we decided to shift that into a talk show and a video podcast where we interviewed our friends and talked to each other about the world of creators. That’s when things really picked up for us. I think that’s when the brand and the channel really went from being a super infrequent, inconsistent place that we uploaded content, to be becoming our brand and near basically 100% of what we do now, and building a company around it.
We make content that’s all about creators for creators. Our goal is to educate the next generation of creators about the career, and to build and showcase the roadmaps, the tons of different styles and ways that people are building careers.
Tubefilter: Why is it so important for you to not just cover the highs of being a creator, but also be very frank about some of the struggles that people have?
Samir Chaudry: I think a lot of it is because of my relationship with it. When I was growing up, both the entertainment industry and online creators, as I became exposed to them…I think the realities of the industry and the challenges of it need to be part of your evaluation as a young creator, of if you want this to be your career. I think that’s a really important thing.
It’s something that I felt like I didn’t get. I didn’t feel like I had a space where I could learn about what it was actually to be a creator, the honest considerations that I need take into account: how the business actually worked, what were some of the struggles. I think that by expressing some of those, people can learn a lot faster and, again, evaluate the career for themselves, and make decisions in their career based on what we share as well as other creators share on our show.
Tubefilter: I don’t think I’d thought about it that way before, how you’re educating the next generation of creators. Of course, they’re coming into a very different environment than like you and I grew up with.
Samir Chaudry: Yes, totally.
Tubefilter: I speak to a lot of up-and-coming creators. A lot of them are people who have gotten popular on TikTok and YouTube Shorts, and they’re between the ages of 18 and 23. I feel that’s probably part of your target audience.
Samir Chaudry: Oh, yes.
Tubefilter: What makes you guys so passionate about specifically targeting that audience and helping them?
Samir Chaudry: I think just remembering when I was that age and evaluating the career paths I wanted to go down. I always say that this channel is the channel that I wish I had when I was starting out in my career. Also, when you’re evaluating the career of becoming a creator–I have a lot of passion of around that demographic, primarily because I feel like that’s when I needed this channel. I can feel that time period and that coming of age for myself. A lot of what I think about is I’m speaking to my younger self when we’re making content and when we’re producing episodes. How can I communicate to my younger self, and how can I educate that part of him?
Tubefilter: That’s a very cool take. Over the past 10 years, do you feel like the idea of being a creator for a career has become a bit more legitimized in the mainstream? Do you feel people are getting more supportive reactions now when they say that’s what they want to do?
Samir Chaudry: Yes, I think for sure. Everything takes longer than we think, but I think the advertising market is starting to respect what we do as creators. I vividly remember trying to pitch advertisers when we first started out on YouTube, even trying to get free product or $300 to $500 from them for sponsorship. It was really hard to communicate that YouTube was a legitimate place to spend money and to advertise to audiences.
I think that is not really the conversation anymore. I think a lot of advertisers are having a conversation around what platform, which creators. I think that it’s widely accepted. The advertising industry has widely accepted that creators are here and they’re real. I think that that is a huge step forward because that is the business we’re all in, right? We’re in the advertising business.
The industry meeting us where we have been is a huge step forward. It then, in turn, makes more careers possible. With more careers being possible, then it shows the next generation that it’s possible to do it. You still walk to places and in a party say, “I make YouTube videos,” and people are a little confused how it works. I would say we’ve seen it become a lot more accepted. I think we will, now that we’re starting to see creators launch businesses that are more familiar to people.
Tubefilter: Can you give a couple of examples for readers?
Samir Chaudry: Yes. I think MrBeast launching a chocolate bar company, that’s a familiar business. I can see it in shelves, I can see it at a supermarket. Or Logan Paul and KSI launching Prime, they’re familiar to me. Quickly you can start to understand, if they are entertaining people to a scale where they have a large audience and that audience is buying their product, I can understand how this business works. All of a sudden, it looks and feels a lot more like what we’ve seen before with traditional celebrities or what we see with entrepreneurs.
I think the important thing is that being a creator is just being a media-first entrepreneur, meaning in the past, an entrepreneur comes up with a product, they do all the R&D, they develop the product, they launch the product, and then they have to figure out how to market that product to an audience. We do the opposite. We build an audience and then figure out what product, services, or advertisers are right for that audience.
Tubefilter: I just spoke to somebody earlier who is launching a successful newsletter business as a creator. I feel that’s definitely an interesting example to bring in.
Samir Chaudry: Yes. I was going to say, we actually have a newsletter business as well.
Tubefilter: Oh, interesting! Why did you guys decide to go with a newsletter?
Samir Chaudry: We have a newsletter called The Publish Press. It covers the business of creators. We send it three times a week. It covers a diverse set of stories within the creator economy. With what we felt was with our mission of educating the next generation of creators, we wanted more touchpoints, and we wanted to be able to tell more stories, and get those stories out without the friction of video production and the YouTube algorithm.
For us, I think that was really important to build an environment where we could own the relationship with our audience. What stands between us and them is a compelling subject line and the trust that we write good content. We knew you could do those two things.
We built a feed around it. We have great partners who help us operate it. Again, we’re able to send it three times with a ton of stories. We’re essentially 10xing the amount of stories we could tell on YouTube. I think that’s what’s really compelling to me is being able to do it in a written fashion and scale our voice. We also have a writer who works for us on the newsletter, so that allows us to scale and take our voice and have it exist on another platform.
Tubefilter: That actually leads right into my other question, because you guys produce lengthy in-depth videos. What does your production process looked in terms of the amount of time you’re sinking into a video?
Samir Chaudry: Our videos take a really long time to make. We’re trying to solve that right now. Colin and I scrutinize every form of our videos. For example, we have an episode with MrBeast’s manager, Reed, that is 47 minutes long, but we recorded with him for three hours.
We’re cutting those down to think about everything in terms of curriculum. When we have a conversation with someone, we basically record it. Typically, we’ll go anywhere between one and three hours sitting down with a creator or someone in the industry. Then we’ll take a step back and we’ll listen to it back and we’ll write down what we learned. What were the curriculum points where we could educate people? What did they say that was educational? We’re always going to err on the side of education. We’re going to try and build curriculum. We like to think about it as a guest lecture in our classroom. If our audience is student-based creators who are trying to learn, then when we bring someone on our show, they’re operating as a guest lecturer in our class, and we want to think about what curriculum we can pull from that.
Again, if we zoom into that episode, there’s certain things that Reed says that we build graphics around, and we create visuals that emphasize those points. The reason we take this stuff so seriously–sometimes it’ll take us 10 days, 10 full days to turn an episode around–a lot of that is because we know that these live forever. Or two-hour interview with MrBeast has 13 million views. It continues to get a million-some-odd views every month. That was put out over two years ago. Oh, sorry, one year. It was put out one year ago.
Tubefilter: It’s got that staying power.
Samir Chaudry: Yes. Everything we do, we want to think about it as timeless. We want to think about, can this be watched in two years? Can people still learn from this? Does this still apply, and is it clear? Is it a visual experience if it’s going to be on YouTube? All of those factors are incredibly important to us. I think Colin and I are creatives. We deeply care about how this goes out, especially because we think of ourselves as part of this audience, and we think about how we would want to receive this information.
I would say there’s probably people who look at us, or I know this for a fact that people would look at our process and say, there’s a more efficient way to do this. For us we’ll toss out efficiency for a good creative every day of the week. We have a certain taste of how we think things should look and feel. Even if it’s not an efficient process, we will lean into that.
Tubefilter: When it comes to designing topics or coming up with topics for episodes, do you have a specific, “Oh, hey, we want to speak to this person,” and that’s how you pick? Or is it more, “We want somebody to be able to speak about challenges with monetizing short-form content on YouTube”?
Samir Chaudry: Yes, there’s a mix. There’s a bit of a mix. We do a lot of outbound to individuals who we think have used the platform in a really interesting way. That’s one side of it where we say, “Okay, this is a very unique individual.” Ludwig is a great example of someone we connected with to look at him and be like, he can speak to the business of being a streamer. He can speak to using the platform in a really different way. We should have him on the show.
Recently we had a comedian named Hasan Minhaj on the show. He’s using the platform totally differently. He used the platform early on to get his work out, and then that got him onto television and allowed him to grow as a comedian. Another comedian we spoke to was Andrew Schulz, who revolutionized how comedy he went out on YouTube.
We like to look at individuals. If we’re going to explain a strategy or a topic, we believe that it should always be humanized into a specific scenario where someone actually did it. We don’t want to speak in broad strokes. We want to give you the human stories.
We believe that a lot of people use the broad strokes term “creators,” that if you’re going to come to our channel, we don’t want to use that term. We want to show you the creators. We want to show you the human beings that we’re talking about who have done this and that are creating the evaluation for us of, “Okay, who should we have on next? That’s interesting. They have this type of story.” We filter through a lot of the inbound of people who want to come on the show.
Tubefilter: In that example, what’s your criteria for having somebody on the show?
Samir Chaudry: Number one has to be that Colin and I are personally interested in this person’s story or what they’ve done on the platform. That’s number one. It’s very hard to have an authentic two-and-a-half, three-hour conversation if you’re not interested. That’s by far and away number one, is we have to have personal interest.
Number two, we have to believe that there’s something to learn from this person, for our audience. We have to believe that it provides the value that we promised our audience.
Number three, we’ll look at the scarcity of that person’s story. If we believe that person’s story has been told many, many, many times, and we don’t have anything unique to add to that conversation, that’s a huge evaluation point. People who are on podcast tours, for example. If they’re doing a ton of different talk shows, it’s likely that we might not be interested in that. We will be a part of a broader tour that they go on across multiple different talk shows, and we will always want to think about how we can have a unique conversation. Then we bring it to our team. We have a team that we sit with and we pitch them the idea, they pitch us ideas. We discuss angles and decide if we can come up with a unique perspective.
Then we’ll actually call the creator. We’ll do a pre-call with the creator and pitch them the direction that we want to take the conversation and get their feedback. See what they’re excited about, see what they’re not excited to talk about, and make sure that we’re aligned when they sit in the chair directionally about where we want the conversation to go.
Tubefilter: Interesting that it’s like, “We have to be interested also.” The scarcity point is interesting as well.
Samir Chaudry: Yes. Cody Ko and Noel Miller are two creators who have inspired us for a very long time. Having them on the show was a really big deal. I think the way that we positioned that, the way we spoke to them and the way we were able to speak both from a space of authenticity, but also from a space of curriculum and entertainment, is where that comes from. It’s like the authentic passion for the conversation. I think audiences on YouTube are too sharp for you to try and just do something that you just think will garner viewership. I think everyone’s sharp enough to watch that and not be interested for 45 minutes to an hour and a half in a conversation that clearly someone doesn’t want to have. I think it’s pretty hard to hide that.
Tubefilter: Yes. The vibe comes through.
Samir Chaudry: Yes.
Tubefilter: How many people do you have working with you behind the scenes?
Samir Chaudry: Across our two projects, there’s 10 people. There’s the newsletter, which has four team members, and then there’s our channel, which has 16 members. With a few other freelancers here and there, but those are the most solid members of the team.
Tubefilter: What does everyone do?
Samir Chaudry: There’s me and Colin, we operate both as general managers of the channel, the talent of the channel, the creative directors of the channel. I operate more as the producer and Colin operates more as the writer, director of everything. That’s what we do.
We have three editors who all work across different functions. One editor who is more focused on storytelling, one editor who’s focused on production, that process, and also helps us with all of our advertising content, branded content, and one editor that’s focused on short-form content.
We have a production manager who handles scheduling, all of our brand relationships, making sure we’re on schedule and everything’s happening on time, and everyone knows what they’re doing at all times. Then we have a script researcher who helps us across, if we’re– For example, we have an interview coming up with a creator named Ashley Alexander. She goes by Ur Mom, actually, on YouTube.
She will provide a full research doc. That will help us develop our angle and our direction of the conversation, with in-depth research on these creators.
Samir Chaudry: That’s the channel side. On the newsletter, we have a general manager for the newsletter and a head of business development. We’re partnered with a company called Smooth Media that has helped us bring that newsletter to life. That’s where they come from, the general manager and the business development person. From there, we also have a writer and an editor-in-chief. That’s really important to get everything over the finish line.
Some people who plug in are also ad hocs people to help us make sure that all of our advertising gets fulfilled on the newsletter side. Over the top of all this, Colin and I are represented by Agency. They help us with other aspects of the business as well.
Tubefilter: What’s the average day look like for you, if there is an average day?
Samir Chaudry: I would say most of our days are structured around us sitting in our office, working on post-production or working on pre-production. Those are the two things that are like the most common days. We’ll get into the space and we’ll just, everyone has their headphones on, working on something. Today, for example, all three of our editors are working on different episodes that are coming up, that we’ve already shot. Then myself, I’m dealing with some finance stuff that I have to button up. We just moved into a new studio, so I’m just making sure we’re all set.
Most of our days are post-production and pre-production. If we have productions, we get on the road, we go out, shoot them, or have a creator coming in. Those are actually more rare. We spend a lot more days editing and writing than we do actually filming.
Tubefilter: What’s your new space like?
Samir Chaudry: It’s big. It’s two stories. It feels very overwhelming to fill. It’s a 3,000-square-foot studio and office space.
Tubefilter: Oh, it is big. Wow.
Samir Chaudry: It’s big. Yes. We’re really excited about it. It’s going to take us time to fully move in, but it’s truly a representation of the space that we need to grow and expand, and have everyone have their own space. We used to work in a thousand-square-foot studio, so…You can imagine six people sitting in 1,000 square feet. It’s hard to focus and get things done.
Tubefilter: How have things changed since you hit a million? Is anything different at all?
Samir Chaudry: I would say there’s a sigh of relief, if I’m being honest. It was a milestone that we have wanted for a really long time. It’s aspirational. It’s something that I think showcases our commitment and dedication to the platform, and it’s a really amazing thing. We aren’t making sensational content on YouTube. We’re making what we call “slow TV.” These are hour-and-a-half-long uploads of conversation. To want to watch this, to commit to subscribing, to be interested in what we’re doing, the fact that there’s over a million people is really fascinating to us and really, really eye-opening about the future of creators and the future of education.
I also would say, though, beyond that, we don’t really have another subscriber goal. Colin and I are not dying to hit two million subscribers or three million subscribers. I think what’s more important to us is our views per video and our community, and really providing value. We have this written on a whiteboard, value over views. As long as we’re providing value, we’re excited, we’re happy.
If we feel like our content is providing value, then we’re really excited. That’s what’s important. I think also for all creators, looking at your community that you’re building, and if you’re providing value to that community, then it will grow organically. I think we’re entering a phase in the creator economy where depth is going to be a lot more valued than width.
It’s interesting to have 10 million people watching your stuff, but 100,000 dedicated fans is more interesting to me. I think you can build a more interesting business if you have depth with your audience, than if you’re just creating stuff that has width. It’s more interesting for me if it’s like, can creators fill a room? Would people come and line up to come to your thing? Are they going to come to your merch launch, your premiere? Are they going to line up to check out the thing that you’re doing? That to me feels really, really important, and more sustainable in the long term.
It’s really hard to be interesting to over a million people for a really long period of time. There’s a few people who have done it. Casey Neistat’s one of those people, Emma Chamberlain’s one of those people. I think when we talk about it at large scale, I don’t think creators should get discouraged if they have a consistent 10,000 people watching them. Even a thousand people. Truly try and close their eyes and imagine being in a room with a thousand people that you’ve captured their attention. That’s an incredible feat, and I think a lot of times we produce for the audience we don’t have, rather than really honoring the audience we do have.
Tubefilter: I know you said you don’t have another subscriber goal, but do you guys, as a collective, have any other goals or projects for the next six months or so?
Samir Chaudry: We have creators who we’d really love to speak to on the show, and we have process goals. Right now, it’s feeling like we are struggling to put episodes out at the quality we want, on a consistent basis, so we want to solve that. I think process-wise that’s number one. There’s creators that we really want to have on the show, and that takes a long time to build enough trust and to build a space for certain creators to feel comfortable coming and telling their story. Our hope is that we continue to build that space and that brand, and I think build our companies and be a really great place to work for creative professionals. I think that’s important to me. Those are the things that are really important, and then, again, ensuring that we’re providing value.
It’s hard because I think everyone I work with wants quantifiable goals. They want numbers and whatnot. Of course, we have those, but I think we have more brand goals than we do specific numbers right now. That is to nail down our process, be more consistent and to ensure that we’re building a space that provides value and a brand that creators feel comfortable, safe, and excited to come tell their story.
Tubefilter: Perfect. That’s the end of my questions, unless there’s anything else you feel like readers should know about you?
Samir Chaudry: What should readers know about us? I don’t know. Just watch our stuff. You’ll learn everything about us. We share a lot.