If you’d stopped me on the day I graduated university and asked me what I’d be doing in five years, I never would have predicted that I’d run a YouTube travel show with my brother – not to mention one that was popular in Finland. But a lot has changed since 2008.
When I was an undergraduate, YouTube was in its infancy. It was founded when I was a freshman in 2005, and purchased by Google a year later. Back then it was still about cat videos and fail compilations, and to this day that remains its image in many peoples’ minds. But the internet evolves quickly, and YouTube changed completely while I wasn’t looking.
After graduation I moved to rural India to work in micro-finance, an experience that spurred me to start sharing my experiences through creative writing. I started blogging and traveling through South East Asia, a hobby that quickly turned into a potential career.
By the time Alex and I crossed paths in 2012, YouTube had matured as much as we had. I was a published travel author with two guidebooks under my belt, and Alex was emerging as a filmmaker with a natural gift for being on camera. For the first time in our lives, we realized that our differences could be strengths if combined and we decided to team up and develop a travel T.V. show for our generation.
When we uploaded our first videos to YouTube that autumn, we still viewed the platform as a means to an end – a place to post our video resume as we tried to break into traditional television. We wrote a proposal for a show and pitching it to production companies. A few Hollywood producers liked the idea, but told us that we had no chemistry on camera.
We decided to put all our efforts into developing our craft as filmmakers and story-tellers, and committed to posting a video a week to our YouTube channel. Things moved quickly, and six months later we entered and won a contest called the Biggest, Baddest Bucket List, which sent us around the world for the rest of 2013 making a 50 video web-series.
The experience changed our lives in many ways, but above all it taught us that YouTube was an end in itself. Not only was it possible to make a travel show on YouTube instead of TV, it was preferable.
For instance, take our recent popularity in Finland. It started last year when we took a two-week trip through Finland to make videos on Lapland, Helsinki and a bizarre Finnish competition called the Wife Carrying World Championships. We needed wives to compete, so we made a YouTube video proposing to the women of Finland, and tweeted it to one of Finland’s biggest YouTubers, Miisa.
Although Miisa couldn’t be our wife-for-the-day, she did share our videos with her audience. Suddenly, our videos on Finland started getting thousands of views and our subscribers jumped by 50% in less than a week. Our audience in Finland grew so quickly that it became our 2nd largest audience behind the USA. We’d heard of people getting famous in Japan… but Finland?
It has been a strange turn of events, one we never could have predicted. But we’ve embraced our new audience and found a new reason to keep coming back North. This winter, we came for the Nordic Bloggers’ Experience, but in summer we hope to explore more of the Nordic countries, knowing that our audience will be largely local.
This is the new world of making a travel show on YouTube. In the past, a TV show could make an episode about Helsinki that would never air in Finland. Now, most people watching our episodes are Finnish – and as quickly as they praise our efforts, they also correct our factual errors and mispronunciation!
YouTube is great because it’s an interactive platform that allows us to speak directly with our viewers – and them to speak back to us. No longer do the filmmakers have the final say on a subject. That is decided in the comment section. And for those of us who want to understand the world by hearing different perspectives, we wouldn’t have it any other way.