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Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger when you’re a kid / Masterpiece when you’re 50 or 60 The great news for science communicators working in social media is that viewers crave smart stuff.
ADAM: Art Assignment lessons
More than 1 billion views of learning content on YouTube EVERY SINGLE DAY.
In your minds eye, think about what the typical viewer for your show might be? MOST importantly, think about what they’re into.
TV says you can’t go that deep into science. THIS IS WRONG. Typical episode of space time gets around 300-400k views, often much more Typical viewer of SpaceTime: Dude in his 20s and 30s with physics coursework, but who didn’t pursue it as a career Patreon success
Fun fact: Gouda and Gruyere are both perfect grilled cheese options, thanks to their pH and just the right amount of meltiness.
Dan - spark curiosity - OKAY. Including hook - the most interesting thing - tidbit, boil it down to a concept. Physics girl - faraday cages - dianna’s hook “can you call a cell phone in a microwave” Keep kep info at beginning
Dan - all caps do not improve click through rates. The addiction thumbnail is from an In a Nutshell video that DEFINITELY overpromised. The title was sensationalized, and the video itself proved to be inaccurate. They ended up changing the title to just “Addiction” and ultimately deleted it.
Dan What happens when you don’t deliver on promise - drop off. Hurts the algorithm’s likelihood of recommendation
How PBS Creates YouTube Series that Educate, Entertain & Inspire by Adam Dylewski (DIRECTOR, PROGRAMMING, PBS Digital Studios)
How to Create YouTube Series that
Educate, Entertain, and Inspire
Director of Programming, PBS Digital Studios
PBS Digital Studios at a glance
● Our mission: Advance the legacy of
public media by developing digital-
first series across multiple platforms
● Network of 20+ series
● 20+ million subscribers on YouTube
● 60+ million monthly views
● 2 billion+ lifetime views on YouTube
● 70 percent of our viewers are
between the ages of 18-34
● Multi-platform focus: Continue growth of YouTube
network while also expanding to other platforms and
mediums (OTT, IGTV, Facebook, podcasts, VR, etc.)
● Partner with PBS stations to create original, digital-
● 15-45 episodes annually
● 5-12 minutes long
● Typically hosted by subject matter experts
● Commitment to accuracy and nuance
○ Educational vlogs
○ Hosted explainers
○ Short-form documentaries
Typical PBSDS show
communities & identify
First thing’s First: Ask these Q’s
● What are the basic demographics of the audience
you’re hoping to reach? What are they into?
● Where do these people hang out online?
○ What social media platforms would they use?
○ What YouTube creators would they follow?
○ What communities do they already belong to?
● Have an existing audience? Survey them about what
kind of show they’d like to see!
Audience Targeting Statements
A specific statement that identifies who your
audience is and what they are into.
This is a show for comic book geeks, horror buffs and fans of Amazon Prime’s
Lore, monster movies and Stephen King. They loved the mythology unit in
elementary school. They may feel a special connection to Wednesday
Addams, Tim Burton and other ghoulish icons. They probably wear more
black than most.
● Find a niche/audience that isn’t being served by a
● Don’t be afraid to delve deep into a subject
● Get a host who knows what they’re talking about
Picking a series topic + host
A note on hosts
● The host is just as important as the
topic of the series
● Passionate and knowledgeable
about their subject matter
● Willing to engage on social media
● You want to hang out with them
● Representation matters: Work
with diverse hosts (especially if you
want to reach more diverse
● Be part of the conversation
○ Use the topics/things people love as hooks into
your show’s subject matter
○ Timely topics
● Choose topics that work best as a video
○ Don’t be a wikipedia article
Picking video topics
● Work with YouTube
creators with their
● “Frontload the
● Make videos as long as
they need to be (but
no longer than that)
● Titles and thumbnails
are just as important
as the video itself
Lessons in video format/approach
● Thumbnails (and then titles) the first
thing potential new viewers see
● Can make or break the performance of a
video on YouTube
● Helps you cut through the noise
○ 500 hours of video are uploaded to
YouTube EVERY MINUTE
● Increases views and watch time
○ 70% of all views on YouTube come
from the recommendation algorithm
Why great titles and thumbnails
are so important
What makes a good thumbnail?
● Work on all scales/mobile-friendly
● Compelling, can’t-help-but-click teaser that
highlights the best parts of your video
● Simple, high impact design that reinforces your
● High contrast colors and vibrant images
● Thumbnail + title tell a story together
What makes a bad thumbnail?
● Busy, cluttered design
● Too much text
● Does not scale well
● Doesn’t convey what the video is about
● False advertising
○ Always deliver on the promise of the
thumbnail and title!
What makes a good title?
○ Ex: How James Brown Invented Funk
● Use adjectives to heighten emotions
○ Manananggal: The Flying, Disembodied, Blood Sucking Nightmare
● Spark curiosity and lean into unexpected
● Concise/most important info at the beginning
○ Mobile cuts off everything after 60 characters
What makes a bad title?
● Too long
○ You don’t need to
highlight EVERY part of
the video. Just the most
● ALL CAPS (STOP SHOUTING)
● False Advertising - video
doesn’t deliver on the
promise of the title
How to engage with your
● Be audience-first: Listen to your viewers and incorporate
them into your show
● Collaborate with other channels and relevant
influencers to reach people outside of your usual audience
Have a conversation with your viewers
Don’t film a full season at once! See what your audience
responds to, produce a few episodes at a time, and iterate