With an average of 1 billion hours of content watched daily and 2 billion logged-in monthly users, YouTube is one of the world’s most visited sites on the internet. More than 500 hours of YouTube videos are uploaded every minute, new creators entering the site every day.
All content is user-generated, so anyone can start a channel. But just how easy is it?
After just three years, the Hermans, a local YouTube family, are set to cross the 1 million subscriber milestone within the coming months. Sitting at 934,000 subscribers, their channel, known as Sign Post Kids, has more than half a billion views since emerging on the platform.
Five homeschooled kids ages 8 to 17 make up the cast of Sign Post Kids, with parents Robert and Diane helping film, edit, and produce the videos. As a safe and family friendly edutainment channel, Sign Post Kids uses songs, playgrounds, paint, food and a number of props to illustrate simple concepts, such as colors and counting, to preschoolers.
“We’re like a babysitting service for moms as they push their grocery carts around,” said Robert. “They just want their kids occupied, so they tell their kids to watch our videos for fun viewing with a spoonful of education.”
Being homeschooled, Hannah, Carlei, Emy, JoJo, and Katie used YouTube for art classes and enrichment lessons before they even started creating videos. Through that usage, their mom saw a gap on the platform for safe content parents could rely on, and for informative videos that would interest kids.
“I think education is hard to sell on YouTube,” said Diane. “There’s a niche market for entertaining children by keeping it fun, simple and creative.”
Santa Barbara locals Diane and Robert have worked with children since they were in high school and were a part of a media company long before YouTube. Together, they were the perfect pair to launch Sign Post Kids.
Still, with a goal in mind and the creativity to match, the Hermans needed one more push to start their channel.
“We saw success happen to our friends, the Ballinger family,” said Diane. “They really made us take action.”
The Ballingers, who have 1.4 million subscribers themselves, are relatives of Miranda Sings, one of the most successful creators on the platform with almost 11 million subscribers to date. Part of the same homeschool group, the Ballingers urged the Hermans to start a start a channel of their own. Soon enough, they picked up a camera and began, unsure of where the process would take them.
“I think of one of the most amazing things to think about is not only subscribers, but also views,” said Emy, 12. “It blows my mind to see how many people are watching our channel constantly. All over the world, there’s someone watching constantly.”
When they started, the Hermans knew very little about creating YouTube videos. Robert took to YouTube Academy, an online crash-course with everything a new creator needs to begin. Over three weeks, Robert studied extensive videos, took questionnaires and tested his progress, giving him the platform to start producing and editing content.
The learning curve didn’t stop there. Robert started to teach his kids what he had learned, so they could eventually help with the process. Now, the Hermans create content, from early concepts to the final product, all on their own. Each member of the family takes on a different role to make sure a video is posted every 10 days.
“I would say that we’ve all learned a lot,” said Carlei, 15. “Our dad talks to us all the time about analytics and shows us graphs so we can understand how the numbers work on top of editing.”
Some of the kids focus on the backend of production, like accounting, while others take on a more artistic role, creating thumbnails, or preview images, to their videos. At 8 years old, Katie is the director and makes sure content resonates with young viewers.
“It’s a lot of hard work and a great lesson for the kids,” said Diane. “If you set goals and have a business plan, it’s going to work.”
For the past three years that hard work has paid off. Until recently, YouTube supported the Hermans financially, allowing them to create videos full time. This January, however, that will change.
Earlier this year, the FTC filed a lawsuit against YouTube and Google, claiming the companies illegally collected personal information from children online. In response, YouTube and Google agreed not to run personal advertisements directed at children, a decision that could severely reduce the revenue made from kids YouTube channels, according to Forbes.
“Some have said we could see a 90% drop of revenue, but we won’t know until January rolls around,” said Robert. “A lot of YouTube families are crossing their fingers.”
While Robert and Diane may have to fall back on other means of support, they wouldn’t trade their channel for the world. The videos they’ve created and the time they’ve spent together have made for invaluable experiences.
“Two nights ago, we filmed a cooking video, and we just spent the whole time laughing,” said Emy. “We were all having fun trying to make up little dance routines, just being silly. That’s the best part.”
For Robert, the best part is knowing how far they’ve come.
“I love waking up every day and realizing we did something from nothing,” he said. “All the hard work we’ve put into this, involving our kids and my wife’s creativity, magically came together. It’s so gratifying to wake up and know we did this.”
“Anyone should give it a shot,” he said. “It all started with a garage and an iPhone.”