This is the first in an occasional series of interviews with people who have been successful creating innovative, interesting and sharable content. We all know that content is king. These interviews are about getting inside the heads of the new content Kings.
First up – Craig Turner, creator of possibly YouTube’s best cat video.
Craig, you first appeared on our radar when Jon Henshaw of Raven Tools shared this clever, funny video with us:
I really enjoyed it and so did the web, with over 1 million views and counting. I was also intrigued as it appeared to be totally non commercial, yet was really well produced. This led me to tracking you down, and this interview.
Clearly you are a man with a cat problem, but what was your goal behind making the video?
In short it definitely wasn’t anything commercial, really it was simply for fun.
Back in 2007 my wife / business partner and I produced a video entry for a Top Gear “review your car” contest here in Australia. It was hosted through the broadcasters website and up for public vote. This was my first time performing anything on camera and to our surprise we actually won the contest and a $20,000 trip to London.
Since starting our production business in 2000, the Top Gear competition presented an opportunity and an excuse really, to produce a video simply for the creative fun of it, something we hadn’t really done since finishing film school. We put this video on youtube where it continued to generate a fair amount of interest.
So since then my plan was to continue building my youtube channel with similar content following a car & mechanical type theme just for the passion of it. I was actually working on another video for my Youtube channel when the cat spray video idea came about.
One weekend I had genuinely devised the spray set-up in an afternoon with parts from around the house in an attempt to tackle the cat problem and then wanted to somehow photograph the result to see if it was actually working at all. After reviewing the first couple of photos the next morning my wife and I were killing ourselves with laughter. I instantly knew I had to capture it on video and share it with the world and it tied in perfectly with my youtube channel’s theme too.
From there it actually took a fair few months to complete the video as I then reconstructed the setup for the camera, ran the trap for a couple of weeks and then created the commentary.
Tell us about your day job running In Shot Productions?
We operate in Perth Western Australia and currently produce quite a variety of productions with our clients ranging from individuals, small business, large corporations and Goverrnment departments. With productions including promotional & corporate videos, training & educational films and events.
One of the things that originally appealed to me about the video industry was the variety of work and that certainly has proven true. We can be in an office tower in the city shooting a webcast for a law firm one week and then be in red dust 100 miles from the nearest sealed road in a 4WD shooting landscapes the next week.
However the majority of our time is spent in the edit suite.
How did you end up being a video producer? Tell us a little about your background.
Since I was a kid I always had an interest in video and photography but it wasn’t until I was 16 that I (well my family) purchased a video camera. I then started shooting sports I was into and editing short clips. Then within the same year I recorded my first paid event.
After finishing highschool it seemed obvious that I should take it further and went on the study a 3 year course in film and television where I met my now wife Kristen. We actually started In Shot Productions in our first year together.
When did you realise that the cat video was picking up some serious momentum?
The first 48 hours were insane. When refreshing the view count it was overwhelming seeing the numbers jump by increasingly bigger and bigger leaps right up until it got to 308 views which is the known youtube view counter “lock up” number. This is where their system has trouble processing and keeping up with the view count. I knew about this after seeing it happen on Ray William Johnson’s videos when they are first released.
From then on we would see it updated thousands at a time. In the end the video received around 200,000 views in 48 hours.
Unfortunately early on a foreign website hosted the clip without permission which stole around a ¼ of a million views, but I don’t know… maybe that is audience that may not have seen it otherwise.
[Insights data – this shows a classic “social learning” growth curve.]
What did you do to “promote” the video or did it just start to snowball of it’s own accord?
I simply posted the video on my personal facebook account, where I have around 150 friends, my wife did the same and it wasn’t long before I was seeing re-shares in the news feed and I guess it just snowballed from there.
That’s really interesting. That backs up some research we are doing into the mapping of social behaviour. You dropped your great content into a small, but strongly connected network and…boom!
Are you in the YouTube Partner programme? Have you ordered your new Pagani Zonda yet?
Haha no Pagani Zonda just yet but yes I am happy to say I am have now been accepted into the partner program.
The partner program is fantastic for access to features to help grow an online audience but from a financial point of view its definitely no more than a hobby at this stage.
With the production quality I want to maintain with future videos, unless I have a significantly bigger audience I am pretty sure that the $ per hour of work required I would be far better off taking on a local paper round. But still it is great to receive some money for a video I basically produced for fun. It has helped cover material costs for my next video.
The video is funny, clever and of course cat centric which would suggest YouTube greatness, but what do you think are key factors to it’s success?
I guess one can never be completely sure but a major aspect that many have suggested is originality. Which makes sense as the video idea came about completely organically. I didn’t set out to copy someone’s style or idea or to even create a viral video.
Another thing that is interesting is that I assumed at first that it was simply the scared wet cats drawing people in, but as my wife pointed out, I showed a number of people the raw footage of the cats being sprayed and people thought it was pretty amusing but it wasn’t until it was cut together with the backstory and the commentary that people really thought it was hilarious.
So I believe a major ingredient is that it has a good story structure. People are instinctively receptive to stories with a start, middle and end. It has characters and you could even say that it has good guys and bad guys. Story structure is a point to remember when producing any video including corporate videos.
It’s quite a long video for a viral hit. What proportion of viewers watch to the end? What do you think helped make the video so sticky?
Its great that you noticed this, this is actually something I am really proud of but not many people would notice, it is a long video! The average viral video would be 1 minute 30 seconds or less and anything in the 3 to 5 minute range with over 1 million views is usually a music video.
The “relative audience retention” is above average for almost the entire video which is great to see, there is a slight drop off at the end with the credits. So it looks like the majority of people watch the entire clip.
As mentioned above I believe story structure is a factor in keeping people watching. Also I think it helped approaching the editing the same as one would approach a short film edit. I gave a lot of attention to pace and even tested the edit on a number of friends. I actually cut a couple of sections that dragged along a bit.
As a tip, if people start talking or asking questions during your video you have likely got some pace problems.
What advice would you have for SMEs thinking of producing a video or videos specifically for marketing purposes?
Firstly I think businesses shouldn’t initially think “viral video” when they think of online video marketing. Unless you have global distribution of your product or service and have a great video idea that will directly feature your product, it’s unlikely you will have many relevant leads from you video. ie. You are better having a video viewed by 100 people in your target market than 100,000 random people internationally.
For SME’s the simplest way to get started with online video marketing is to produce a conversion video. That simply can be a promotional video on your home page or even some client testimonials. It builds trust and informs people further about you whom are actively looking at products and services in your industry. This increases your conversion of leads into sales.
As a business owner you really want to look at how you can set yourself up as an “expert” in your industry and video is a great way to do this.
If you are looking at producing more regular video content this can be achieved with “how to” videos or industry news and “tips” style videos. This can generate new leads and keep you in the top of the mind of your clients.
If this is the approach you are going for as a main tip for content ideas, really think about what people actually “get” out of your product or service. For example for a camper trailer manufacturer, your target market generally isn’t that interested in say the manufacturing techniques you use or even your product range, but they are interested in travel and adventure, so you could perhaps do a series of videos detailing some popular camping destinations while only subtly featuring your products in the background of the story.
Can you give us a few hints about what you might be working on next for YouTube?
I currently have 2 videos in the making at the moment, all I can say at this stage is one is automotive related and the other is a “solution” which I have already spent about 80 hours working on. I tend to over do these things I guess.
But I can also say I have lots of concepts for future videos that I am really looking forward to making and sharing 😉
Thanks so much for your time and insight!
You can find out more about Craig at the following places: