Each week we sit down with a member of the media to get an insight into the workings of the industry.
This week we chat with Seán Connolly, a Senior Producer with Facts. Youtube channel.
Can you tell us a bit about the Facts channel and what your role involves?
The Facts. YouTube channel is primarily an entertainment brand, focused on creating fun, topical and relatable videos. Similar to the likes of Buzzfeed and The Fine Bros, but with an Irish twist. Our content ranges from taste testing strange and unusual foods, having our contributors take on weird and unique activities, or even something as simple as a child and grandparent chatting about life.
Facts. began as a small channel in 2014 and to date has grown to over 1.2 million subscribers and half a billion views. As Senior Producer, I help manage a team of 7 video producers, as well as working with the Production Manager to oversee the day-to-day running of the channel.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
The best part is definitely the fact I still have enough time to create videos for the channel myself! When I began here I came in as a Video Producer, which I loved. We have a great team working in here, but we also get to work with a whole host of contributors who feature in our videos. I think one of the reasons our videos perform so well is because of the personalities featured, as they really seem to resonate with our audience. They’re a fun bunch of people to watch, but that’s because they’re a fun bunch of people to film with! Whether it’s eating something odd, drinking unusual cocktails or facing their fears of heights, the contributors are always professional yet utterly entertaining.
On the flip side to this, the worst parts of the job would have to be working on a platform such as YouTube that has had…..well, a tumultuous year to say the least. Between issues with advertisers, controversies with some of the biggest creators on the platform & video demonetization issues, maintaining the channel has become more challenging than ever. Thankfully our content is, for the most part, suitable for all ages and as a result, we haven’t really been hit by these issues. We’re always aware of the balancing act that needs to be maintained and ensuring our audience remains satisfied with our output.
How did you end up getting involved with Facts? What was your media experience before?
I came to Facts in a sort of roundabout way, I guess. I studied Digital Media Design for four years at the University of Limerick, after which I moved to Dublin to pursue any sort of digital media or marketing-focused job I could find. I eventually landed an internship with a PR company, where I worked for a number of months managing the social media accounts of various brands. I learned a lot during my time there, but there was only ever the occasional option to do anything in relation to video, which was my main passion.
During college, I had set up my own YouTube channel, which I continue to manage today. My content consisted of things such as vlogs, sketches, and other short-form content. Over the years I managed to build up a small but sizable following, and I began combining this with the skills in creation & curation of social content I gained from the internship. By the time Facts. started hiring new Video Producers towards the start of 2016, it seemed perfectly suited to my skills. Thankfully I was successful in getting the job, and went from there!
What has been the biggest challenge of your career? What piece of work are you most proud of?
I think the biggest challenge to date would have to be breaking into the media landscape in Dublin at all after leaving college. Coming from living in Tipperary, this was a pretty big step. Thankfully I’d been coming to and from Dublin during my years in UL doing a variety of voiceover work. Having contacts in the city and then eventually landing the PR internship was the step I needed to begin my career, but it took a solid ten months before I was really able to settle myself and feel I was on the right path.
In terms of the work I’m most proud of, in my time at Facts I’ve created a number of successful videos, from conception to upload, that have done extremely well on the channel. Some of these videos have reached in excess of one or two million views alone. It’s difficult to pick any in particular, but one of the biggest achievements I feel we reached as a team was hitting one million subscribers last year. When I joined, the channel was just on the verge of hitting four hundred thousand – since then we’ve grown so much, gained a bigger audience than I had thought possible, and are continuing to expand the brand to more and more people each week.
Who do you look up to in the industry?
Over the years I’ve followed a variety of prominent content creators, writers and film-makers, but there are two names that I always come back to when asked this question: Casey Neistat and Philip DeFranco. I can remember watching the daily news show presented by DeFranco on his YouTube channel when I was in school – in the ten years since, he has expanded that production into a full company, creating long-form news shows as well as a variety of entertainment-focused series.
Casey Neistat, on the other hand, would be known as one of the world’s most famous ‘vloggers’, having turned the standard ‘film yourself in your bedroom’ format into something with a much higher production value. Neistat has been making movies all his life and brings an almost cinematic quality to his YouTube work. In both cases, I don’t always agree with the content Neistat or DeFranco produce, but their work ethic is something hugely admirable, and one I would aspire to.
Have you any advice for someone interested in creating YouTube videos?
This is a funny question because beginning on YouTube now is almost entirely different to when I would’ve started out. The landscape has changed, the platform has changed, but some things remain the same. I’ll say this: never be intimidated by the success of others. Every day there are new creators springing up, finding a niche that hasn’t been touched upon.
If you want to start out – forget about the expensive equipment, forget about the drones, simply make what you want. And continue to make it. The only way you’ll ever know what suits you is to create, create, create. It might be awful at first – but that’s the point! The more you do, the more you’ll learn. That’s honestly the best way to find out the type of videos you’re good at, and that will attract an audience!
Missed last week’s 5 Minutes with the Media? Catch up with our interview with AA Roadwatch’s Elaine O’Sullivan here.