John Lester is one of the original YouTubers with a focus on retro video games. He is also the creator of the Game On Expo in Arizona. 11 year ago John created the YouTube channel Gamester 81 to focus on retro video game topics.
As of January 2019, he has 107 thousand subscribers and has recently announced that he will be cutting back his content even more because it's no longer profitable and his channel isn't growing the way that he would have liked it to be. He also wants to spend time with his family and other, profitable business ventures.
John has put a lot of work into his channel and even maintains a consistent upload schedule but with a channel his size, only 2 of his past 50 videos have cracked 10k views with the lowest being 930. It’s pretty easy to understand why John might not want to put too much effort into videos when the success rate is that of a channel 1/10th his size.
But why has his channel been stalling?
Channels plateau all the time; Nathan Barnatt aka Keith Apicary returned after a very long hiatus and with a channel three times the size of Gamester 81, he had similar results – paltry view counts and growth compared to a channel of the same size. Even efforts to kickstart the channel with diverse content seemed to make things worse and Nathan has abandoned the original format altogether.
There are countless other channels that have suffered the same fate but one thing that’s in common with all of them is that the creators don’t change with the trends of YouTube. The content is not the issue. I'm not saying to rag on whatever console Soujia Boy is peddling this week. I'm talking about SEO, and how YouTube has changed their algorithm to deliver content to users.
John's channel hasn't really changed over the past 11 years. If you were to close your eyes and listen to a video from that period, you'd be hard pressed to tell if it was a recent one or not. Which is not necessarily bad, but for new users the content may come off as cheap.
Both John and Nathan have content all over the place and so for a subscriber, it’s hard to watch every single video if they aren’t interested.
Even Gamester81 mentioned that people had asked him when he was going to upload another video and he was surprised to hear that because he posts very frequently. Even I had wondered what had happened to John until I saw his “State of the channel” upload a couple days ago. And even then, the video was a few days old when YouTube recommended it to me.
How can Gamester81 recover?
I’m just a small channel with 1170 subs so I’m not really an expert, but I am very good at noticing trends and determining what works and what doesn’t. John Lester can salvage his channel by taking a step back and reevaluating what works and what doesn’t. It seems that his subscribers are pretty good at using the dislike button to tell John that they don’t like what he’s producing. Also it doesn't matter if you have 100K subs or 1K this advice can be applied to any channel.
Solidify your content
Maintaining a consistent schedule is important, but having a predictable content format keeps subscribers in the loop on what they can expect the next video to be. If I don’t watch 5-6 videos from the same channel, YouTube assumes that I’m not interested and doesn’t recommend it as much. It’s the same thing with Gmail – if I don’t open up a newsletter, eventually Gmail assumes I don’t want to see it and it winds up in my spam box.
Recently I found Chadtronic so I’ve been watching a lot of his episodes. I’ll give you a guess as to which creator is dominating my suggested feed.
Bring in new viewers
Gamester 81 should also work on his titles and thumbnails. The naming convention of his videos is boring and the same with his thumbnails. New people unfamiliar with Gamester81 won’t know that he was one of the first. Instead, he’s one of the countless other channels that cover these topics.
Standing out from the countless other channels is as big of a challenge as creating videos. Having a hook keeping subscribers coming back will give YouTube the impression that your content is worth viewing.
Engage your current subscribers
Also take advantage of the tools YouTube provides - The channel community tab is great for keeping viewers engaged in your channel. Run polls to see what people want to see. Post photos of upcoming topics you have planned. Also pin, like and heart comments. John is very active in the comments, but he doesn't pin or heart comments
Even if you're not on board with YouTube's new social media options. Maintaining an active Twitter/Facebook/Instagram account is very important and promoting it in the channel as well.
YouTube is still social media and a lot of people trying to apply the Old Media format to the platform will soon run out of juice and money. Interacting with your audience is key as well.
John's channel isn't dead. Not by a long shot. It will be completely up to him to decide to focus his efforts on this channel. If he doesn't want to, that's his choice and I respect him for walking away from a big channel that he's built for over a decade. A channel should always be fun first. Especially if you're the only one behind it. If the passion isn't there, why continue?
Hopefully John's realization serves as a reminder to up and coming channels that you can't rest on your laurels and expect to be successful without evolving over time.