What’s the point of vlogging?

On January 2, 2017 I published a video on YouTube telling everyone I was starting a daily vlog. I also told them I’d probably fail. I did.

I remember the exact meeting I was in at Accenture in 2001 when I found out a manager I was working with had started his own “blog”.

Though I was in a technology group researching trends, I still found it weird that someone at work would blog. What a strange word. “Blog”. I didn’t pay any attention to the blog after he told me about it. Who wants to read this guy’s personal journal online anyway.

Blogging went mainstream. My first blog was published after I started my first company in 2005. I wrote a couple posts, then lost motivation. I got a little more serious in 2010, but just barely. A post here or there. By then, there were so many good writers out there and I was so far behind. What was I possibly going to add to the wealth of good content out there? And how could I possibly stand out?

I’d missed the opportunity.

But in 2011, Dustin Curtis invited me to his new blog network, Svbtle, on one condition, that I post one article every single week. And that regularity and Dustin’s exposure helped get a ball in motion that hasn’t stopped.

From then on I’ve taken blogging and writing online seriously. My audience finally grew. That Svbtle blog and other writing opportunities started to propel my companies forward.

Now, I’m publishing at least twice a week. My writing is a major driver of traffic to Highrise and projects I work on. But I regret not using those years before more wisely — practicing, finding my voice, learning how to do it better, and growing (if even slowly) an audience. Imagine how much further I’d be today.

One of the biggest regrets I have in my career was that I didn’t jump on what that Accenture manager was doing.

It’s strange when my friends and family ask about my “vlog”. That word again seems so foreign and weird.

Yet, people have been doing it for awhile with Adam Kontras being celebrated as the first to post a video blog back in 2000. Now, dozens/hundreds of celebrities make 7/8 figures running their vlogs, often with teams of well skilled editors and cinematographers behind them. How can I possibly add to this and stand out?

And I see all these trends in video taking over the content of site after site after site. Facebook and Instagram are investing heavily in video as Zuckerberg has already predicted he: “wouldn’t be surprised if you fast-forward five years and most of the content that people see on Facebook and are sharing on a day-to-day basis is video.”

YouTube is surging with hours of video watched growing 60% year over year, even though it was acquired over a decade ago and the product isn’t fundamentally different.

Six year olds are making $11 million a year on YouTube and being featured on primetime-old-people-television like SNL. Ask a bunch of kids or teenagers what they want to be today, and it’s rarer to hear “athlete” than it is to hear “celebrity vlogger”.

Another missed opportunity?

Well, I could keep missing it, or I can take a dive like I did with writing back in 2011 and finally commit to it.

So I started an experiment to publish a video every single day on YouTube. How’d I do?


I failed at actually completing a video every single day. I started out strong, but petered out at one point trying a bit too hard to game the numbers and perfect individual videos. Motivation would also wane.

But I don’t like giving up on things I promise I’d do.

So in July 2017, I re-committed myself to getting a video done every day. Even if it was something tiny. Like a quick YouTube Live video. I mostly kept to that promise minus some days I got pretty sick.

The result: I tripled my audience. My editing got faster. My ability to find stories in my content got better. My camera work improved. I think the quality of my current videos are 10 times where they were a year ago.

And these videos have helped me snowball other content. A good idea on the vlog judged by views and likes often helps me focus on things that become even better ideas in articles I write. And so my writing has gotten even stronger and more useful to building my audience and supporting our business — all because of the vlog.

Apart from failing to meet the daily goal, I’d say running this vlog has been a big success.

But it’s still far from where I want to be, far from the people I look up to.

So what will 2018 hold? More of the same. I’ll keep at that vlog. I’ll keep experimenting and trying to improve it. I’ll keep trying to grow it.

Because sure, it still feels weird opening up about my day and life so much in a “vlawwg”. But I remember how I felt the same way about the manager blogging so many years ago.

And I won’t repeat my mistake.

P.S. Speaking of 🙂 You should follow me on YouTube: youtube.com/nathankontny where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life. And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups, try Highrise.

Looking for a distraction… or optimism?

A friend of mine was recently bummed about the lack of success a business venture turned out to be. So he started looking for a hobby… a distraction… something.

I have a hiring secret I haven’t shared before. I like to hire people handy with a camera.

Javan, who works here at our sister company Basecamp, is a tremendous developer. He used to actually work for me at my old company Inkling. I don’t think I’ve ever told him about this, but the thing about him that really sealed the deal on us hiring him at Inkling originally was that he had a great looking photo portfolio. He practiced taking beautiful photographs. He even made his own minimal photo software.

There’s something about folks who work with cameras and photography who I find are constantly on alert for interesting opportunities in the world. They take what others see as mundane, and they find something else. Something unique and beautiful to share with the rest of the world.

That’s a habit I enjoy having around me. Especially because it makes me aspire to do the same.

I’m clearly not a psychologist. And I’m not offering advice on turning something like depression around which really needs qualified, professional assistance. Believe me, I have my own tough time managing my psychology.

But there’s something so optimistic and uplifting about working with a camera and looking for the interesting things out there from a haystack of seemingly boring, routine tasks.

I’ve been doing a semi-regular vlog now on YouTube, and I keep noticing: there’s always something interesting.

Sometimes it’s harder to spot than others. But as I look back at the video I’ve captured each and every day, there’s always something. Even if it’s small and short.

More often though, there’s so much that was interesting and beautiful I have a hard time fitting it all into a single concise movie.

So on January 1, 2017, I announced I’d be trying my hand at a daily vlog — well on January 2 to be exact. I film on one day, publish the next 🙂

There’s a lot of reasons I’m not optimistic it will succeed. And when I say succeed I’m not referring to getting the followers or views I want.

I’m not optimistic because I’m not sure I can keep up with the demands a daily vlog could take. I have found myself spending hours and hours just editing a 7 minute video. I can’t keep doing that and fit in the rest of my life. Can I figure out ways to speed up the process? Will experience just make me faster?

I think so. Maybe. I’ve already shaved off a ton of time with some recent changes I’ve made.

But also I think this vlog could fail because my life is mundane. I don’t travel much, or hang out with famous friends. I like to stick close to home, spend as much time with my family as possible, and work the rest.

And that’s why I need to vlog even more frequently than I have so far. Because it is interesting. There’s always something. At least one creative challenge or business problem each day running Highrise. Not to mention the endless lessons I uncover trying to raise a child.

So with that, I start a daily vlog.

Please come and follow the journey. I hope it provides some help in areas important to you.

And please, if you ever have a question I’d love to help, just ask. I’m reachable over YouTube comments, Twitter, and email.

My friend looking for that hobby? He bought a new camera.