By day, Lee Doren works at CRAFT Media and Digital, a full-service media agency located in Washington, DC. By night, and by weekends, Lee is the instigator behind the popular conservative YouTube channel, “How The World Works.” Lee is also the author of the ninety-nine cent e-book “Please Enroll Responsibly: Avoiding Indoctrination at College.”
Despite this success, Lee is far from where he saw himself in college. After graduating from the Chicago-Kent College of Law, Lee wanted to become a prosecutor in Chicago. He also confesses that he use to be a liberal.
So how did this liberal student who wanted to be a prosecutor in Chicago end up becoming one of the most famous conservative faces on YouTube? Well interesting story.
When things don’t go as planned.
Lee told Townhall in an interview for the December 2011 magazine, that he experienced a philosophical wake-up call when the liberal lobbying organization he was with made the Sunoco oil refinery in Toledo, Ohio their target.
I realized that most of the people who were there against me were not big CEOs or big corporate titans – they were everyday Americans who liked the fact that the refinery provided jobs and made life a little bit easier for a lot of them in terms of paying their bills… That was just kind of a shock to me when I actually met these people.
He dedicated a lot of time after this experience to understanding free-market principles, and to fleshing-out the new conservative philosophy to which he found he belonged.
Also, after law school and passing the bar, Lee found an unfriendly job market in the midst of the recession. That’s when Lee decided that he wasn’t going to wait for opportunity.
Instead of sitting around all day waiting for interviews, I decided to upload some videos to YouTube. And since YouTube had just announced that they were offering revenue sharing, I figured I could justify my time.
Lee started making videos and uploading them on his channel “How the World Works.” He began developing an audience and drawing attention. The liberal left on YouTube started making attack videos against Lee’s fledgling channel, as he was pretty much the only conservative channel on the block. These liberal channels had bigger audiences, which brought traffic to Lee.
Eventually, Fox News picked up his critique of Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff. To discuss the story, Fox News interviewed Chris Horner, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Lee again took the initiative, reaching out to Horner, and was offered a job at CEI. This brought him to Washington, DC, only a few short months after the launch of his channel in the summer of 2009.
It takes initiative, not expertise.
Lee Doren is entirely self-taught in video blogging.
I had no experience whatsoever in making videos. But as I started doing it over and over again, and started to see the entertainment channels, and see what their format was for what works on YouTube, I just started experimenting and found what worked.
The return on investment for Lee’s time has been enormous. “The amount of money I’ve spend on these videos basically zero over the years in terms of the money they have paid back through the advertising.” While Lee chooses to have a day job, he says that many people who have pursued make videos as a full-time job have been very successful. This is only the beginning for YouTube careers, he believes, as the internet is going to be replacing traditional television.
It’s getting to the point where [YouTube channels] have larger audiences than basic cable news. Much larger. And that’s why I always laugh at people who thumb their nose and say “Oh, you just make YouTube videos.” Because these people have smaller audiences on some cable channels.
People look down on YouTube videos, but their full-time job is to write something or make videos for something and they aren’t getting close to the viewership… Keith Olbermann supposedly had something like 50,000 views. That’s like a D-level YouTube video, and he is getting $12 million dollars or something like that?”
Eventually the paradigm is going to change in terms of where ad-buys are going to go. Television isn’t going to be able to sustain those kind of paychecks… Once they start merging television and the internet, that’ll basically make it where there is no difference.
How to develop an audience.
Lee says that a video blogger should focus on marketing a video first.
Forget about content for a second. You need to figure out where you are likely to be getting your audience from. Where is your traffic going to come from?… Because if you just go and decide to upload a random video, you are literally a needle in a haystack and someone has to be able to find your stuff. And that’s not easy. So you might have the greatest content in the world, and you might be able to make it really well, but you need a strategy of figuring out before you even upload your first video for how you will let people know.
Most videos on YouTube that go viral are planned to go viral… It literally is five to ten bloggers on big blogs with enormous audiences will post it on their blogs… Ten human beings decided to clip the URL and post it in a WordPress blog. It isn’t magic.
Having a marketing strategy is more important now than ever, because YouTube has grown exponentially since Lee started in 2009. He says that his success is partially attributable to the fact that he recognized the window of opportunity was “very, very short.”
Networking is a key part of marketing.
What is most important, according to Lee, is to make personal connections with other young professionals.
The best advice that I could give anyone, it has worked well, and I’d recommend it to anybody, is to find young people who you think are going to be successful in DC. They will give you the time of day, and they will listen to you, and they will be very willing to meet with you. They will be the people in the next five or ten years who will be offered positions to make decisions.
Lee Doren’s story is an inspiration because few of us find ourselves doing what we thought we would be doing in just the few short years after college or graduate school. While there is social pressure to feel bad about taking new directions, Lee’s story is a testament to the fact that these turns may lead to better places than our original plans.
Make sure to subscribe to Lee’s YouTube channel, “How The World Works,” check out his book, “Please Enroll Responsibly: Avoiding Indoctrination at College,” and follow Lee on twitter.
A final piece of advice from Lee.
Long-term planning is very difficult in new media… because you have no idea what the new media world is going to look like ten years from now. Ten years ago, YouTube didn’t exist.
Jacqueline Otto’s shelves at home are lined with used-book store finds; just a few of her favorite authors include C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, H.G. Wells, Orson Scott Card, Ray Bradbury, Jules Verne, and George Orwell.
She first read F.A. Hayek and Frédéric Bastiat at 16. Her political affiliation on Facebook is “Freedom,” and she hopes to always be known as a lover of liberty.
Jacqueline is on Twitter at @jacque_otto.
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