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Stuck creatively? It might be time to visit other genres

Practical advice on one way to brainstorm creatively when you’re stuck.

When I was a comedy creator on YouTube, I very much operated only in the comedy genre (or “vertical” as they say internally). I watched videos from other comedians, studied what they did to grow their subscribers, hung out and collaborated with them. To me, the YouTube community was the comedy community. 

Of course, I was aware of other genres, but didn’t pay much attention to them because I was a proud member of those who were trying to make people laugh with their videos. They were my people! Why would I need to pay attention to anyone else?

Then I was hired at YouTube. 

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As a content strategist, my manager described my new job with these exact words: “Understand what creative formats work on YouTube and why -- then teach them back to the community.”

Note that he said, ”What creative formats work on YouTube”... not “what works in comedy.”

I had to try and become an expert at the whole platform. I had to throw myself into the worlds of tech reviews, gaming, baking, challenges, news, music, VR, ASMR and so many more. 

And with that task, I was able to see so much more of the wild and vibrantly creative community of videomakers. It felt like I had been pulled up from 3,000 feet to 30,000, and I could swoop down anytime I saw a video spike in the data, and study why it took off. 

Through years of this process, I discovered formats and strategies that seemed completely undiscovered by other genres. Yet, with just a little ingenuity, they could be repurposed for use in another “land.” Here are three examples:

1. From lifestyle: Annual Vlogmas

Lifestyle creators like Alisha Marie often upload a burst of videos over the end-of-year holidays in a daily series called “vlogmas.” Even creators who normally only upload twice a month suddenly go all-in with 12 or more uploads in a row. The result is sometimes not just a spike in views, but a spike in revenue since advertisers tend to spend big for the holidays. 

Takeaway: Could you perhaps pull this off with lighter, easier videos than what you normally make? Holidays aside, could you produce and upload such a “burst” of content to give your channel a boost?

2. From tech reviews: This vs. That

Creators from the tech reviewing community often compare one product against another, like Marques Brownlee often does. I call this a “versus” format, and they can be effective because they build anticipation in viewers as to which contender will win, driving longer audience retention. 

Takeaway: Could you maybe employ the “versus” format in your own genre? What products or concepts would you pit against each other?

3. From gaming: My Set-ups

YouTube gamers like Fuslie sometimes pull back the curtain to show their gaming and recording set-ups. That idea could lend itself to any genre, since viewers often love to see a behind-the-scenes look at how videos are made. 

Takeaway: What camera do you use? What microphone? What editing software? Where do you shoot and what are its challenges?

As for how to do this research, there are a ton of tools and articles out there that curate top videos by category. You can use those as a starting point to study videos, show formats and strategies, then see what you can borrow for your own efforts. 

Maintaining a successful channel can be a ton of work; I remember it well. Uploading every week or more can really push you to your creative limits. So, if you eventually fall into a creative rut, try venturing off to new genres. Observe what they do, and see if you come back with some fresh ideas for your own channel.