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This is a guest post by Zoe Cohen.
Thinking about starting a new vlog or blog too? It’s tempting to want to put your voice out there on the internet. With the proliferation of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, and all of the other ways people are making their opinions heard, it seems like the thing to do. In our current society, we’re inundated with the stories, personalities, and aesthetics of numerous “influencers” who have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers and seem to be riding high on their various sponsorships and endorsements.
While they definitely make it seem much easier than it is, becoming an influencer – or at least a known internet personality – yourself has a pretty low barrier to entry. If you’re savvy, entertaining, and creative enough, you might just be able to carve out your own little niche on the internet and build up a following. But given how much work it takes to make it big, you have to decide where to invest your energy by answering the age-old question: to blog or vlog? Which one is best for you? There are a lot of considerations to take into account here, but luckily for you, we’ve already taken care of them. So kick back, relax, and keep reading!
YouTube, the main vlogging platform, is quickly eclipsing television. With the introduction of YouTube Red, YouTube’s premiere, ad-free streaming service with exclusive content, the company is doing it’s very best to create shows that can actually replace cable network productions. 300 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute, and over 1 billion hours of YouTube videos are watched a day. With this high volume of growth and usage, it’s easy to see why aspiring internet personalities are drawn to the platform.
Vlogging for many is a sort of curated virtual diary, except that depending on the type of person you are, you might not even have to do any writing! Some vloggers extensively plan out exactly what they’re going to write and even makeup scripts ahead of time so that they know they’re hitting all of their planned talking points. Others will just get in front of a camera and wing it, talking until they feel like they have the footage they want, and cobbling the right pieces together during the editing process. There really isn’t a “right” way to do it – it comes down to your own personal style.
The nice thing about these videos is that you don’t have to know how to write – just talk! Being personable and bringing a conversational tone to your videos will go far in gaining you followers and fans. Watching videos is more engaging than reading blog posts because it feels like being in conversation with a close friend, hearing about their daily life, thoughts and opinions, and personal experiences. Vlogging has an intimacy that it’s possible to create in good writing, but much easier and more effortless to cultivate in a video.
Another reason the video format is a great way to reach people is that it’s so passive for your fans. Watching a video requires very little from viewers, unlike reading, which is an active medium. People can even put your videos on in the background while they do something else (which you can’t do with a blog post). And while you might not be thrilled at the idea of viewers relegating you to the periphery of their attention, you’re still getting that exposure. If those videos were blog posts instead, people would just skip them since they couldn’t passively listen while doing something else.
The problem with a video is that once you put it up, there’s no adjusting it. You can’t fix any mistakes or edit any embarrassing moments out. The only recourse you have is to take the video down and/or republish an edited version. Also, since you don’t own the domain, your content is limited by the restrictions of the platform. YouTube, for example, doesn’t allow hateful content, threats, harassment, violence/graphic content, nudity, spam/scams, or impersonations of other channels. For a lot of people, these restrictions shouldn’t really be a problem, but YouTubers have run into issues in the past with YouTube misinterpreting their content and either taking it down or removing its (revenue-creating) ads.
In deciding whether to blog or vlog, it’s important to think about the kind of person you are. Are you outgoing? Personable? Charismatic? Do you enjoy being on camera and hearing your voice? Are you better in person than in the written word? Then vlogging might be the way to go. Putting yourself out there on the internet, in general, is a huge personal commitment, but vlogging takes it one step further because your appearance, voice, personality, mannerisms, and surroundings are all public for people to watch and comment on. Though you may get lucky and develop a nice, supportive community, there are trolls in every corner of the internet or even just people who might not moderate what they say or how they say it because of the anonymity of the internet. Make sure you take this into consideration and gauge whether you’re really ready for that kind of scrutiny before diving in.
The platform options for blogging are much more numerous and varied than with vlogging. You could dip your toes in with an account on Medium, get a free blog on a pre-existing site (Blogger, Tumblr, WordPress, etc.), or go whole hog and buy your own domain and use tools like Squarespace or WordPress (different from the blogging platform – this is a software suite you install to customize your website) to control every aspect of your blog. You should definitely check out our post, Learn How to Start a Blog. Starting a blog is as simple as picking your platform and writing up a post – doesn’t get easier than that!
If vlogging is like having a virtual diary, blogging is very much like having a digital diary. Although your blog doesn’t necessarily have to deal with your daily life’s trials and tribulations, it’s a good place to express yourself and your personality at whatever level of intimacy you feel comfortable with. In this way, it’s safer than vlogging because you can choose to upload only as much detail or information about yourself and your life as you see fit. With a vlog, there are certain elements of yourself that you can’t help but share (namely appearance). But blogs allow a certain amount of anonymity, depending on what you choose to write about. Blogs tend to do better when they have a certain amount of personal disclosure and authenticity, but it’s nice to have control over what your readers can know about you.
You also have control over the format of your blog. Maybe you’ll choose long-form posts (pro tip – these tend to do better than the short-form posts!) explaining how to do something or talking about your day. Maybe you’ll post a photo of the day with a short caption, quote, or meditation for readers to think about. Maybe every post will have a DIY component that readers can try out at home. Maybe your blog will consist of transcribed interviews you’ve done or conversations you’ve had. The possibilities are endless! Furthermore, you don’t have to pigeon-hole yourself into just one of these formats – you can mix and match and change it up to keep the blog fresh.
The main drawback of the blogging format, however, is that in order to have even a moderately successful blog, you have to have some pretty decent knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO). This is basically knowing how to set your blog and posts up so that your blog will be indexed by search engines and will be listed for relevant searches. Understanding the algorithms and intricacies of SEO is no mean feat and definitely something you should read up on if you want to start a blog. Learning about keywords and meta tagging is probably a good idea too. The upside of a vlog is that you don’t have to worry about any of this stuff because the platform you’re using (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) does it all for you and automatically funnels traffic to your content.
When deciding whether to blog or vlog, think about whether you tend to express yourself better in person or in a written format. Also, consider how much information you’re comfortable sharing about yourself. Blog posts allow you to get more in-depth on a topic and to link to outside sources easily, offering readers more value than they might get from a video. They can read at their own speed or skim for key information, something they couldn’t do with a video. Being (for the most part) much less work to produce than a vlog, blogs are a good choice if you’re not sure how much time you can really dedicate to the venture. That being said, they can also take up a lot of time and effort if you’re striving for a certain quality of content. The best blogs are thoroughly researched and considered and incorporate authenticity and value for the reader. Many even serve as a hub for the community that congregates around the blog, creating an important sense of belonging and solidarity.
Costs of Blogging and Vlogging
Before starting a blog or vlog, there are a number of costs you’ll need to consider. While at the most basic level one medium certainly comes out as the cheaper option, depending on what you’re looking to do or what level you’re trying to achieve, the costs for either one can add up quickly.
At their most basic, vlogs require a medium-to-high-quality camera, professional video editing software, a quiet recording environment, and a ton of time. It can take several hours or even days to produce a simple, 5-8 minute vlog, depending on your content. You need to write, film, edit, and upload a video even at its simplest. Blogs, on the other hand, require only a computer, an internet connection, and writing skills at their most basic.
Moving up the quality ladder, vlogs might require professional sound mixing, graphics, professional lighting equipment, music, animation, green screen, or any number of other technical requirements. These things get expensive quickly and are difficult to learn on your own. Higher-end blogs, on the other hand, might require professional SEO help, web design, or graphic design to look their best and be the most effective. Admittedly, your blog or vlog doesn’t necessarily need to have any of these more advanced facets. It all depends on your creative vision and might just be something to keep in mind for the future.
Blogging and Vlogging Revenue
I’m sure you’ve heard the stories of YouTubers or bloggers making bank off of what was initially just a passion project (maybe this is even why you’re interested in getting involved?). Well, let me shatter all your hopes and dreams for a minute to say that although some people have been successful in making a living off of their blog or vlog, the vast majority of bloggers and vloggers don’t make much at all. That being said, it’s definitely possible to make some money off of your blog or vlog, even if it’s not going to pay all your bills and make it so you never have to work again.
In general, it’s much easier to make money off a blog than a vlog. There are two reasons for this. First of all, with blogs, it’s much easier to insert sponsored and affiliate links, or links to websites or products that will pay you a commission for each click you garner for them. This is simply because it’s a written format, so it’s much more natural to insert a link in the body of your post, perhaps in the middle of a product review or some DIY instructions. With a video, you would be required to put the link in the video description, which is something that a lot of people who watch your videos will just skip over. If they don’t skip over it and do click through, since your video is on a video platform and not your own website, it’s more difficult for companies to tell that the click came from you.
Second, there have been a lot of changes in the way YouTube does business lately such that they now offer far fewer partnership opportunities, and they are much more careful about how they distribute ads. This means that fewer YouTubers are getting more money while the rest lose out. It also means that it’s much more difficult now to monetize your videos than it was. You could always garner a lot of followers and then enter into sponsorship agreements with companies, but it takes a lot of work to get to that point.
At the end of the day, it’s easier, cheaper, and more lucrative to start a blog. As long as you’ve got some decent writing skills and can figure out some basic SEO concepts, you should be able to build a respectable following (provided you create quality posts, of course!). However, if your personality is just only suited to vlogging, go for it! There’s no one solution that fits all, so now that you have the information, you can make an informed decision about what’s best for you.
Or there’s a scandalous third option: do both! Maintaining both a blog and vlog grows your readership/viewership for the other medium. Having both means you have more options for content and format and for revenue streams. Maybe your blog has transcripts of your videos (for those with poor hearing, for example) and bonus content not available on your vlog. Embedding your video in your blog and writing an SEO-description means that search engines are more likely to bring people to your videos through your blog. These are just a few examples of what you could do with both, but get creative, and I’m sure you can come up with many more options!