As one of the pioneering talents of online content, Taryn Southern’s scope of talent goes far beyond creating. From producing her own videos, writing original songs and advising tech companies, Southern is savvy, numbers-focused and seasoned in the art of digital media (she even taught our CEO, Milana, how to upload her first video to YouTube). As a result, Southern is often data-driven, relying insights to elevate her brand of tongue-in-cheek, Weird-Al-meets-Chelsea-Handler, comedy. This detail adds a layer to our already-existing obsession with her hilarious, and very-first web series, Party Fun Times. This time around, Taryn Southern wasn’t thinking of her audience and the data around their behaviors, but wanted to create something fresh that highlighted her interests.
In her own words:
“The show is a half hour talk variety show that celebrates digital culture. It’s a mix of drinking games, and YouTube challenges, and comedic tutorials, and collaborative sketches, musical numbers, man on the street experiments; we sort of describe the show as that ‘after hours party at your weird cousin’s house.’”
Intrigued? Watch this:
In this installment of Unlocked, we caught up with Southern to ask her questions about scaling her business as an independent creator, the production of Party Fun Times, just how her and Maker Studios chose some of the show’s guests and what she’s learned in anticipation for season two. Some important points we learned include:
- Maker Studios gave her the freedom to create what she wanted, and this helped to make the show great
- Delegating is a huge challenge for creators, but is an imperative skill to learn
- Sometimes the most important part of creating is getting people to consume it
Want to learn more from Taryn’s experience with creating Party Fun Times? Read on — and binge-watch the entire first season — below.
How do you know what is relevant with your audience? Do you ever use data from social media, or is it more just you participating?
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t really thinking about my audience when it came to this show. This show felt like an opportunity for me to do something different to what I’ve done in the past with the content, and I really wanted it to be a show that I would be interested in watching, and content that I would want to consume, so I suppose in some ways it was whatever Taryn thinks was a cool show!
I can keep up with what is online; I read BuzzFeed, I read UpWorthy, and I am also a sucker for my Facebook feed… If I saw something that I would like to cover then we definitely went for it. But, I don’t think that some of the guests or scenes were really obvious choices for everyone, but they were things that I found interesting.
Can you elaborate a bit on Maker’s role in Party Fun Times?
Maker Studios is both the financier and the distributor of the project. They are also my multi-channel network, so you know, when I signed with them it just felt like a really good fit. Not only do they understand the need that content creators have to make more premium content, but they also are really good at allowing content creators to do their own thing and put their own voice to something… They were really instrumental in supplying ideas and providing really fun insights into things to try and do for a show, but also letting me run wild and let me have the freedom to do my own thing with it too.
The show touches upon everything; taboo topics, and not taboo topics, politics to Netflix and Chill, to smoking weed. Were there any ideas of things that you wanted to be the subject matter on the show that were turned down because they pushed the line too far?
You know whats crazy? There were literally ideas that the executive would send me and I’d be like ‘Is that pushing it too far?’ The thing I loved about them was they’re young, they get it, they are consumers of internet content, they know what people want to see.
If there was anything we couldn’t do, it was usually a result of a legal issue or something that might pose a problem in that direction.
But, I mean, we shot an episode in a pot dispensary. We had a professional sex worker on the show. We talked about trans issues and stuff that certain networks might find too controversial to want to deal with. There was a lot of edgy subjects that we touched upon and, in what I think, a really young, fun, lighthearted, but also respectful way!
I was lucky that I was even able to get that opportunity with [Maker] because I know most television networks would have never, ever allowed the level of freedom that we had for subject matter and how to approach it — which is awesome!
When choosing guests for the show, did you decide upon the subject matter and then you decided what guests to go with? Was it more you doing the research and looking for people, or Maker proposing people they had in mind?
It was both of those things… The show is about internet culture so we really wanted to be approaching various topics that are in the guidance of the internet. So that means sex, and drugs, and weird technology, and LGBT issues — things that are being talked about online should be talked about on the show as well. We would go out and look for interesting guests or interesting voices in those sort of areas, but a lot of times we would formulate a show around a guest that we were going to get, or tailor the theme around a specific guest.
As far as reaching out to guests; it was a mixture of Maker bringing me ideas and talent that they thought would be interesting for the show, and me also reaching out to people I knew and asking Maker, ‘Hey, what do you think of this person or that person?’ We had some pretty amazing email chains going back and forth toward the end of the show. I’d say, ‘Hey George! What do you think of the girl whose been listening to stuff with her vagina? Do you want to have her on the show?’ He’d be like, ‘No, we want to make her show!’ We were always fighting over guests.
When the show was finally ready, or when you were ready to announce it, what was your social media and marketing strategy?
Its so hard when you’re conceptualizing every single week and writing all these music numbers, and trying to put it all together but also trying to be smart about marketing. I feel like, maybe out of everything we did out of the show that might have been the weakest link… I was tweeting and posting on Facebook, and I posted a little before an episode went out…
… If I did it all again, [marketing] would be something that I would be focusing on more. The one thing about internet content that we’re all realizing is that you can have the best internet content in the world, but if you don’t have a really strong marketing plan or a lot of money to spend on marketing — it can be really difficult to get eyeballs
What about the built-in tools on YouTube itself? Do you lean on those to drive traffic?
[Annotations, playlists, in-cards], they all feel like required tools at this point. I don’t know how much they actually drive traffic so much as they are just necessary. You want people to know how they can subscribe and where they can watch more videos in the playlist or the series…
But, ultimately, you’re not really going to capitalize on that traffic unless someone is already watching one of the videos. The trick is in getting traffic from other places, other sources on the web, whether it’s Facebook or just a video on YouTube, or just getting press so that people are actually clicking over to a video in your series. Once they’re over there its your job to try and keep them, and to try and keep them watching and get them on other pieces of content.
What are some things that you know now, coming out of Party Fun Times, that you wish you knew in the beginning?
I would say the biggest lesson I learned was probably a marketing one. I wish I could have been more involved in that process, and it just wasn’t possible given everything that I had to do on the show each week… Once you’re on the machine, once you’re on the insta-reel it is very hard to step back and take the time to think about press or about publicity, but that’s actually the most important piece many times — getting people to watch your stuff.
What are some resources that you’ve leaned on to learn more about managing your own business, and what do you wish there was more of for creators like you to learn from?
I think the trickiest thing for me is figuring out how to scale on my business. You are essentially building your own little company but the company is you. So, naturally you feel invested in every part of the process and its hard to give up ownership of any parts of those processes when the end product ends up on your channel and is your face, and that is your brand. I think that trying to scale and bring on people to help is a big growing pain for a lot of YouTubers and is something that I struggle with and wish that there was more research and stuff there sort of helping me how to dictate that process…
Just hiring even editors can be very difficult because even if an editor is really good it doesn’t mean that they have the voice of that content creator. So it is hard to give up that control, but it is also hard to find the best way to educate or work with other people on maintaining your sense of what your brand is.
What advice do you have for up-and-coming content creators?
Just go for it! I think you have to start making things… Ultimately, I realized that it is better to just start making things. I mean, if you have a specific plan — great. But even if you don’t, and you know that you just want to make content and you love performing, or you love singing, or you love vlogging, or whatever it is, just start doing whatever you love and then transition when you need to…. Feel free to give yourself the freedom or the permission to change things up along the way if they’re not working or if you’re not happy doing a specific type of content — change it up!
Binge watch the entire first season of Party Fun Times below.
Learn more about Taryn Southern here.
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