A “vlog” is a video blog, much like a “dog” is a dentist’s blog.
Vlogging has been part of the digital lexicon for quite some time now. But unless you're immersed in that online ecosystem, you may not understand vlogging in the modern sense or know the history behind the term.
In practice, it's the act of creating a visual diary that you share with others online. The approach has been around for decades now, and initially, the video content resembled homemade movies: low-budget, low-quality, and personal, with minimal editing.
Later, YouTube launched, and with it, vlogs took off. Taking advantage of the video cameras built into smartphones, and the free distribution enabled by nascent social platforms, YouTubers became a new media force, with corporate sponsorship dollars flowing to the highest view counts and production values rising in kind.
Call it a movement, or call it a trend. Either way, the rapid proliferation of vlogs intensified the competition and made it more challenging to attract the spotlight in the ever-expanding social media landscape.
With this dynamic in mind, let's dive deeper into the concept of vlogs, the history behind YouTube vlogging, and some best practices and tactics for starting a vlog of your own.
Believe it or not, vlogging has been around in some form for decades. You could argue that the precursor to vlogging was the humble rise of the home video, which took off in a big way during the 1980s with the introduction of the consumer camcorder. Overnight, consumers began documenting themselves and others – and sharing their content – like never before.
Between the dawn of home videos and the YouTube boom, vlogging existed as a fledgling art form, albeit in a much more limited capacity due to the technological limitations of the early internet.
Slowly, those limitations fell away, and in 2005, YouTube launched as an online platform where anybody could upload and share video content. YouTube channels sparked the vlogging renaissance. The simple, intuitive interface and ease of access to online audiences made the bloggers' lifestyle accessible and personable.
As a viewer, you suddenly found yourself staring through a virtual window into someone else's life, following all their day-to-day interactions. As a creator, you could suddenly distribute your content with ease. A parasocial element soon emerged on both the producer and consumer sides. One of the earliest examples of a popular YouTube vlogger was LonelyGirl15; she first appeared in 2006, posting web-cam videos where she narrated her seemingly dull but intriguingly strange life from her teenage bedroom.
Although LonelyGirl15 later turned out to be a scripted show with an actor playing a vlogger, it had captured audiences with its close, personal narrative. The addictive quality of that narrative also garnered the attention of companies looking to cash in on views to sell their products. In short, corporate sponsorship had officially crashed the party.
How smartphones changed vlogging
Soon after that, smartphones debuted. The video cameras built into every iPhone and Android device made shooting vlog videos as easy as extending an arm, tapping a button and babbling for 30 seconds.
This new mobility changed the online ecosystem even further. It allowed individual creators to record cheaply and easily in locations previously inaccessible to one-person setups, such as remote areas like a high mountain peak or a far-flung travel destination.
As the cost of smart phones dropped, so did the barriers to entry for vlogging. As of 2019, the total number of worldwide views for video content had grown to 2.6 billion. By 2022, it’s set to reach 249 million viewers in the US alone.
The number of vloggers has exploded as well, and it keeps growing. Last year there were 38 million YouTube channels, up 23% from 2019. About 22,000 of those have more than 1 million subscribers.
However, with this massive proliferation in vlogging, the race to stand out among the noise also intensified.
How vlogging is shaping digital media
The rise of smartphones not only changed the barrier to entry for vlogging. It reshaped production values for vlogging and how we, as a collective audience, view vlogs.
No longer confined to a browser window on a desktop computer, videos went mobile. With them came apps specifically designed to show those videos on mobile devices, such as Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and TikTok.
Simultaneously, companies sought to capitalize on marketing their content in these video apps. This strategy produced a new wave of scripted vlogs, video ads, and collaboration with influencers to promote brands and products.
Corporate involvement also steered some vloggers into online stardom, and their success had a knockoff effect. Other vloggers, hungry for a slice of that online pie, tried to imitate the production values. They also attempted to follow the professional acumen needed to run a successful channel, hoping to turn their vlogging hobbies into lucrative businesses.
What makes a good video vlog?
Before you start a vlog of your own, it’s important to understand what makes a good vlog. Essentially, it comes down to a combination of factors, both in the planning and pre-production stage of your vlogging journey. It also depends on the equipment that you use.
1. Develop a niche
The first task individual creators must complete is finding their niche or their specific interest. From there, they need to narrow that interest, focusing their content around it to rank better in search results.
After all, if you tag your videos as “sports,” it may quickly become lost in the online noise of millions of videos with the same tag. “Olympic rowing,” however? A subset of potential viewers may not only be more interested in a unique focus within a broader category, but they will be searching for it, too — and the competition won’t be as imposing.
2. Identify your target audience
Alongside your niche, you'll want to identify your target audience. You must know how to gear your content toward that audience's preferences.
Again, with the Olympic rowing example: What kind of demographic is most likely to search for vlogs on that topic? What is their gender, median age, geographic location, and what other themes or issues may interest them? What rowing content are they already getting? How will yours be different, or better?
Then, ask yourself if the videos you want to make line up with what your audience wants. If not, you’ll have to find ways to interest them in a new topic — a challenging path — or adapt to something more in line with their existing interests.
3. Publish and promote your content
On top of these two steps, you’ll also want to publish and promote your content consistently. This will build up a backlog of videos that your audience can share on social media.
If folks are accustomed to your content appearing at a specific time, they’ll be more likely to tune in quicker, too. Those early views can be an essential ranking metric on a platform like YouTube.
4. Deliver value through your videos
Regardless of your audience or your niche, your content should always provide value. Perhaps you're helping others by building a sense of community in allowing them to follow along with your daily life. Or maybe you're showing your audience how to solve a problem or allowing them to access areas of the world to which they can't travel. Maybe you’re just making them laugh or feeding their obsession with a captivating topic. Whatever your specialty, to be a successful vlogger, it's essential that you create content that serves a purpose and enriches your viewers' lives.
5. Always invest in your equipment
Lastly, you’ll need to invest in a decent camera, microphone, and other lighting equipment to make your videos shine. On top of this, you need a user-friendly editing tool to polish those videos before you publish. That’s where Descript comes in.
Maintain Pro Video Quality With These Vlogging Best Practices
We believe Descript is an essential tool that’s been missing from the vlogging landscape: a user-friendly way to turn ideas and insights into video that’s both intellectually and visually compelling.
As a vlogger, Descript gives you the best of both worlds. It gives you access to a commercial-quality editing tool, and it keeps the small-budget concerns of an independent creator in mind, too.
Using the Descript app, you can maintain professional video quality by:
As of today, YouTube still reigns supreme in vlogging, although it faces stiff competition from platforms like Instagram and TikTok. If you’re unsure which platform to go with, remember that the type of vlogging you intend to do will dictate your final choice.
For example: If you want to script long-form videos, YouTube remains the best option; platforms like TikTok focus on shorter, bite-sized content.
Think about your audience too. YouTube runs the gamut of ages and demographics. If your audience is primarily GenZ, you may want to consider switching courses and going with TikTok instead.
Finally, it’s important to remember that the vlogging landscape is ever-changing. It’s safe to assume that evolution will only continue.
For more on video editing, exciting new features, and how to adapt to the vlogging times, check out Descript’s full blog.
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