Creating the Video Curation Playbook

By Grace Kirk
The vast volume of video content available on the internet continues to grow every day. I have been caught out many times visiting YouTube to watch just one video, before quickly finding myself in a labyrinth of new content. While there may be plenty to watch online, how many of these videos do we find truly entertaining?

QUT Academic Dr Ruari Elkington wants to know how, within this video saturation, audiences can discover content that resonates with them. He also wants to know how content producers can curate videos that connect with new audiences.

A Queensland project that seeks to respond to these questions is the Creator Originals Program, which provides a selection of creative YouTubers with funding, production resources and expert support to develop high quality content to reach new audiences.

This Queensland Government initiative under Advance QLD is a collaboration between a number of key stakeholders, including QUT, Griffith University, YouTube, Trade & Investment QLD and Creative Enterprise Australia.

Image credit: Jared Vethaak Photography

“This project is a great example of a couple of really quite big players committing to a platform that encourages Queenslanders to get more active on YouTube and connect with large institutions such as universities,” Elkington says.

On behalf of QUT, Elkington is coordinating this project, connecting three established and emerging YouTubers who already have a subscribed audience, with a team of production students, to see five new pieces of content for each creator, come to light.

In his own research purposes, Elkington has been interested in the outcomes of these two different groups coming together, as it is in the meeting between students and YouTubers that the program sees reciprocal learning.

The Creator Originals Program

Creator Originals brings together not only an interesting combination of key stakeholders, but a diverse combination of groups working together – YouTubers and producer students.

For the QUT component of the program, there’s three YouTube content creators; Tom Thum, a well recognised beat boxer with more than 200,000 subscribers; Alysse Paris, who shares parodies and skits once a week to her subscribed audience of nearly 25,000; and Sara Holmes, who does cross-cultural digital ambassador videos between Australia and Korea to over 70,000 subscribers.


“These creators are personalities, who, off their own bat, took advantage of this platform to get themselves on screen in a variety of ways. Some of that is scripted, and some of that is talent driven,” Elkington says.

“These creators are personalities, who, off their own bat, took advantage of this platform to get themselves on screen in a variety of ways”

It is clear they all already have emerging or established success with a significant number of subscribers.

“These are creators who aren’t necessarily in the formal education sector and have all of this knowledge and understanding around data analytics, how to reach an audience, how to communicate with them, how to move dynamically and quickly. How to be nimble in creating content,” Elkington says.

Each of these YouTubers have been assigned to a QUT student producer from the Bachelor of Fine Arts, Film and Television stream. These are students who, off their own bat, are being innovative, creative and are putting their hands up to work with these people.

Image credits: Jared Vethaak Photography

Providing the content creators with access to more resources and facilities has allowed them to pitch five episodes of new content that is more ambitious and a bit more involved. This program has seen the groups produce five episodes, which are beginning to be rolled out in early March, 2017.

“One of the things that’s starting to come out from talking to these YouTubers is just how incredibly hard it is – how much work and effort they need to put in. Fifty-per-cent of their time they’re working on making content and the other 50%… they’re working on engaging that audience.”

“Fifty-per-cent of their time they’re working on making content and the other 50%… they’re working on engaging that audience.”

For example, Alysse Paris responds individually and personally to every single comment she receives.

“It is representative of that level of work and commitment to your audience, listening to your audience and allowing them to co-create your content,” Elkington explains.

One of the great things about this project is forcing students to start thinking about audience – how you’re going to connect, engage and develop that audience.

Image credits: Jared Vethaak Photography

YouTube as a platform

The great thing about YouTube, as a platform is that content creators are able to track new work, to see how it performs and to receive validation. YouTube gives a creator a sense of how they’re work is doing.

Image credits: Jared Vethaak Photography

What Elkington has been able to take away from students is that YouTube is an educational platform. It’s certainly got an entertaining content driven focus, but also one of its key functions is to instruct.

“One recurring thing we hear from students is they go to YouTube to answer questions about how to get things done,” Elkington says.

YouTube as an organisation knows that this practical form of education is a prime purpose of their site. They are a place where educators can really connect with the world at large.

“I think YouTube is an incredible platform that has so much on it, and students are creating so much for it, but how can you get a signal through all of that noise? How can you find some clever ways to find a new audience and connect with them through this content? That’s a skill that I think is really important for students as they go out into the 21st century workforce. That’s what I hope to be able to get out of this project as part of my professional research capacity,” Elkington says.

About Ruari Elkington

Elkington’s film and television background is in screen distribution. After studying Film & Television at QUT he spent 10 years working in the distribution of documentary through both traditional and digital methods.

He then received his PhD from QUT, where his thesis was titled The Education Market for Documentary Film: Digital Shifts in an Age of Content Abundance. Now Elkington works as an associate lecturer in the Film, Screen & Animation department and, on behalf of QUT he is coordinating the three year Creator Originals project.

Elkington’s personal interests lie not in the making of content but in the distribution of content.

“I’m really interested in the distribution of content and an audience’s behaviour with digital video,” Elkington says.

Alongside the Creator Original program, Elkington is undertaking a research project on reciprocal learning. Elkington and his QUT colleague Michael Dezuanni realised there was an incredible research opportunity coinciding with this project, that should not be missed. So they began gathering and charting data to discover whether the YouTubers and students are getting something out of the collaborative project.

“I’m happy to say that in the QUT instance, our preliminary research seems to suggest that both groups are benefitting. It’s nice to see these two groups coming together and see them learning from each other. That was kind of the hope of the program,” Elkington says.

Elkington spoke anecdotally of students rushing up to him after a huge day of shooting to proclaim, “I wish university was like this all of the time!”

“The YouTube project is unique in this way, because the students will actually be able to see the audience data and analytics.”

The key take away, however, is that now they’ve spent all this time and effort creating great content – it has to be seen, to connect with an audience.

The YouTube project is unique in this way, because the students will actually be able to see the audience data and analytics.

The full extent of what this project means is yet to be seen, with content only just beginning to be rolled out this month.

Not only that, but the next round of applications are open for Creator Original content creators until April 18, 2017 and there will be opportunities for more QUT students to be involved as producers.

“The fact that we’re doing this all again, that we’re going back into the trenches again for this is a great thing and I’m really excited by it,” Elkington says.

To learn more about the Creator Original’s Program visit this link.