How a drone review/tech channel reached 66K subscribers & 17M views

Jan 16 2024
Case Studies

Channel Overview (at time of writing)

Name - DansTube.TV
Niche - Technology/Drones
Subscribers - 66K
Watch time - 17.3M views (lifetime), 300K views (monthly)
Videos published - 1.6K
Date of first video - 12 July 2009
Employees - 3 (not full-time)

Why did you start this YouTube channel?

It’s kind of a sad story. When I first moved to Australia from England, I couldn’t connect with the other kids at school. I’d get picked on and bullied a lot.

Starting a YouTube channel was a way for me to put myself out there, connect with others and explore my love of video games. The idea of making money from it wasn’t even a thought; it was just about seeing what was possible.

It might sound like a weird decision since you can get lots of negative feedback but I didn’t care. There also weren’t too many people doing app reviews in 2009 when I started so that worked out great as a niche to explore and use as a creative outlet. 

The idea of uploading a video and having it be seen by thousands or potentially millions of people excited me. 

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And if someone went out of their way to watch my video and even leave a comment, I’d be over the moon and go out of my way to engage with them (and still do pride myself on spending 3-4 hours every week engaging with as many comments as I can).

That’s the community I always wanted.

How did you get started?

I wanted to lower the barrier of entry as much as possible. I didn’t get caught up in my channel’s logo, name, theme, or anything like that. I just wanted to get started and improve on the way.

People don’t care about your first 100 uploads anyway.

So I started off reviewing iPod touch and iPhone apps/games using a run-of-the-mill 480p webcam with its built-in microphone.

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I’d put the webcam on the desk in front of me and would hold my phone in front of it to record footage of my phone. I didn’t prepare a script or anything; I would just talk impromptu with no prepared thoughts (and still prefer that to this day).

I also didn’t edit my videos at all beyond just slicing the start and end of the footage I recorded. I wanted to keep the process as simple as possible and make the video feel as natural as possible.

My goal was to put stuff out there and see what happens.

I recorded my first 5 videos with no intention of ever uploading them; my idea was to put myself through the discomfort of making videos to get used to the process of talking to a camera, editing, etc. It was the 6th video that I ultimately uploaded.

How & when did you get to 10, 100, 1000 subscribers (etc) and to where you are currently?  

I hit 10 subscribers within my first 5-6 videos. Two of my first six videos did quite well as I focused on mobile apps/games like Real Racing and Ferrari GT Evolution that were already popular.

I remember I got really excited about every single subscriber that came through in those early days. I thought, “this could actually lead somewhere”.

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I hit 100 subscribers by largely doing the same thing. Two more videos did well; one on the future of the iPod Touch and another on Drag Racer (a mobile game). These were both topics that people wanted to watch but there wasn’t enough existing content about.

I hit 1,000 subscribers by switching focus to jailbroken iPod touch content. My videos on Bluetooth for iPod Touch/iPhone and the best SMS app for the iPhone did quite well. Jailbreaking was trending at the time and there weren’t many creators in the space

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Until this point, I wasn’t doing much to promote my videos outside of putting the right keywords in the title and description. I didn’t really use social media and I put zero effort into thumbnails or even making the videos enticing.

I hit 10,000 subscribers by being consistent for a few years with content on jailbreaking and app reviews and having a single video go viral. In December 2013, I did a review on the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas mobile game which singlehandedly catapulted my channel from roughly 5K to 10K subscribers (and more). 

I remember releasing the video and getting an influx of notifications of people commenting and subscribing constantly. I couldn’t sleep.

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I released that video 12 hours before other major gaming channels (like IGN and Gamespot) had uploaded content on the game. So my video was showing up at the top spot when people searched for the game.

Even though I was consistent for years and years, I still didn’t expect it. That video was like an injection; every single day I noticed new subscribers and engagement even on my older videos like never before. It created a snowball effect.

But having an existing library of content before that viral hit was key.

I hit 50,000 subscribers only 4 months ago. After hitting 10K subscribers, I slowly felt as though I’d hit a ceiling creating content on mobile app/game reviews and jailbreaking. So I decided to pivot to tech/product reviews.

I did a review on the budget GoPro Hero as I noticed most existing content focused on the higher-end GoPros. My video filled the void and did really well.

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Until 2019/2020, I was very much a general tech review channel. But after that point, I wanted to niche further. So I started focusing heavily on drone content; something I’d always been interested in since I purchased my first drone in 2016.

I remember talking to my friend about becoming Australia’s number 1 Drone authority/YouTuber. I wanted to become undeniable. I wanted to be that drone guy in Australia.

Consistently pumping out 2 videos per week that were discoverable and had long shelf lives was key. I also started making connections with different drone companies. I wanted to create the most comprehensive drone channel I could.

To get to 66K subscribers, I did a two-part giveaway after hitting 50K subscribers that got a lot of attention. By the time the first giveaway finished, I’d grown to 55K subscribers. By the second giveaway, I hit 66K subscribers (where I am now).

What does your content creation process look like?

The whole process takes around 1-2 weeks. However, the majority of the time I’m brainstorming and testing multiple products day-to-day during those 1-2 weeks without actually filming anything.

Finding ideas

There’s never a shortage of ideas. I constantly get review requests and video ideas from commenters, brands, and clients. I have to prioritise what idea is most worth working on based on the review fee I’ll receive and how excited I am to work on it. 

To record ideas, I have a Notion board to dump ideas when I brainstorm them. I also have a few key templates/video types that work well (e.g. Long Term Reviews, X vs Y, etc). I also use AnswerThePublic to find what people are searching for in the context of a certain topic (e.g. “beginner drones”) and integrate that into my videos.

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Producing videos

Physically filming the videos of the product (and me) takes roughly 2-3 hours per video. In the 1-2 weeks that I just think and brainstorm, I’ve usually got a pretty good idea of how I want the video to look. Then it’s just a case of getting as much foundational product footage as I can and sitting down in front of the camera for the in-between footage

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After filming, I send all the footage to my editor along with a video brief of what I want for this video. Hiring an editor has been amazing. Editing has always been my main bottleneck for producing videos in the past (as it would take hours and hours). I have a brand vision (i.e. colours, transitions, banners, etc.) that I convey to my editor along with notes for each video. My editor also does the thumbnail too.

Promoting videos

I promote my videos via:

  • YouTube SEO (optimising the title and description with keywords)
  • Vertical videos (creating Shorts and Reels from my content)
  • Social media (sharing video shorts/teasers on my social media)
  • Facebook Groups and Reddit
  • (Occasionally) paying for promotion via Google Ads/other channels

Everything sort of funnels into my videos which then funnels into my drone course and affiliate links. 

How does your channel earn money?

Every single month is different but the rough breakdown of the channel’s income sources is:

  • AdSense (15%)
  • Sponsorships (40%)
  • Amazon Influencer Program/affiliate marketing (20%)
  • Review fees (10-15%)
  • Fearless Drone Academy Course (5-10%)

I find AdSense is extremely unsustainable and stressful to rely on. As I get roughly 300K monthly views, it’s a decent amount of money but it relies heavily on viewership and fluctuates. I’m quite lucky as my videos are family friendly and I focus on tech (which has high CPMs) but I prefer my income to be largely under my control rather than YouTube/advertisers.

Chasing views is the bane of everyone’s existence; it’s not sustainable. Your mental health will suffer if you focus purely on views. 

I prefer to monetize using sponsorships as I can get a flat fee for spots in my videos regardless of how many views I get. I’m lucky in that I consistently have brands reaching out to me so I can pick brands that genuinely align with my content. Ideally, I prefer to do sponsorship deals where I do consistent videos for a particular brand rather than one-off videos (so I avoid having to consistently do deals).

Affiliate marketing has also worked well for me. I put affiliate links in all of my videos for the products I review along with a link to my course on learning how to fly a drone for beginners.

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I also charge review fees to companies for videos I do of their products. Due to how many review requests I get, the review fee is a way for me to make sure a video is worth my time and prioritise my content calendar. At the end of the day, the company is getting a service/huge value from my videos so it’s a fair deal to pay for my time. 

I typically have to say no to most review requests I get because I simply do not have the time anymore.

What are the key lessons you’ve learned from your journey?

🍕 Niche as early as possible. You definitely have to experiment early on to find your niche, but once you do, be clear on it and become an authority in that niche. Go for the most narrow niche (or even sub-niche) as you can; don’t go for mental health content, maybe go for Australian men’s mental health content.

When I focused on becoming the “drone guy” instead of the general tech reviewer, that’s when my growth exploded

📅 Be so consistent they can’t ignore you. There is huge power in just showing up in content creation and all aspects of life. People won’t find out about you if you don’t release anything. 

You’ll have to release content you’ll cringe at but you have to show up as that’s part of the process

🧠 Focus on your mindset (which includes your mental health). This means prioritising personal development and taking care of your mental health. Learn how to make YouTube a healthy part of a balanced life. Learn what works for you in the content creation process (and don’t take Gary Vee’s advice as gospel).

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Have other plans outside of YouTube so its success/failure doesn’t dominate your life.

❔ Ask yourself the bigger questions. Are you creating that content because you want others to watch it or because you genuinely care about/want to create that content?

Where can we find out more about you? And is there anything else you’d like to add?

I have two Linktrees with all of my relevant links; one for my YouTube channel and another for Meta Minds, my counselling business. If you’re into drones, check out my YouTube channel. 

But regardless of who you are or what you’re interested in, I love to connect with people who have a genuine passion. I will respond to those messages every day of the week.

I knew how isolated I was at the start and I’d love to help or connect in any way I can.

I also run a counselling business called Meta Minds that focuses on helping content creators with mental health as I know how challenging the content creation process can be.

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