The rise of poker Vlogs

The rise of poker Vlogs

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-13-52-58Last year I wrote a series of articles about how I thought Twitch was going to change the poker industry, and I think for the most part I was right, though probably I didn’t comprehend how saturated it would become. Recently I have started to notice the next big trend in poker and that is the YouTube Vlog. In a short space of time we have seen professional poker players documenting their lives on YouTube much in the way that online stars like PewDiePie, Casey Neistat and Phillip De Franco do.

Poker tends to be behind the times with trends like this, but in this particular instance I think the game being allowed on Twitch really opened the door for the YouTube Vlog.

Triple Crown winner Jake Cody has launched a Vlog and it looks like it will be pretty popular. Doug Polk is currently the king of poker Youtube with a really good channel that seems to be pitched really well to serious and less so serious players alike, with a real gamer style to it. Joe Ingram has an interview podcast which is very revealing and feels like the Joe Rogan Podcast. We are also seeing organic YouTube poker stars emerge like TheTrooper97 and Andrew Neeme who quickly appear to have amassed a big following from nowhere (much in the way Jaime Staples did on Twitch).

People often talk about how the poker media is dead, but it isn’t, it is just changing much in the same way mainstream media is. What we are seeing now is the democratisation of entertainment. It’s not as easy today to earn a crust writing about poker, but Twitch and Vlogs are proving there are certainly opportunities for people creating audio/visual content. A few years ago I shared my advice for new writers, much of it seems quite outdated now, but the main lesson I still think is more valid than ever, which was to not wait for somebody else’s permission to create content. Back then I said start a blog, today I would say start making videos or podcasts.

The interesting question from a business perspective is how one monetises this? Poker has a big disadvantage compared to other industries in this regard in that there are not enough eyes on it to make page views alone lucrative. When you look at a PewDiePie type the reason they are able to make so much money is because so many people watch, and you earn a small amount of ad revenue on YouTube for every 1,000 views you get. There is a real ceiling for the amount of page views a poker channel can get, just look at Joe Ingram and Doug Polk’s channels, which rarely get over 100,000 views per video and tend to average about 50,000. I know from experience that this looks like the top end of the range when it comes to poker podcast audio downloads also. These figures are not really going to grow much because the serious poker market is so much smaller than we all think.

The way to shatter this ceiling and have a channel that is doing millions of views per video is to make it much less about the poker analysis and much more about the wacky lifestyle of a poker professional. Some of the current crop of channels are doing this to some extent, especially TheTrooper97. In this regard Dan Bilzerian has shown the way with his rise to Instagram fame, however he really is an isolated case that can hardly be replicated. Still, for poker to have a Vlog break into the mainstream I think it has to be more about lifestyle and less about poker.

Having said that, building a channel with the express intention of generating page view revenue is probably not the end goal for these Vloggers, nor should it be. YouTube has already started cracking down on whom it allows to monetise and has also rejected poker for its live game streaming platform, so a poker Vlog could get unmonetised at any moment. In that respect if I had one piece of advice for all these Vloggers it would be to create a second way of reaching their audience – mailing list, Twitter, Facebook, their own website – just because putting all your eggs in one YouTube basket seems risky. You never know when a social platform will decide it is completely anti-gambling.

It makes much more sense to use a Vlog as a way of promoting an operator, getting sponsorship, selling targeted advertising or developing your own business, like coaching, which is it seems what Polk and Ingram might be doing. Or possibly soliciting donations on platforms like Patreon, as many mainstream YouTubers do and is commonplace on Twitch. Whatever the plan, traffic alone is not the reason to do to a Vlog, or any poker enterprise.

I’m not trying to pitch myself as an expert here, I am just a fascinated observer at this point who is just starting to notice Vlogs. I’m perhaps at a certain age where, although I spend a lot of time on YouTube, I don’t quite understand it in the way that younger people who have grown up with it do. I don’t, for example, understand these ‘unboxing’ videos that seem so popular. Vlogs, however, do strike me as the big trend to watch in 2017 and while I think it would take a Dan Bilzerian type to take them mainstream, I could still see them becoming a major part of the industry next year.

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