The Scoop: Devin Supertramp
Back in 2010 I came across an article from Gizmodo highlighting a YouTube video called, “World’s widest slip and slide.” I watched the video and was surprised that the creator shared the same name as a guy that I went to film school with at BYU, Devin Graham.
It turned out it wasn’t a coincidence, the Devin I knew had finished school and started making high production value videos that he released on his YouTube channel, Devin Supertramp. It was only his seventh upload and his video’s quality, quantity and attention he received from them only increased from there.
Devin just got back to Utah at midnight last night after filming in the Bahamas and he takes off tomorrow for another exotic shoot. He was kind enough to give me 20 minutes of his 24 hours stateside.
You studied film at Brigham Young University. Would you advise those looking to become filmmakers or video creators to attend a 4-year university?
Honestly that’s a super tough question because it depends on the person. For me it was super important because it helped me network with the right people. I wouldn’t have even started my YouTube channel had it not been for my roommate Jeff Harmon who was one of the people that made Orabrush the success that it was through using YouTube. That’s why I got on there originally because he said YouTube was going to be the next big thing.
So I’ve been a YouTuber for 8 years now and the way the platform is now is way different than when I got onto it. With that being said though social media still is very similar in that it’s still chasing views and figuring out what you can do that is different and unique to get exposure for the content you’re creating. I’d say a lot of things I did learn from school were really helpful, especially from the people I networked with more than anything else.
You’re one of the original gangsters who used YouTube as a platform where your brand lived. What drew you into it?
For me YouTube was never supposed to be what it is, it was just an outlet to do things while I was trying to kill time. I went into it not thinking I was going to be a YouTube filmmaker, I just had some extra time so I was just making fun content with my friends. At the time I was living in Hawaii so I just captured our adventures and luckily at the time there wasn’t a lot of high quality content out there. So when I put out anything on YouTube it stood out compared to what everyone else was doing so it provided a lot more opportunities. It gave me an opportunity to rise to the top faster than the traditional Hollywood route of working in L.A. for 30 years until I could finally do a commercial or something like that. I could grow significantly faster through YouTube.
What has been the biggest change to YouTube over the past 8 years?
It’s definitely oversaturated. I would say more than anything it’s that the algorithm is always changing. It’s gone from favoring high quality content to daily content. It used to be that even when I had zero subscribers I could put out a video and it could get a million views in a day. One of the very first videos I uploaded got like 400k views in a couple days and the video we just released two weeks ago just hit 50k views and we have 5 million subscribers. So the platform has completely changed where now it favors daily content over quality content.
“…if you’re not willing to adapt, that’s when you get left behind.”
So we’ve had to change the way we play the game. For us, as we started seeing this happening and how the algorithm was changing we essentially jumped ship a couple years ago to facebook and several other social media platforms. For us, Facebook is our bread and butter, it’s not YouTube anymore. I mean, one of the last videos we uploaded to YouTube and got 100k views in a week and we uploaded the exact same video to Facebook and it got 16 million views in a day! So we’ve had to shift and change our game as the game is always changing.
Most people gravitate to YouTube because of it’s monetization while Facebook is still rolling out their monetization program. How do those factors affect your decision making?
Even when we are getting millions of views on YouTube that still hardly covers anything. I say confidently that our YouTube channel is one of the most expensive channels on YouTube to run production wise, just because a lot of the stuff involves international travel for most the videos to filming a video in a submarine at the bottom of the ocean yesterday. So our costs are significantly higher than most YouTube channels and because of that the adsense doesn’t hardly cover anything, not even the cameras we use. So we’ve always sensed early on that it’s the brand deals that actually would sustain the channel.
Almost every video that we’re releasing, and most of them are once a week, they are sponsored by some big company. The one we did last week was Warner Brothers and Nickelodeon, the week before that was with Gillette and right now were working on a big one with Warner Brothers and Universal Studios. The truth is, the only way we’re able to do what we’re doing is working with sponsors, they’re what cover the cost. We are monetized on Facebook as well, just like YouTube, but what we’re making on that even if we’re getting 20 million views a month or more, it hardly covers anything. So it’s through the brand deals.
For the brands at the end of the day, they just want to see the views and see that it’s bringing people to their website. They don’t care if that’s happening through YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. That’s why for us it was important to jump ship because we knew we could get views on Facebook with how they favored the algorithm. I thought once our YouTube views started dropping that we would start losing brand deals, but I’d say we’re busier now than we’ve ever been, because we’re still getting views, we’re just getting views on different platforms.
How do you leverage those other social platforms like Instagram or Twitter in your strategy?
Whenever a brand comes to us they know that it’s a complete package. Warner Brothers for example is hiring us to do a video and they know they’re going to get exposure through our Facebook channel, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Those are like the four, it’s a complete package. Oh and Stories on Instagram. They even have that written in the contract because they know they’re hitting a massive audience and not just one of our four different main audiences.
So you’re actively growing all those social platforms?
Yeah I’ve seen a lot of people fail because they count on YouTube as their only source of survival. They put all of their eggs in one basket. For us it’s about having as many different opportunities and revenue streams to make it sustainable. For example with YouTube, who knows what will happen to YouTube in the next couple years, especially with the way the algorithm is always changing. Our channel might not even exist on YouTube, but we still have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to survive on. Once we see some of those platforms starting to die or starting to change, we’ll jump onto the next platform. It’s just being willing to adapt, and if you’re not willing to adapt, that’s when you get left behind.
What advice do you have for creators who aren’t vloggers and their content might not be favored by the YouTube algorithm?
I think the biggest thing is asking why you’re creating to begin with. For us, as we started seeing our YouTube channel change drastically as far as views, we started trying to change to their system by doing daily tutorial videos. We were doing that and we were being favored again and getting a lot more views, but I wasn’t happy. I was far from happy when I started having to conform with that. So we shifted back to doing just what we’re excited about, even if we know the views might not always be there, we know at least we’re creating something that we’re proud of. Going back to what I said, it’s just asking yourself why am I doing this to begin with. The reason why I create and the reason I started is because I loved it, and when I tried to conform I realized that I wasn’t loving what I was doing.
“…when I tried to conform I realized that I wasn’t loving what I was doing.”
You never know what’s going to take off or not, so the other thing I’d say is just try as many different things as possible as long as it’s something that you love doing, and see what takes off. Try it for awhile because you’re going to make a lot of mistakes and a lot of things you make people won’t connect with or won’t like, but at least you’re trying new things and you will see what does connect. Just make sure it’s always something that you’re excited about.
Do you have any golden nuggets of advice or secret tips?
[laughter] No, I have no secrets. I’d say the biggest thing is that you have to treat each platform as a completely different platform. You have to edit them differently. The same video we upload to YouTube is a very different video than what we upload to Facebook, because people on Facebook have an even shorter attention span than people on YouTube, if you can believe that. So we’ll edit our videos different for Facebook where it will show the best 5 seconds right away to instantly grab you, whereas on YouTube we have more of a story where it kinda draws you into it. So you have to keep in mind your audiences for each of those platforms you have and treat it as a completely different video as far as how you’re editing it.
You held a meeting with the Utah YouTubers in 2012. I was in attendance and it felt like the birth of the Utah social media community. What are your thoughts on the current state of the community specifically in Utah?
Yeah I remember that, that was a really awesome moment for everybody. I have a ton of amazing friends within the Utah social media community. We just did a video with What’s Inside?, we did a video a couple months ago with The Bucket List Family. The people we’ve worked with and the people I talk to on a regular basis, I feel like I learn so much from them. It is still a very open community, especially in Utah, where people do share their secrets and what they’re finding is successful or not. For us, Dan from What’s Inside? has been super helpful with our channel. They started much smaller than us and now they’re bigger than us. I feel they’ve given us a ton of information about what’s working and what’s not working. So it’s just fun seeing people within our own community grow and grow bigger than you and then being willing to help you as you’ve helped them. For me I think that’s one of the most exciting things I’ve personally seen.
You came to the first CVX Live in 2015 and gave an excellent keynote. What were your impressions of that first event?
I thought it was solid. It was awesome seeing a community of creators and people that were passionate about the creators where I live, because usually you only see that in L.A. and a couple other places. I’ve seen it in Australia. For me seeing it first hand, real people interacting with their fans, and giving back to the people and helping lift them up to help them create, I think it’s what CVX is and it helps empower other creators and people thinking about pursuing that route. It’s just an open book that provides opportunities that fulfill a lot of people.