Home » Your Audience is Waiting. Becoming a YouTube Vlogger: Chris Broad at TEDxTohokuUniversity (Transcript)

Your Audience is Waiting. Becoming a YouTube Vlogger: Chris Broad at TEDxTohokuUniversity (Transcript)


Chris Broad

Here is the full transcript of YouTube star Chris Broad’s TEDx Talk: Your Audience is Waiting. Becoming a YouTube Vlogger at TEDxTohokuUniversity conference.


In the space of 24 hours, five billion YouTube videos are going be watched by an audience of about 13 billion people all around the world, with the average viewer spending 40 minutes per day watching YouTube on their phone. It’s a testament to YouTube’s power and reach around the world.

Whilst most people watch it as a source of entertainment, for me, it’s my life; it’s what I do as a “vlogger.” I hate the word “vlogger.” It’s the most awkward, strange word ever. It’s probably the worst word ever made by humans. “Vlogger” I can’t stand it! Nonetheless, I am a vlogger, and here is my channel. It’s called “Abroad In Japan.” It’s a mid-sized YouTube channel with about 4,100 subscribers. I’ve made maybe about 100 videos in the five years that I’ve been doing it.

During that period, there’s been about 38 million views and 120,000 comments that people have left along the way. It’s pretty amazing to think you can get those kinds of views, just by making videos alone in your apartment, right? Even more surprising perhaps is many of the videos are featured in the mainstream media, from the BBC and the Guardian to the Nikkey and TV Tokyo. I show you this at the risk of seeming arrogant, but the truth is I’m surprised as anyone else.

I’m surprised by all this because I’m not special. I’m not particularly talented at anything. I’ve been a waiter, a university student, an English language assistant and then a Youtuber. And the only difference is, one day, about four and a half years ago when I came to Japan to teach, I picked up a camera and I started filming what was going on around me.

And what was going on around me? Well, my first video is just me in my tiny apartment, super impressed by my little futon that I would sleep on for three years. By all accounts, it’s a terrible video. It’s not very good. But, nonetheless I did that and I started to enjoy it. It became a hobby from then on, and every month I would make one video. Originally I did it with the intention that friends and family back home in the UK would see the videos and know that I wasn’t dead. It was a reminder that I was still alive doing something at the other side of the world, but when I asked friends and family, “Have you watched my videos?” nearly all of them said, “No, no we haven’t.” So that was disappointing.

Fortunately, I found that people that were interested in Japan came across the videos, and after one year and about eight videos, there were an incredible 334 subscribers. It was amazing. I felt like a king. But I kept going and I kept doing it. After about another year and a half, the channel reached 100,000 subscribers.

That was when I realized this was something I could do for a living after I’ve finished life as an English language assistant. So I finished teaching in August 2015 and started doing YouTube full time. Since then, the channel has become one of the largest YouTube channels run by a foreigner in Japan. And these days, it’s more like running a poor quality TV channel as opposed to a YouTube vlog; you get into all kinds of crazy situations. For example, look at this. This is Monster Ramen. This is all the things we’ve done the last six months: this is Monster Ramen in Akihabara; this is Matsusaka Beef – there is also Sakurai-san there – the most expensive beef in Japan; Tokyo Capsule Hotel in Ginza; mummies, a real life mummy in Fukushima – it’s terrifying but amazing; and of course the tomb of Jesus-Christ who might have died in Aomori – this is in Aomori, believe it or not.

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There’s no real link; the only thing they have in common is that we just think things are interesting. Things that we think are interesting get featured. The one thing I don’t understand though or never really understood, is why aren’t there more people doing this, more people vlogging? Where is everyone? Because you don’t need any qualifications; you don’t need any money. You can do it now. All you really need is a camera and the Internet, and most of us carry those in our pocket today in the form of a smartphone.

To put things into perspective, I think there’s probably around a hundred foreign bloggers living in Japan right now, most of whom live in Tokyo, Kansai or Nagoya. As far as I know, I’m the only vlogger in Tohoku. That hundred figure is pretty small when you think that there’s about two million foreigners living in Japan. It’s strange for me as a vlogger in Tohoku. It’s like being at a party that anyone can join.

Anyone can be a vlogger but nobody is coming. The only upside for me is I get to eat all the cake, because you can’t just leave a cake sitting on the table, you have to eat it. So today I want to explore this. I want to encourage people here to consider the path of becoming a vlogger because I do think it’s influential. I do think it can make a difference.

Hopefully, by the end of the talk, some of you that put your hands up earlier might actually consider it. It does have an impact. The first thing you need to ask yourself is: what do you want to share as a vlogger, what do you want to talk about? Maybe it’s an opinion, maybe it’s a place, maybe it’s your hilarious cat, I don’t know, anything. The thing you want to share will be your guiding star when you become a vlogger. In my case when I started, I was a British guy living in Japan.

I was very confused everyday and I thought this sort of lifestyle was an interesting thing to share with people around the world, a rare glimpse into the life in Japan. The thing I try to share today though, the thing I try to focus on is Tohoku itself, a place where I’ve lived for five years, a place I love and call home, a place I feel a real strong connection with I always say Tohoku is Japan’s best kept secret. But despite the fresh delicious food, the warm, friendly locals and the beautiful scenery, Tohoku has a problem. And the problem is: nobody’s coming here.

As we heard earlier 24 million foreign tourists came to Japan last year, and just 09% came to Tohoku Huge region, six amazing prefectures, just 09%! It’s not that great, is it? I suspect there are two reasons. The first is the negative reputation as a result of the events of 2011. But even more than that, I would suggest that it’s because people simply don’t know all the amazing things that are here. I picked up a Japan sightseeing guidebook the other day and had a flick through Tokyo, had 60 pages of the sightseeing guidebook. The city of Kyoto had 40 pages. And the entire region of Tohoku just had 15 pages.

It’s a tiny amount, isn’t it? So, either there’s nothing here in Tohoku, or it’s just not getting the attention that it deserves. But what is there in Tohoku? How about Japan’s biggest morning market, a culinary wonderland, 250 stalls and 20,000 people go every week. It’s an amazing place. If you like food Ah! You’re going to love it here. It has the world’s greatest mascot, this squid character, an unofficial mascot. It’s amazing. But it’s in Hachinohe, in Tohoku.

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How about Japan’s greatest food challenge, the Wanko Soba Noodle challenge, where you have to stuff yourself with as many bowls of soba noodles as physically possible before you explode? That is in Morioka, in Tohoku. And then how about a real actual cat island, just two hours over that way an island crawling with hundreds of cats? It’s like Japan’s answer to Jurassic Park but with less dinosaurs and less Jeff Goldblum. But it’s amazing, two hours over there, in Tohoku. A fox village, an actual fox village. One of the most stunning hot spring towns Ginza onsen, Yamagata.

And real life mummies. All here, all in Tohoku! Now more than ever, Tohoku needs people to pick up a camera, especially those who live locally, to help shake off that negative reputation and try to promote all the amazing things that are here.

But can vlogging have an effect? Well, the first thing we can explore is the views. How many views do the videos get? Last year, I took part in a competition, I won a competition called “Tohoku365” to travel around Tohoku six prefectures and make articles and videos about the food. It was a great journey. I had to eat out two times every day for one month. So I put on five kilograms in just one month.

So be careful if you win a food competition. But it was great and we’ve released the first two videos, one for Miyagi and one for Iwate Together, the two videos have generated 950,000 views, almost a million people have had a glimpse into Tohoku’s cuisine, which is exciting. If you break that down, if we look at this video here, “Six must try Japanese foods for Iwate,” you can see the top 20 most popular countries where people have been watching that I think it’s so cool when I look at that and I imagine 13,000 people in Germany have a good glimpse into Tohoku’s cuisine, or 7,000 people in Sweden.

It’s important to remember those aren’t just numbers on a screen. Those are people and it could be really easy to forget that. But you have to remind yourself of it. It’s really important. Can vlogging actually have a real effect? Is there any hard evidence? Well, I mentioned we made a video about the Wanko Soba Noodle challenge last year.

This was in August and about two months after this video came out, some friends contacted me over the phone and told me that they’ve seen this video featured on a Japanese TV show, on National Television, on television Tokyo TV, a show called “Yū wa Nani Shi ni Nippon e?” where the TV crew waits at Narita airport, jetlagged foreigners come through and they ask them where they’re going, and what they’re doing. If the story is interesting – the person says they’re going to do something great – then they’ll follow them around Japan. In this one episode, a German guy, an awesome German guy called Tallam had come to Narita airport. When asked what he was doing, he said he was doing the Wanko Soba Noodle challenge, because he had seen it featured on Abroad In Japan. They played this video on the show as a kind of introduction, as a prelude to his adventure going to Morioka.

The TV crew followed him to Morioka. Good for him, he ate 100 bowls, so he hit the target. You need to get at least 100 bowls to succeed at the Wanko Soba challenge. So that was great. I also made another video last year called “My favourite place in Japan.” It was about the town of Sakata, the place where I lived for three years as an English language assistant, a place I love In the video, I featured the food, some of the scenery, my good friend Yuki here, this is Yuto – Yuki and his hostel that he runs in Sakata. I featured that in the video and since this video Yuki often sends me pictures from viewers that have seen the video and decided to go all the way to rural Sakata, to go and see what it’s like. For example this is Kalem, a British guy, who travelled all the way to Sakata. This is Frederick, from Norway. It was his first time in Japan ever. He went to Tokyo, Kyoto and Sakata – one adventure – just because he’d seen it in a video. So that was really exciting, really encouraging. I thought that this is really cool so I did a little questionnaire on the Abroad In Japan Facebook page, just a small questionnaire.

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I asked, “Have the videos ever made you want to visit Japan or live and work in Japan?” and 495 people responded on the Facebook questionnaire: 84% said the videos made them want to visit Japan, and 63% said that the videos have made them consider living and working in the country, which is really exciting and particularly encouraging.

I then asked, “Have you ever visited somewhere after seeing it featured in an Abroad In Japan video?” Again 177 people responded, 177 people responded giving their examples of places they had visited in Japan after seeing it featured in a video – which is really exciting. You know, it’s a reminder when you see these messages or see it on TV that vlogging can have a real effect. When people see these videos, it can encourage them to do something. I think we all take it for granted the Internet these days. It’s amazing that you can make a video, put it on the Internet and instantaneously someone, on the other side of the planet, has a glimpse of your world – it’s really exciting.

I urge you to try, I urge you to consider making one video. Because if you do, if you make just one video, you might find you enjoy it, and you’ll be amazed when people start to discover your video and start watching it. And if you enjoy it as I did, it could lead to something more, you never know. One of the reasons I’ve been successful is because there’s people out there who want to know what life in Japan is like. The demand is already there, right? So you have that to your advantage.

I often hear people say they want to help promote Tohoku and shake off it’s negative reputation. That’s never been easier or cheaper to do than now. All you need is your camera, the Internet, and to ask yourself: what can you share with the world? Do it, try it once. Come and join me at this incredible party. Help me eat the cake by all means, but do it.

Make a video and regardless of the opinion or story you try to share through videos, you’ll find that your audience is already out there somewhere in the world, and they are waiting to hear what you have to say. Thank you very much.