Whether you’re just starting out as a video creator or you’ve been an active YouTuber for a while, having enough good ideas to post videos regularly can be a challenge. While you can always do some simple brainstorming, this often isn’t very effective if you’re feeling blocked.
In this article I want to show you a 3-part process that you can use to generate dozens or even hundreds of ideas anytime you need them.
Before we start…
Defining your channel topics
Before you can start with the process, you need to clearly define your channel topic(s).
Some channels have topics that are super obvious; maybe you have a chess channel or a gardening channel. But maybe your channel content is a little more complex than that. For the purpose of this article, try to sum up your YouTube channel in one or more topics (the more specific the better). Put these topics on a piece of paper or at the topic of your idea generation spreadsheet.
As an example, my channel Why Video Is Great focuses mostly on the following topics:
- TV series
- Pop culture with an LGBT focus
Done with finding your topic? Now we can start.
1. Find subtopics
In the first step, we’re going to define the subtopics of your main topics. To give you an idea of what we’re looking for:
If your channel’s topic is filmmaking, your subtopics could be things like
- Filmmaking equipment
- Filmmaking skills
- Filmmaking resources
If you’re able to create an extensive subtopic list just by brainstorming, great! However, here’s the problem with these lists: the topics and subtopics you come up with are already on your mind. What we actually want to achieve is to access ideas and topics that you’re not already thinking about. This will give you the chance to come up with many more truly fresh video ideas.
In order to do that, we’re going to use the magical powers of the internet:
No matter what your topic is, it’s probably been covered by the internet extensively. Let’s use this to our advantage!
In the following step you’re going to source subtopics from different websites and add them to your idea list/spreadsheet.
NOTE: Only include subtopics on your list that you’re actually interested in. Otherwise you’ll end up with a long list of topics that you don’t actually want to cover.
Here are some places where you can find subtopics:
Almost every topic has a Wikipedia page. What we’re looking for on Wikipedia are the tables of contents and topical lists, which often contain subtopics. Put them on your idea list!
(The Wikipedia entry for filmmaking has this convenient link/subtopic collection.)
In order to make navigation easier, forums are usually neatly organized into topics and subtopics. Steal them!
3) Blogs/magazines/info websites/books
Just like forums, many blogs, magazines and books are usually organized by topics as well. Add them to your list!
Here’s how my list looks like after the research:
Find subtopics of subtopics
Although finding subtopics can open up your mind about what kind of videos you can create, they are usually still too generic. In order to create really specific ideas, we need to find subtopics of these subtopics. We can do that by researching the subtopic we just discovered.
(In the table of contents on Wikipedia’s screenwriting entry, I can see that there are subtopics such as: “spec writing”, “television writing”, “screenwriting theory”, “three-act structure” and “dialogue”.)
(One glance at the indietalk.com screenwriting subforum and I can add “characters“, “selling scripts” and “screenwriting competitions“.)
(On scriptmag.com I found additional topics in the navigation bar: “screenwriting software”, “books” and “directories”.)
After collecting the subtopics, I have the following list:
2. Find Formats
Topics are great but they’re still really unspecific. What we need are formats to give our topics a form; while topics are the “what“ of our video, formats are the ”how.” Popular formats include:
- Top (5/10/15/..) lists
- Explanation videos
- Let’s plays
- Funny compilations
- Music videos
- Trivia/random facts
While this list is a start, your task will be to create your own format list; that way you can find out which kind of formats are relevant for your specific topic(s). The following places are great for doing format research.
1) Topically relevant YouTube channels
Topically relevant YouTube channels are a great place to start your research, especially if these channels are successful. On the one hand, you can see what already works for other people; on the other hand, seeing what other people in your niche do can give you insight on what you would like to adopt and how you would like to differ from them. Make a list of all the formats you can find and would like to explore!
(On D4Darious’ channel I can find formats like “movie breakdown”, “analysis”, “review”, “advice”, “how to” and “behind the scenes footage”.)
2) Topically irrelevant YouTube channels
YouTube channels don’t necessarily have to share your topic in order for them to give you interesting format ideas. If you watch some YouTube channels outside of your niche already, you can have a look at them and analyze the formats you’re enjoying the most. Maybe there’s a way to bring them to your niche? If so, add them to your list.
3) Magazines/blogs/TV shows
The same can be true for magazines, blogs and TV shows; many formats existed in these mediums before they were adopted by YouTubers. In particular, topically relevant media can give you interesting ideas for new formats. Add these to your list as well.
3. Topics + formats = hundreds of video ideas for your YouTube channel
You should now have a list of topics and a list of formats.
This is where the magic happens: you’re going to combine these two lists.
This is how it works:
- Pick a subtopic: ”screenwriting books“
- Pick a format: top list
- Find a way to combine them in a way that makes sense: ”Top 10 Screenwriting Books“
- Repeat with every format and subtopic
You will find out that not every subtopic works with every format. However, you will also find out that a lot of combinations work surprisingly well!
The following is what I came up with in just 5 minutes with my idea generation spreadsheet:
Which video ideas to choose?
This technique should have helped you to come up with at least a few dozen (if not hundreds) of new ideas on the spot. However, with that many new ideas, picking the right ones for your next videos can be difficult. So how do you decide which video ideas to pick?
If you have a few ideas that are a lot more interesting than the rest, prioritise them. Nothing is more important than staying excited about your channel.
2) Most Promising
If you already have experience in what works for your channel and audience, prioritise these ideas as well. (Don’t know which content is the most promising? I will talk more about this in future articles, so make sure to subscribe and get the bonus content if you haven’t yet. :))