A Day in the Life: BBC Worldwide’s YouTube Channel Manager Thomas Martin

A Day in the Life: BBC Worldwide’s YouTube Channel Manager Thomas Martin

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Here at Tubular Labs, we focus a lot on the data produced by successful video marketing campaigns and YouTube channels. While metrics such as these can be important to consider, it’s essential to remember that behind each campaign and channel are real-life people making those video efforts as successful as they are. As such, we’ve decided to start a new column called “A Day in the Life Of,” where we take you behind-the-scenes in the daily work lives of established video marketing experts.

Managing the BBC’s YouTube Presence

Tubular-Insights-Thomas-Martin-BBC-YouTubeThomas Martin has the honor of being our first featured professional in this series. Martin, who works as a Senior YouTube Channel Manager for BBC Worldwide, has overseen the launch and growth of YouTube channels for some of the BBC’s most renowned properties, including Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Top Gear.

Here’s what Thomas had to say about his work routine, his duties, and his biggest challenges and favorite parts of working on BBC Worldwide’s YouTube channels:

Tubular Insights: How did you get your channel manager position at BBC Worldwide?

Thomas Martin: I’d worked at BBC Worldwide for five years prior to moving into the YouTube team, in the international sales and distribution team, licensing BBC Video to digital platforms around Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. My direct experience (other than being a voracious consumer) of YouTube was limited but my knowledge of the digital video landscape, online audiences and my in-depth knowledge of the BBC back catalogue ensured I had the skills required to join the YouTube team. And I’ve never looked back since.

Most of my experience was learnt on the job and through soaking up any information I could find either in YouTube’s Creator Playbook –  as it was back then – or through various online guides. I got to grips with the mechanics very quickly and have been working on mastering the platform ever since, dedicating hours of work (and personal) time learning as much as I can about YouTube and the surrounding ecosystem.

I put in place a solid foundation of strategy and schedules across the network and was delighted to see views and subscribers grow across the board almost straight away. This consistency along with new channel launches and an increase in original content has seen the network grow at an impressive rate and I’m happy to say that over the last 6 months we’ve averaged over 110 million views per month.

BBC on YouTube: Dr Who & Sherlock

TI: Which channels are a part of BBC Worldwide’s YouTube team?

TM: We currently actively manage nine YouTube channels as a team. The channels are as follows:

BBC Worldwide Digital Studios is headed up by Alex Ayling and consists of four sub teams: YouTube, Communities (all social networks other than YouTube), Production, and Planning.

TI: Which YouTube channels do you specifically manage?

TM: I am responsible for the performance and operations of the whole YouTube network but feel it’s important to keep actively involved in channel management to ensure I’m always across the latest trends on YouTube/most popular content on YouTube/up-to-date with YouTube, which is a fast-changing platform. 

I personally manage the BBC Brit Lab channel along with our hub channel BBC Worldwide, and over the past four years I’ve also managed all the other channels at various times. This includes launching the Doctor Who channel back in 2012 a few weeks after I started, launching the Sherlock channel last year and taking the Top Gear channel from 700,000 subscribers to 3 million in the space of 12 months back when I ran that channel on a day-to-day basis.

TI: What is the first thing you do when you sit down at your desk?

TM: Video performance and audience reaction is our number one priority, so the first thing I do when I get into the office is to check the previous day’s releases and how they have performed in terms of views and audience sentiment. I will reply to comments and questions on videos, focusing on new releases and other posts where required.

Following that, I jump into our comment moderation system and make sure all of our queue is clear. That may mean deleting spam or offensive comments, replying to questions, or just getting involved in conversations that have started on older videos.

As you can imagine with the number of live videos we have, and the nature of YouTube comments this can be difficult task but as always we take as much learning from the comments as we can – even on videos that are nine years old – to inform our future publishing strategy.

TI: What does an average day look like for you after this, step-by-step or process-by-process?

TM: Following on from the above depends on which day. At the start of the week it will be a huddle with my channel management team and a few other people from Digital Studios where we look at the performance of last week’s videos and take a look forward at the week’s schedule.

This helps us to determine what the schedule looks like as well as identify opportunities to cross promote between channels and also on social via our communities team. Outreach is very important to us so we try and identify which videos may be of interest to various outlets (and types of outlets) and through our Planning team try to make contact in order to get our videos embedded.

The rest of week is very varied and dependent on our ever evolving publishing schedule. Tasks we may undertake include:

  • Optimisation and metadata – This is our bread and butter and where our key skills lie as channel managers. We pride ourselves on optimizing every single video so that they are as platform and audience friendly as possible and this is reflected in our analytics. Particularly the number of views we get from Search and Suggested Videos.
  • Desk research – We look as far ahead as we can in terms of our content pipeline and this involves digging into the BBC archives to find titles and specific moments that we think will work on the platform.
  • Watching shows – Once we have selected a title and made it clear for use on YouTube it will be the channel management team and our editor that chose those specific moments that get published on YouTube. We aim to find moments and segments that will not only appeal to our core audience but also have the potential to be shared beyond that. Highlights for me were selecting key moments from The Office with Ricky Gervais and as recently as last week choosing the best moments from Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge series.
  • Analytics – This is so powerful for YouTube publishers and creators because it allows you to learn exactly what the reaction is to your programming and strategy decisions. Of course not every video we release is going to go viral or be met with a glowing reaction but as long as we are learning from our mistakes and failures I can live with that. YouTube analytics is the most effective learning tool available to us so it’s baked into our weekly workflows.
  • Production and development – As the people running the channels my team have unique insights into what our audience want and what works best for the platform. Because of this we work very closely with our in-house production team to ensure that every video we make is done so with the YouTube platform and audience in mind. We get involved in production as time allows and I’ve been lucky enough to be on shoots on the Top Gear track with The Stig and on the set of the TARDIS with The Doctor.

TI: What does your work environment look like?

TM: We are very lucky to be the first tenants in the redeveloped Television Centre – the iconic home of the BBC in London. We have an open plan office with a hot desking policy that makes for a great environment which is conducive to collaboration – something that is synonymous with YouTube.

Tubular-Insights-Thomas-Martin-BBC-3This means that one day I can be sitting next to someone from another team in Digital Studios or someone from Marketing, Legal, or Finance and it’s often sitting with new people that leads to great ideas or serendipitous opportunities. Having said that I want my team to be working as a close unit as we all work to help each other’s channels and so twice a week we make sure to stand together at a standup desk in one of the building’s “break out” areas.

BBC Worldwide Digital Studios has some of the traits you’d expect to see in a startup, we like to experiment, keep up with trends, and where possible, start them to ensure we’re always finding new ways to engage with our audiences.  

TI: What tools do you use to manage these BBC channels?

TM: We have a dashboard for comment moderation but apart from that the only tool we use is YouTube Analytics which we are heavy users of.

TI: What’s your favorite part of managing?

TM: I think it’s the instant feedback you get from an audience and working with other forms of media in the past you just don’t get that with things like TV or DVD. We are lucky to work with some of the most beloved brands in the world and nothing is more satisfying than seeing a high view count and positive comments on something you’ve had a hand in creating specifically for those fans.

TI: What’s your biggest challenge in channel management?

TM: The biggest challenge is making sure we deliver the best possible content to fans at all time. They are devoted to our key brands and on occasion let us know when we’ve not quite got it right. For example, we published a famous scene on the new launched Sherlock channel but cut the clip too short and missed a key moment. Our fans let us know they wanted to see it in full and so we rectified this as soon as possible and even poked fun at ourselves in the comments.

We feel it’s important to put your hands up and own your mistakes rather than trying to sweep them under the carpet. Transparency and authenticity are important for building relationships with fans and this is one of the ways we can do this.

TI: How do you grow the channels you manage?

TM: I think consistency has a huge part to play in it. We set a weekly schedule for each channel and stick to it barring exceptional circumstances and audience appreciate this, as does YouTube’s algorithm. If you’re a fan of Brit Lab you know that every Thursday morning you’ll have a fresh original video to enjoy.

A huge step change for us was when we launched our two YouTube Original channels (funded by YouTube back in 2012) which we are very proud to say we are one of the few from that class who are still uploading and growing, now entirely self-funded. Before those two channels we were only publishing clips from finished programmes but creating original content gave us a voice and a chance to really engage with our audiences for the first time. We have learned so much about creating videos specifically for YouTube and none more so being the importance of original content. So much so that all of our brands now have original videos made specifically for YouTube and this will continue to expand.

Finally, and I know I mentioned it before, but we pride ourselves on giving every video we publish the best chance of success by having optimised thumbnails and metadata. I think it can be overlooked by creators of all sizes but is such a powerful way to grow, especially when you are working with video at scale. I believe that optimisation for YouTube is both an art and a science and in my team we have them covered off really well.

TI: Why do you think BBC Worldwide in general succeeds in terms of online video?

TM: We saw the importance of YouTube early on and we were one of YouTube’s earliest commercial Partners being on the platform since 2007. We continue to succeed because we have the right mix of talent and skill on the team and because we understand our audiences. The YouTube team have grown from a team of two to fifteen across all teams in Digital Studios, set up specifically to go where the audiences are and this is key. And in terms of video we are creating YouTube originals, fit for the platform, not TV for the mobile screen.

Not only do we now celebrate and highlight the creativity and awesomeness of our fans but we are hiring from our fan base and on YouTube specifically. For example, Crystal and Luke (also a channel manager) who present for us on DoctorWho and Sherlock221B were previously making their own videos on YouTube about those very brands.


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