00:00 Kurtis Baker: You’re listening to a podcast of Master Your Finances with me, Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional, Sunday mornings at 9:00 AM on 1077thebronc.com.
00:09 Kurtis Baker: Good morning, and welcome back to another addition of Master Your Finances, presented by Certified Wealth Management and Investment. I am Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional located in Princeton, New Jersey. I can be reached through our website, which is www.cwmi.us. Or you can call me directly at 609-716-4700. This week, very pleased to have with us Mike and Gabi Johnson. Mike, as a… Basically, you guys started YourTownTube, which is the number one viewed all-local website and New Jersey’s number one viewed all-local social media website with over 3.4 million plus hits per month and 15,000 plus videos continuously showcasing the people, places, businesses and events of the Princeton region, present and past.
01:04 Kurtis Baker: YourTownTube is the only all-local, all-video website, the only local social media that daily distributes and promotes all video content to a large local audience of targeted high-quality potential buyers, including exclusive partnerships with the Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Independent Business Alliance and Real Estate Business Alliance, including the Princeton Mercer’s areas only VPOD, and the exclusive Princeton Mercer Local Influencers. Yourtowntube.com is the only local social media that tells your story in living color, sight and sound to connect, engage and expand your local audience and customers. And now introducing fitfabandwelltube, featuring Princeton regional all-local, all-video fitness, wellness, fashion, beauty and more. They keep it real, keeping it local, yourtowntube.com.
02:05 Kurtis Baker: And you’ve been in business for over 40 years, diverse fields. Mike loves basketball and baseball, and played at PSU and coached several youth programs. And you have an MBA from Penn State University. And also with you is your lovely wife, Gabi, who has also a local tube, and I am here to help. And she’s a local influencer expert, educator and women’s leader in fitness, fashion, wellness and health. The platform, makes sure that your video content is seen and shared by a local community, grown locally, and also that you may stay foremost in the minds. Geographic, the distributor covers a hyper focus centered in the Princeton Mercer region, also reaching between Philly and New York City, including Bucks County and the Shore. The audience is business-to-business, as well as business-to-consumer influencers, educators, women leaders, technology leaders in business and finally, targeting all within the geographic area. Additionally, you are a sister site to the Princeton’s mega-popular all-video website, which is yourtowntube.com, and that has over three million viewers monthly.
03:22 Kurtis Baker: Fitfabandwelltube.com is an all-video marketing content education website, fitness, yoga, fashion, beauty, wellness and health. And you also love Switzerland and Swiss chocolate, if I could say that. [chuckle] I appreciate you guys coming on, you guys are amazing. I know you guys support the Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce. You videotape all the luncheons, and you really helped to promote local businesses. I know you run the site there, and you get a lot of… We have content like people have something that’s going on, they can send you the video, they upload it. And it’s great because it’s local businesses publishing things about themselves, whether it’s just tips about their business, promotion about an event that might be happening, and that kind of thing. And I think it’s really great ’cause some of the larger ones, you get lost, so to speak. But this one, if you go there, boom! It’s all the stuff that’s going on in our area and it’s really easy to find. And oftentimes, you’ll see a lot of the people that you know at events like, “Wow! That’s really cool! I love to go and take a part of that.” So it works both ways, and you guys have done an amazing job.
04:25 Kurtis Baker: So my question is for you first: How did you get… This is amazing! You got YouTube out there, which is this mega company and you said, “Oh, well, let’s go just take on this mega giant.” How did you guys get started there? And you did… You were successful with that. How did you guys get started in this whole business and that led to this huge success that you’ve had?
04:44 Mike: Well, I was on a bike ride, actually, and YouTube had really just been around for a few years. And I noticed that somehow, before the bike ride, I had been looking at YouTube, and I noticed a restaurant on there. I remember the Lahiere’s Restaurant which was a staple of Princeton for a long, long time. And they had done a video, which was the first video I ever saw from the Princeton area of a merchant. And it happened because I was actually searching on YouTube, thinking like, “Well, is there any videos about the Princeton area on YouTube?” And I looked and I got the video of Lahiere’s. Well, anyway, it was two years old, and it was a really beautifully-produced video, it probably cost them $3,000 or $4,000, and it had 26 views.
05:28 Kurtis Baker: Oh, my word!
05:29 Mike: So that that means probably the owner saw it 10 times, the people, the staff saw it another 15 times, and then I stumbled on it twice. So that probably made up, I don’t know if the counting’s right, but that probably made up all 26 views. It probably didn’t get any views of the local community people that actually they wanted to attract to come to the restaurant to see how great it was. And it was a video that was produced, I would say, over three different sittings where they had interviews, they had menus, they had everything. And it was just bothering me as I was taking my bike ride. I said, “Wow! Video is where it’s going to be at, for sure. And these guys just spent a lot of money,” but there’re thousands of people that view normal YouTube videos that are global, this local video got nothing. So it’s not gonna make sense for a local market to do videos, pop them on YouTube among them, and then it was just thousands of videos they had. Now, they have millions, so it’s even worse.
06:21 Mike: So I came back after the bike ride and I said to my lovely wife, Gabi here. “What do you think if we did something like YouTube only it was all-local and it just had videos of the local market, and just had viewers that were in the local market, so that you don’t just bump into videos by accident, you’d actually go there trying to find videos of your community?” And she thought it was a really good idea. Then it took quite a time to put it together because especially at that time, making a video website was a really, really tough thing to do. There wasn’t cookie-cutter ways to do it. You had to create something really custom. You had to have a huge storage because a video storage is one after another, after another, and you have to keep it up there, it lives forever. So the storage just keeps getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger, unlike a regular data website where it’s just little MBs of data that go maybe 100 per year or something. This is like every video is 100 or more. So it goes and goes in the storage.
07:21 Mike: And remember at that time, eight, nine, 10 years ago, the storage was very, very costly, it wasn’t like it is today, where you’re offered 2 Tb of storage for $200 a month. Back then, it was not like that. You didn’t have that kind of a monster storage. So it was an expensive proposition to do. It still is an expensive proposition to do, actually, to run every month because you keep adding video and video. And now, it’s more high-definition video, so it’s even bigger files. Now, the files are gig and more a lot. So the way we started it was we had that idea, we put it together. It was a very difficult thing to put together. It was an expensive thing to put together. And then we decided, “Okay. We got it together. Now, let’s go out there and get all the videos that the Princeton area must have because they’re so sophisticated.” But they didn’t have any.
08:14 Mike: Nobody had videos. It was like I thought because that restaurant had done it, and the Princeton market is so sophisticated with the educational opportunities around here, and all the great merchants, and all the great arts and entertainment, and all that stuff, everybody would have videos. Well, yes, Princeton University did. And so if I wanted a site that was just gonna have Princeton University videos up there, that could be done really easy. But then we decided that we’d… Luckily, we had a background in videography, both of us, and we said, “You know what? We’re going to have to make videos for people ourselves in the beginning because these people don’t have many videos.”
08:50 Mike: So the way we started in the beginning, and I know I’m not getting my wife in, her word in edgewise, but she will in a second, and she can tell about this process. So we decided that what we’re gonna have to do is take video equipment ourselves, go around the neighborhood and film the merchants, film the arts, film the entertainment, film the events because nobody was filming these things. And I guess it made some sense because there wasn’t any local video medium for them to put it on and people weren’t… On a local basis, that used to YouTube yet, except if you were chasing a cat around the house. It wasn’t really a business-to-business type thing. And I didn’t think that part through. I thought, “Well, these businesses, they’re very savvy. They must have videos.”
09:30 Mike: So what we did in the beginning, and we still do this on a more limited basis, is we just went out in the field and told people, “Hey! You wanna have a video made of your business?” And it was like, “Okay. What’s the catch? How much is it gonna cost?” “No, it’s free.” Nobody would believe that. It used to take us 20 minutes to explain, “No, we’re not kidding, this is free. We’re going to do a video, and then we’re actually gonna get it viewed for you.” And we even had some people that would turn down, believe it or not, ’cause they didn’t believe it. They thought there was some catch to it. “Okay. Yeah. It’s gonna be free now, and then next month, you wanna charge me $200 a month.” But that’s not the way it was. So for a few years, we operated with really almost no income ’cause we had to build up the volume of what we had on the website.
10:14 Mike: And as Gabi will know, we did many things to do that, special things like holiday guides. We’d go around and film what everybody had for a holiday season. We did… Geez! We did holiday guides. We did Father’s Day. We did Mother’s Day. We did Valentine’s Day. We did back-to-school. We did weddings and special events. We did, I don’t know, we did so many guides, sports. And then we put together a lot of different categories, and we filmed a lot of different events that were put on by different charities like your own. And many, many events that happened with… Educationally with Princeton University, we went and filmed their P-rade, and different reunions, and all kinds of stuff like that. And so that’s how we built the library. The first library was just a free job of us filming over 500 videos in the first couple of years. We filmed over 500 free videos.
11:12 Mike: And then of course, it was, of course, you have to also bring them back, and we had them on tape in those days. It wasn’t even a digital format, so you had to get the tape. You had to get the camera with the tape, you had to bring the tape back, you had to put it in a special box, you had to upload it, download it. You had to put it and you had to edit in Final Cut Pro, which was not even that sophisticated at that point. So some of the things that we had to do, and Gabi was the one who edited all of them, I never edited one video. So I gotta say my work was selling this idea, and then helping with the camera-work, she’s really the camera person, she’s really the editor. And in fact, the master of our finances is actually her, too, I just wanted to tell you that. [chuckle] Don’t think I’m the best. I’m not the best with the finances.
11:57 Kurtis Baker: That’s an amazing story, we’re definitely gonna continue that. You’re listening to Master Your Finances, we’re gonna be right back… Welcome back, you’re listening to Master Your Finances. I’m here with Mike and Gabi Johnson. You guys told an amazing story. I think a couple things came to mind when you told the story. One was I just remember years ago when they talked about how the big newspapers owned everything, and they talked about how the community newspapers were gonna take over. And that was an argument that went on for a long time and now you see a lot of the community ones thrive, and the larger ones are having trouble because you can get the national news on your phone or in a heartbeat. But that local, hyper-local stuff, you really have… You need to go to a specialty place. You wanna go to your community newspaper that talks about how your kid’s team did at the baseball game or whatever the case may be, and you wanna get that local stuff. And you guys actually took that to the next level, ’cause two things you did. One, is you realized that hyper-local was the trend, and you realized that video was the trend back when we were all walking around with a flip phone, if we had one at all.
12:53 Kurtis Baker: And nowadays, people make videos all the time. Back then, we forget that that was a big deal, getting a camera for the family and videotaping the kids. And then you had to worry about… Running out of tape and all those this other stuff. And it was kind of a little bit of a pain. And then once you taped it, now, what do you do with it? You couldn’t just put it on the web or anything like that, ’cause you had it on one medium and you had to transfer it to another. I just thought that was a nightmare. In fact, I’m even right now still transferring some of my stuff to digital, because it’s still on those old eight millimeter tape things that you had and things like that. So I thought it that was interesting. So kudos to you on two fronts. You got two things right at the right time. And you guys did an amazing job. So you got the concept, you had to actually create the… You created the platform, which back then a lot of us don’t even remember that that was hard. You didn’t just pick up a WordPress template and throw it up and throw everything on it, and have a hosting site go take care of it. You had to do all that yourself.
13:48 Mike: It was very hard.
13:49 Kurtis Baker: And then you had to create the content. So that’s a huge learning curve on two aspects. I’m just I’m very impressed with all that.
13:56 Mike: And creating content…
13:57 Kurtis Baker: How was that going through that whole process, you were doing, you were taking on a lot of challenges at the same time, I got to tell you.
14:02 Mike: And we didn’t think we’d have to create the content. See when I wanted to start it, it was like, “Okay. We’re gonna put it up and you build it and they will come.”
14:09 Kurtis Baker: Right.
14:10 Mike: I thought I was gonna put it up and then we were gonna have to be flooded with videos from everybody ’cause everybody had them. But no, YouTube made it seem like everybody had them but in reality, everybody didn’t have them. And so we went around doing that for free and in fact, because nobody… Like today we’re doing this the Zoom call, and people are now used to it because of COVID-19, doing Zoom calls and getting their backgrounds ready, and getting a microphone and getting everything in there, look good and all that. But then when we went to take videos with people, so many people were not used to what they had to do doing videos. It would be like 20 takes just to get somebody to say a goodbye statement. It was… Gabi, right?
14:51 Mike: It was amazing. Like we would be there and we’d say, “Okay. We’re allotting 10 minutes for this guy’s video ’cause they just need to show us this little part of their shop.” And it was basically a two hour video. It was like, “Dude, say goodbye.” But they wouldn’t do it. It was like they didn’t know how to introduce it. Sometimes they would have a script and they’d read straight off the script. And it would be like, “Well, that’s not that interesting.”
15:14 Kurtis Baker: Right.
15:16 Mike: You gotta look up once in a while. And it was funny because you had to teach video… Teach people how to actually be on a camera, for video. And you had to teach them how to show things for video, ’cause nobody in a normal shop… Now, remember, we go into a normal shop in Princeton, and it’s not even the owner of the shop that we’re talking to a lot. We’re talking to the people that just work there who are going to show us stuff because the owner says, “Oh, these nice people are going to come around and do a video of you.” And somebody who thought they were personable would say, “Okay, great, they’re gonna do a video of me.” Well, they wouldn’t know how to do it. So we would be there, “Okay. You have to do this, and you have to look this way, and you have to go do that.” And then some of them after we got done the video, right, Gabi, wanted it to be like a Fellini movie or something. [chuckle] We just wanted real videos of people doing stuff but they wanted it to be spliced here and edited there, and you gotta put this in it, but no, that’s not what we’re doing.
16:08 Mike: “Oh, yeah. But we have to look sophisticated.” No, no, not on YouTube. You don’t have to look… We’re not making a real commercial here. And so people didn’t understand that concept. Remember that? They would think like we’re making a commercial of them. And instead we’re saying, “No, no, this is just an authentic YouTube video. It’s just you being you, showing us stuff and that’s okay.” But a lot of people didn’t think that was okay. They thought…
16:32 Kurtis Baker: Yeah. That’s a great point, because even now, when you talk about the Zoom like six months ago, almost nobody heard of Zoom, right? And now everybody knows what Zoom is. But that’s the other thing is I remember when we go to these professionals workshops and things, they talk about how you have to get on YouTube, and you have to get out there, and you have to get the word out. And everybody’s like, “I gotta make this finished product and spend thousands of dollars to make it look perfect.” Well, now you look at the regular television, like the national media, they’re getting people on the phone, they got people… Most of the content you’re watching, it’s homegrown. It’s somebody on a phone or somebody just walking around taking video, they put it on the main mainstream media stuff and everybody’s watches it. So we’ve actually changed our perception of what video was. The national media would never dream of putting that stuff out 10 or 15 years ago, they’re, “Oh my gosh it’s so unprofessional.” So we completely altered from this prefab way of doing things to, “We just want it to be you.”
17:29 Mike: Yeah.
17:29 Kurtis Baker: We want the reality of the world what’s going on.
17:32 Gabi: You do want to be authentic, but it is important to set the scenery and to set the background because it is part of your DNA and what you are selling. So if by example you are like a closet organizer, but then in the background of your Zoom is piles and piles of boxes, people are not gonna…
18:00 Mike: That’s not a good look.
18:01 Gabi: That’s not a good look. So to put a little bit of staging behind especially today with the Zoom and if you can then use those virtual background. But one of the story we heard that was very funny was that Kurtis, when we first went out and about filming, we went out with the big camera and the big microphone and everybody…
18:25 Mike: And it was a huge camera.
18:27 Gabi: And people were scared, right?
18:29 Mike: Yeah they were scared.
18:30 Gabi: So then…
18:31 Mike: They thought we were like some kind of a news show, like Geraldo Rivera was gonna do something to them…
18:34 Gabi: So they show…
18:36 Kurtis Baker: They’d open up the vault. Huh?
18:37 Gabi: Right, most of the time they were shocked when they will need to start. So then, finally the iPhone was really really what it is, and so we say said, “Oh, we’re gonna go out with the iPhone and we’re gonna teach everybody how to take their own movie with their iPhone or their smartphone, right?”
18:57 Mike: Yeah, good look luck.
18:57 Gabi: Because now it was good resolution you could do that. So then…
19:01 Mike: Was okay resolution.
19:03 Gabi: Yeah, it was okay.
19:04 Mike: It was like 480. By then it was like 480.
19:05 Gabi: But it was good. It was good enough…
19:07 Mike: It was good enough for the time.
19:08 Gabi: For that authentic look.
19:09 Mike: Yeah, yeah.
19:10 Gabi: And so then we went back and we went with our iPhone. And then the people looked at us and they they’d say said, “Oh you’re not serious.”
19:20 Mike: Yeah it was weird.
19:20 Gabi: You’re not gonna do that with your iPhone. [laughter] So you could have went… You go with the big camera, they were scared, you go with the iPhone, they they’re like, “No, this is not serious.” So…
19:33 Mike: So we went with the big camera and then took it with the iPhone. [laughter]
19:36 Kurtis Baker: That’s really funny. [laughter]
19:39 Mike: So that it looked good that we had the big cameras so they knew we were serious journalists, and then we’d take out the iPhone and take the actual video with it just so we could get it done quickly. And you didn’t have to edit it and everything on the iPhone. You just popped it ’cause it was already digital. So you didn’t have to use the tape, it was a lot easier for us to do that. Sometimes, we would do holiday video guides with 55 or so videos of the merchants. We would pop off merchant, after merchant, after merchant, and they were widely popular, that’s what gave us our base.
20:03 Gabi: And it was… And yes, this is really what put us on the map. However, it came to a moment where we needed to go to the drawing board again. And financially, we couldn’t sustain to do just free stuff.
20:17 Mike: Give everything free.
20:18 Kurtis Baker: Right, yeah, that wasn’t gonna work forever, right?
20:20 Gabi: Right. So then, we decided to repackage what we were doing, and this is where we started to monetize the site. And that was a very important crossroad into what we were doing because not only now that the people were seriously looking at the site, but then the Princeton Chamber really came onboard. And now, you have all those businesses, the B2B, the B2C that came and now, like, “Okay, I’m a business. I’m in accounting.” Or, “I’m X and Y business, I want video content.” So now, we can monetize. Now, we can offer ad space. We can push your material. We can provide video packages. And have food on the table because our son is 18. [chuckle]
21:10 Mike: And that’s something that… Yeah, that’s something that… That’s something that you need to…
21:12 Kurtis Baker: Oh, my goodness, yes.
21:13 Mike: One of the things that we did which was really, I believe a pioneering-type thing, is we didn’t just give an ad, where you just bought an ad. We gave packages where you bought an ad, but you got so many videos with that ad. And that was something that I don’t think anybody had ever done before. So in other words, you could buy an ad space for, say $360 a month, and you’d get eight videos that we’d produce for you during the course of that year. So all the way up to a larger space would be 15 videos. So we did two things when we started that monetizing, is that we still got content and we got good content, and people got the bang for the bucks. They didn’t just get a banner; they got this video content that they needed, we still do that. But that was the way we really got it pumped out where now, we decided, “Okay, we have a great track record. We can show all the videos that we’ve done for people.” Now, what we can say to them is, “Look, we did one for you, but we can do 12 for you every year if you buy an ad space, a package. And the package will be you get an ad space plus we produce so many videos either per month or per year basis.” We’d fashion a contract that way.
22:20 Mike: But the one thing that you guys were talking about about the Zoom meetings that made it, where we did the… We started telling people the authentic videos are fine, is now, this has made people feel not only comfortable, but it’s not unprofessional to just be yourself anymore. It used to be that they thought in video, it was unprofessional to just be yourself, to ever have a dog bark in the background, or your kid pop in, or something like that. Now, it’s not unprofessional anymore, it’s real. And people not only don’t mind it, but the sincerity of it is really good and really well taken. And it’s so much easier now to get a lot more content done. And that’s what we’re going to be doing with the Princeton area when we bring out this new program that we have to help all the merchants, is to try to say, “Okay, guys, look, what you do is just do your own little video every week. We’ll put all the videos together in a program called the Buy Local Connection. And don’t worry about it being the slickest video in the world. We’ll take it, we’ll put your logo on it. We’ll put your information as to how they get what you have, either it’s curbside or you deliver or whatever it is. And don’t worry about having an expensive video cam, you take your phone out. And if you don’t wanna take your phone out, schedule a Zoom with us, we’ll record it over Zoom, and pop in the information.” So now, using Zoom…
23:39 Kurtis Baker: Yeah, and that’s amazing. Yeah, that’s amazing. We definitely wanna talk about that more. You’re listening to Master Your Finances, we’re gonna be right back.
23:46 Kurtis Baker: Welcome back! You’re listening to Master Your Finances. I’m Kurt Baker here with Mike and Gabi Johnson of YourTownTube. And we’ve been talking about how you got this thing started. And again, you had to first create the platform, you created the content. Now, back then, there was really no… It was hard to monetize. So a lot of times, people start things, and you have a business, you have to create a business model. So first, you got the platform and think, “Oh, people are just gonna throw videos on there, and I can monetize it that way.” I’m assuming you were thinking of that. And then you’re like, “Oh, my gosh! They don’t even have videos. So now, we’re gonna create the video content.” And then you had to have enough volume, I’m assuming. So you had a cat and a mouse type deal where you had to get the content on so people would watch it, but then you had to create the content. So you had to have both ends of that. So they had to have something to go see. And so you basically did the whole deal. Now, you got to a certain point, you’re like, “Hey! I think we got something really here. I think we can now monetize it.” So I guess you started selling this… So you did the traditional-type media where you said, “Hey, we’ll give you a little bit of display information,” I’m assuming, and then, “But we’re also gonna help you with the content.”
24:52 Mike: Yeah.
24:53 Kurtis Baker: Which I think is really innovative because, again, I remember back then, creating a video was traumatic. If you told somebody to create a video eight or nine years ago, they’re like, “No way,” right?
25:03 Mike: Yeah, that’s right.
25:04 Kurtis Baker: They’re gonna run there because that was total trauma. And I think most of us nowadays are so used to doing it that we forget that that was a big project.
25:12 Mike: They do one a year.
25:13 Kurtis Baker: Way back when, and it was scary. Now, we do them all the time. So you really help them with that process. So now, you do the packages, so that’s how you monetize it. That’s what I’m assuming. And you create an actual real business model. And so what did you do, once you got that set up, have you tweaked it at all? Or have you made any changes about how you work that? ‘Cause you were an innovator that whole process, right?
25:37 Mike: Well, the biggest thing… The biggest key to the whole system, and we did try to create a whole system where we couldn’t really afford because we had spent so much money to build the site, and then we did things for free for a few years. We couldn’t really afford to advertise them on billboards and everything. So we created this system where somebody would do a video, and then we would send them the link, and we would tell them how to share it among the social media. ‘Cause now, social media started in vogue with Facebook and Twitter and everything. Instagram wasn’t there yet, but it was Facebook and Twitter. There was Google+, there was things like that. So we not only encouraged them, but on a regular basis, we would send…
26:16 Mike: The link gets automatically sent out by our website. When you put a video up, the website automatically thanks you for doing the video, sends you the link and ask you to share it. And then, on top of that, we would send follow-ups and say, “Don’t forget to share these links.” Then what we would do was we would put together a newsletter with lots of different links in it, send it out to all the people who had links and encourage them to share the newsletter among each other. So, in other words, we would build it on social media platforms, is how we would build our social media platform, by using the links being sent around to other people, and eventually people would go to the website ’cause that’s where the link took them, and they would say “Oh, gee, a website about Princeton only. That’s pretty cool.”
26:58 Mike: And then they’d stay and then they’d come back and then we built and built and built. And then we got a lot of community leaders, like the Princeton… Now it’s the Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce, but like that, to do some alliances with us where they would send out our information and we then started to also, as you know, film the Chamber events and things like that, and when we filmed that event, it’s hosted on our website and embedded on their website from our website, so that gets us a lot of viewers. And then we started to do a lot more of the inter-sharing between the different merchants and their consumers, and then we even put buttons on our website where right under the window when your video plays, you can click Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etcetera, and it brings up your own Twitter or your own Facebook and automatically creates the tweet or the Facebook text for you and the link to your video, so now you can do one click where you’re just go on there and you share everything, you don’t even need us to send you the link, so it’s really, really easy.
28:00 Mike: And that’s how we build our audience, is by having other people that put videos up there get an audience for their video and that audience brings people to our website. So, what we do is we have different programs now, which I was saying about, the bi-local connection, what that does is that is an inter-sharing program that the merchants would share each other’s video content among their own social medias. So, for instance, if you have somebody that has 5,000 Facebook and somebody else has 5,000 Facebook, now if they share each other and now they got 10,000 Facebook. So, that’s a big deal ’cause that brings more people to our website, but it also brings more people to their videos, and we’ve done lots of different studies where people still, of course, put their videos up on YouTube, not just on our website, and we encourage that actually, ’cause you can get a global audience if that’s what you need also.
28:51 Mike: We’ve done studies where we have videos up there that normally, if you have a local video and you put it up, the same video, on YouTube, the same video on our website, you will get 10 to 200 times more local views on our website, than you will get on YouTube. And we’ve had videos that we’ve studied head-to-head where they have 35 views on YouTube and they have 3400 on our website. So, it is quite a bit of a difference, where people from this community get to actually see and share and be seen in this community and not worry about waiting through all the different videos that YouTube presents and all the ads video presents. But we still function on the same principles that we started with, it’s only gotten a lot bigger how we do, because even in those first guides that we did, the holiday guides that we went out and filmed even on our phone, we did a really massive sharing program among everybody that got their video, and we even put out the link for the whole holiday guide for everybody to share the link to the entire holiday guide, and that means other people’s 5,000 Facebook would now see everybody’s videos at once.
30:00 Mike: And that’s the kind of programs that we do on a regular basis, we call that the VPOD. We also had the Princeton Mercer local influencers, which is a trademark. These are people that have a very big following in the Princeton Mercer area, they can be signified as a Princeton Mercer local influencer. And the VPOD is a bunch of people that want to share each other’s videos among themselves, and these are normally members of the Chamber that are board members and people like that who have a good following in the business community. We do a lot of business-to-business on our website and a lot of business-to-consumer, it’s not like a YouTube website where there’s more a lot of individual people doing individual things, and now they’re doing a lot of individual marketing things. But it’s not a website that… How do I say it? It’s a website that really caters to the Princeton community in terms of its arts, its education, its merchants, its business, its commerce. So, it’s a serious website, it’s not a bunch of cats chasing dogs around that look pretty cool. Although I like that, there’s nothing wrong with that, if you wanna put that up there, it’s great, but nobody does. They put up stuff that’s more a little more serious normally.
31:07 Kurtis Baker: They’re local cats and dogs, right?
31:09 Mike: They’d have to have Princeton around their neck.
31:11 Gabi: But it’s a huge… It has been a huge transformation right now with COVID, where people have totally engaged into creating their own content because through Zoom, they can really video themselves so they don’t have all that matter to think about. “I take my camera, is the sound good? Is this?” They do it through Zoom, they send us the file and we upload them for them, and meaning, the quality of content and education that has come to the platform since the last few months is humongous. Really, really great people that are video creator content. And we’re very proud of our community. We love our community.
32:04 Kurtis Baker: Yeah, I wanna just… You brought up a really important subject. I wanna go back a couple of months, like February, March, that transition we started hearing about, the COVID issue. And so what were your thoughts when that first happened and how did you see it play out? Because, as you pointed out, we’ve really changed. Businesses still need to operate, we still need to network, we still need to connect with each other, but we’re doing it in a very different way depending on your business. So, it sounds like you’ve seized that opportunity, so I’m curious about what happened when you first started seeing this issue developing, and what were your thoughts initially, and then how did you plan as you started to see things develop?
32:42 Mike: Well, actually for us, it’s made it more convenient to do business because we do all video business. Now we can do all video business via the computer and the cameras and the microphones without having to go out in the field at the same time and do that whole… Hold on, we’ve got other phones going on here at once. Sorry.
33:00 Kurtis Baker: Keep it real.
33:00 Mike: That is real. That’s authentic right there. [laughter] And then what happened is, is that Zoom came along. At first it was like, okay, now we have to really teach people how to do videos via their smart phone, they have to know how they can do some lighting effects and get things well and they can’t do it up and down, they have to do it horizontal and all that kind of stuff. So we taught people, and Gabi has just come out with a series of tips that she’s running in video of how to do different things with your smartphone. So it’s made us have a better avenue to educate people who are now willing to listen to how do we do videos without having a video crew come out and actually take our videos, how can we make them look at least decent and come through, and that’s what as it has helped us in that regard, is that it’s made business more convenient for us.
33:53 Mike: And then it’s also made it better for the merchants, these new programs that we’re coming out with for the merchants, now they actually know how to do things better via Zoom and with their phone, and they’re not embarrassed about it any more by saying, “Oh, people would say that’s unprofessional if I’m just sitting at home doing a Zoom video.” Now it’s not, so now they can get across what they do for your community. Like you for instance, when you come on a Zoom interview with us and tell us about your business, your charity, it’s no longer unprofessional for you to be sitting in an office just telling us about that without big lighting and six microphones and a boom over here, and all that stuff. It’s no longer that. It’s great, and people hear it and they know you’re sincere, you’re talking like a real human being, and you don’t have to have four different camera angles and from one to the next or anything like that, and it makes it easier for us.
34:40 Gabi: So to come back to the point, your starting point question was actually when COVID hit and everybody was in confinement, of course, our client, we had conversation and dialogue with our advertisers and our sponsors, and where are we going from there, and everybody was on a halt. On a stop. And in this moment, it was like, what are we gonna do? How are we gonna be doing it? And this is where we came, Mike, again is the idea guy. So he came up with the idea, listen, we got to help those people out there to have a voice while they cannot have a voice, and this is where we came up with the Show Must Go On. So since COVID and the confinement, we have been producing one after the other, the Show Must Go On, and it’s basically a profile piece on the person that is interview, and I think that this has really given a lot of hope to our community, to the guests that is coming on on the show. But again, if you take the platform and how we have built up the platform and the multi-level of distribution that we have, that material now is distributed all over the place, so when you come on, the Show Must Go On, then that piece goes very, very far around and way beyond Princeton. So I think that has helped a lot.
36:14 Mike: Yeah, and the other thing is, obviously our community monetarily have the merchants struggled because the restaurants couldn’t be opened and at first the restaurants weren’t open at all, and people like that, car dealers, etcetera. And we have a lot of those people our advertisers, and we basically said, “Look, just don’t worry about your contract, you can resume when you can resume. We’re not gonna take your ad down. We’re gonna keep it up for you. We’re gonna do everything else we used to always do in the background for you, and then when you’re ready to come back monetarily, and some already have, you can just come back.” And we didn’t… We weren’t about to just suspend their contracts or say, “Hey, you owe us some money for this month, or… ” And we weren’t about to take their ad down that will be heartless and ridiculous.
36:55 Kurtis Baker: Yeah, I know. I definitely wanna get in that, we gotta take a quick break, but, yeah, we’re coming right back. You’re listening to Master Your Finance. Welcome back, you’re listening to Master Your Finances. I am Kurt Baker, here with Mike and Gabi Johnson. And we’ve been talking about how you developed this great platform, a local YouTube, which has been enormously successful, and especially business owners have really gotten involved in this and, we see you with the Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber, the luncheon are recorded. For some reason, I missed the luncheon, you can go see the video later on, which is fantastic. And you do a lot of promoting locally which is amazing, and I’ve been to the site many times like everybody else in the area, and you find local, great content. I think right now, one thing that keeps coming up, I know is it… Everybody’s business model has changed a little bit. Either a little bit or a lot depending on where you kind of fit into society, of course, a restaurant’s got a huge changes they’re making, other people maybe not as much of a change as far as the way they’re functioning, but we still have to do business.
37:51 Kurtis Baker: And so I think one of the things that happens if people are concerned, they immediately just start… They start pulling in the expenses, they’re like, “I gotta pull everything in.” And typically one of the first things to go is marketing but nowadays, you can market through social media for… It’s relatively inexpensive, it’s actually a pretty cheap way and a very effective way to get your name out there. So do you have any recommendations about, they’re going to be personally, a lot of businesses you’re struggling, ’cause you’re doing your work, you get busy, you’re doing your work, but you’re supposed to maintain all these stuff, you’re supposed to create content. I know you guys do that kind of thing and you’ve gotta get it all put together, even though theoretically, it takes a little bit of time, you have to do it, and you need to promote yourself, so now that we’ve all had a little time to maybe think about our strategy, I think every business owner I know has spent some time rethinking their business strategies through the last few months. So what have you guys learned through yourselves as well as your clients, as far as the things that they’ve been doing to get better through all of this?
38:49 Gabi: Well, first, I think that in question of video content creation, I will take this one then Mike then follow.
38:58 Mike: Yeah. Let her take it. [chuckle]
39:00 Gabi: But I think that, yes, you are absolutely right Kurtis. Right now, with the help of Zoom, we have been able to offer video recording and editing packages through Zoom to people that want to create on a regular basis, so it is a subscription base, every month they are on a subscription, and depending how many videos they want, they’ll choose their level, but it will guarantee them to have some content created and then that creation is of course distributed locally and all around, and then they can still use it and embedded on their website and so on and so on. And then, of course, we have other things. And again we talked about the Buy Local Connection… We really want to help our community to stay in business. It’s vital for our community, our shops, our restaurants, our small businesses. They need to stay in business. So we pivot a little bit to look about how you have been doing your marketing. We are taking that connection, the Buy Local Connection, and it’s a little bit alluding you to put your promotion, your sale, you’re offering, whatever your video content is created upon a promotional piece. And then that is distributed.
40:35 Mike: Well, let me tell you how that works. It’s really simple. Because there’s no more just cruising around the streets of Princeton like it used to be and going into the shops in and out and going into the restaurants in and out ’cause there’s not even indoor dining really, so we don’t know when that’s gonna happen, is we created this Buy Local Connection. What it is, is people can either via their smartphone or make a brief interview appointment with us on Zoom and make either a one to three-minute video once a week, and we will take that video, put all the videos and it’s in a single newsletter, send that out to various different mailing lists, email it out there, put it on all the social media platforms and then have the merchants share that newsletter among themselves so that everybody can see what the merchants offer in our community, personally. It’s not a Google thing anymore. People actually see what the merchants have.
41:27 Mike: They see their menus. They see recipes. They see tips. The merchants can do anything they want once a week. All they have to do is take the video via their smartphone and just give it to us, upload it on a website or just send us a link to it or they can make a Zoom appointment with us and we’ll quickly within five minutes take a one to three-minute video of them, add their logo into it, add how they can get it, whether it’s curbside pickup or come to our store, we’re allowed this many people in our store or we offer take out of our restaurant, etcetera. And we will put all those videos every week and send the newsletter out twice a week ’cause what we’ll do, we’ll send it out to a mass list of thousands. Then I see who did not receive it or did not open it, then I send it out again to the people who did not open it yet. So we will send that newsletter out twice, plus then give everything to the merchant so that they can share it among their own social media platforms, therefore giving it tens of thousands of more views.
42:24 Mike: And then also each merchant gets to keep their videos. We’ll give them a copy of their videos and market themselves however they want to among their own social medias, put it in, embed it on their website, do whatever they want with it. So what it’s doing is encouraging the merchants to actually put out a video snippet of themselves at least once a week. And if one week they can’t do it, we’ll re-run something that’s still relevant, but we’ll put them all in this common newsletter. We’ll also gonna have a section on our website called the, Buy Local Connection, and have its own channel so that people can click on that channel and see all the videos that forever the merchants have done about themselves. And what we’ll do is we’re going to edit their videos for them, promote their videos for them, get their videos viewed for them and then we’re gonna also work with people like the Chamber of Commerce and also the Princeton Merchants Association to also develop and disseminate this information. And we’re doing that all for a ridiculous fee of $19 a month for the merchants.
43:24 Kurtis Baker: Wow.
43:24 Mike: We just wanna do that to have a nominal fee because if you don’t have a fee, then they won’t get serious enough about it to do it. If they’re in a certain club membership, and remember it’s $19 a month, but they have to subscribe for the year. So it’s either $19 a month or they can pay 199 upfront and they get the whole year. And that way they will consistently do what they should be doing anyway, which is putting out video content about what they have to combat the Googles and peoples of the world. Not that there’s anything wrong with Google ’cause I… Not Google, Amazon. Not that there’s anything wrong with that ’cause I use Amazon Prime a lot, but they’ve also… The area also has to support our local merchants and our local service people and our local restaurants and learn what they have to offer that’s unique because we have a lot of great individuals in this Princeton Mercer region, they have a lot of great ideas in their shops. They have a lot of great things that people cannot really get anywhere else, or if they can get them anywhere else, they’re very inconvenient to actually get.
44:22 Mike: And we’ve gotta show people that it’s still convenient to shop Princeton. It’s still convenient to get the great food around here and the great services of the people that do great things in this area because there was a robust community of commerce here. We had a really, really great situation going on before COVID-19 hit, with the University and everything. Now we have, not a ghost town, but something that’s not as robust as it was, and they must still get their stuff out there personally, face-to-face, even when they can’t do it face-to-face. And we’re giving them an opportunity to be face-to-face when they can’t be face-to-face. And like I said, we’re only doing a nominal administrative cost of $19 a month. It’s going to be sponsored by corporations, the whole package, but we don’t want the merchants to be strapped anymore. So we’re just giving them a fee so that they’re serious about doing it and make sure they do it, but not enough where it’s gonna financially strap them at all. So it’s a very easy situation where they get regular video content. They’re encouraged to do their own regular video content that they can use everywhere, but also use it in the Buy Local Connection.
45:27 Kurtis Baker: Yes. Maybe you just solve several problems once you’re getting the content out to your mailing list, plus they could put it on their own social media and have your own pre-made, so to speak, social media, so you can get that out. And you can talk about anything. If you’re a restaurant, I guess you can talk about the specials of the week. What we’re putting out there. And if you’re a retail operation, what we’re selling, and it might be interesting. I know me as well as a lot of the people I know, we always try to buy something locally. And then we go to the Amazon if we can’t find it, so I always try. And if for some reason you can’t find it, then you’re like, “Okay. I gotta go to a larger operation that I can find it ’cause it might be something that they just don’t have.”
46:02 Mike: And we don’t know today about the convenience of things. In other words, it’s not really that inconvenient, especially if you already know what you want. So say a merchant has some really unique things that just came in and they get to put this one-minute video out this week to say, “Hey. Look what we have here. This is pretty cool.” And we can… And just order it and we’ll do a curbside pick up. You come down, you pick it up at curbside, and that’s bingo. You got it right away. You don’t have to wait for shipping, you don’t have to get mad at Amazon ’cause they didn’t deliver your package in two days. You don’t have to go through a robo-call, you don’t have to do anything like that. Just order the thing or call us on the phone, tell us when you wanna come in and pick it up.
46:38 Mike: And there’s ways that are convenient today to get things and merchandise that the merchants have, but people don’t know what’s in their stores, they don’t know what’s in their restaurants, because they can’t physically see it right now. So we’re gonna give an opportunity to them to present physically and with living sound and color, what they have. And that way, it should induce people to say, “Hey. I can still shop in the Princeton area, and it’s actually not that inconvenient for me. And I won’t get COVID-19 doing it, as it’s gonna be great.”
47:09 Kurtis Baker: Yeah, that’s just incredible. I think, once again, you’re at the cutting edge, I have to give you credit, because that’s really I think where we’re headed. And honestly, I can see that being a value even when COVID is not here any longer, because some people may, for one reason or another… They’re just too busy, I might work in New York City. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that that thing that I wanna buy is right there locally. I can go pick it up at some point myself. So I think there’s value to that, even beyond the COVID thing. I think we’re learning new skills now that I think we can continue to use going forward and just make things better for everybody. Right?
47:43 Mike: Yeah, that is something that we wanna do continually. We don’t wanna do it post-COVID. And we’ll even have a question and answer section that consumers can even ask questions of the people, and we’ll put that in the newsletter so that people… Maybe their next video, they will answer the question that the consumer had via a video. So the consumer might say, “Do you have this?” Or, “Can you do this?” And then that person can get on there and that’s an easy content video for them to make. Yes. Kurtis Baker says, “Yeah. I can do that. If you come down here, I will wash your feet.” [laughter] No. You won’t do that. Cool with my new portable…
48:18 Kurtis Baker: That’d be a small premium for that one.
48:21 Mike: With my new portable foot wash that we have outside the store. No but… And whatever…
48:25 Kurtis Baker: We gotta do. Right?
48:26 Mike: [48:26] Yeah And a foot wash is probably not a good idea. But anything that they can answer, and it may give content for the merchant to use for the next thing that they know somebody’s already interested in, therefore it gets a dialogue with the community and people actually can engage with each other again. Where they can’t engage with each other physically anymore, they have masks on and all this stuff. Now that you can see people really talking without the mask, you can see their real personality and you can see what they really have to offer.
48:56 Kurtis Baker: Well, you guys have been amazing. Unfortunately, we’ve run out of time. Do you have any final thoughts before we go?
49:03 Gabi: No. I thought we would never be able to fill up that time.
49:05 Gabi: I know, right? We actually… Kurtis, we actually wish you a great, awesome… You have an event coming up, so we’re wishing you good luck with that event. It’s when? August… 29th?
49:17 Kurtis Baker: August 29th is our walk for the Mickey and Friends Walk For Air. We had the dog walk coming up at West Windsor Community Park, so thank you for mentioning that for us.
49:27 Gabi: You’re are welcome.
49:28 Mike: And we’ll be filming that, which will be YourTownTube, also.
49:30 Kurtis Baker: That’s right, you guys gonna be there.
49:33 Mike: It’s there even after the event, but go to the event and do great things for these people. They really do great stuff for the community.
49:38 Gabi: That’s right.
49:39 Kurtis Baker: Well, you guys were amazing. I appreciate everything you’re doing. You’ve been listening to Master Your Finances. You can subscribe to this podcast, listen of all our podcasts by going to masteryourfinances.us. Remember, together we can master your finances so you can enjoy financial piece of mind.
49:56 Mike: That’s really hard to do, get financial piece of mind, by the way.
50:00 Mike: It’s what I do, man.