Tal Oran is a popular video blogger, who has nearly 90,000 subscribers on YouTube and 160,000 on Facebook. The Traveling Clatt is the brand he records under and, as the name suggests, his videos document his travels around the world.
In the following interview, Oran tells me how he runs his vlogging business. We discuss how he grew his audience over the past five years, to the point where he now makes a full-time income from it. And he tells the story of when and how his first video ‘went viral’ in 2017, the trigger for a strong period of growth that continues to this day.
Oran also explains his growing dissatisfaction with YouTube; and how Facebook is moving in on YouTube’s territory. According to Oran, Facebook currently offers video creators a less censored platform and well over quadruple the revenue.
This was a fascinating interview with a successful young YouTube (and Facebook) creator, so I hope you enjoy this post which is packed full of insights.
How The Traveling Clatt got started
Oran published his first travel-related video to YouTube in October 2013, with a nearly 5-minute videocam recording of the sights in Israel. However it wasn’t until April 2014 that the current format of his channel began to take shape. That’s when a then 17-year old Oran got in front of the camera to introduce his new goal: to travel alone to Africa, and document the journey via YouTube.
It’s striking to see how much Oran has changed since that time. In just over four years, he’s gone from a nervous-looking 17-year old with a whisper of a mustache, into an extroverted early twenties dude with flowing locks and a full hipster beard. His latest promo video, created after four years of extensive travel, shows how he’s blossomed into a confident and highly proficient vlogger.
But at the beginning, said Oran, he “kind of fell into” the life of a professional YouTuber.
“I started traveling a little bit when I was in my high school years,” he explained, “and then right when I graduated I headed off on a Safari adventure through Africa. That’s what kick-started it. It documented the journey for family and friends. I uploaded [the videos] onto YouTube and one thing led to another. People saw them and were pushing me to continue making more stuff.”
He quickly developed a passion for travel and decided to experiment more with YouTube videos after his African safari.
“I set a goal of every year trying to one-up myself, doing something crazy. So the first year was an African safari trip, the next year was sailing across the Atlantic on a cargo ship, and the third year was flying around the world in a circle. My upcoming goal is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, and the one after that is going to be swimming with a blue whale.”
Oran describes what he does as “travel pushed by giant goals, things that seem really unrealistic to the common person.”
The first tipping point
According to Oran, his video channel wasn’t an overnight sensation.
“It’s been years of grinding it out and trying different styles, going to different places to try to gain a diverse audience.”
Even now, he doesn’t think he has a large enough following on YouTube and Facebook. He considers himself “a pretty small social media influencer,” noting that his 160,000 Facebook audience is “isolated to a few specific demographics around the world.”
Many people reading this will disagree with Oran on that last point – having tens of thousands of followers on any platform is impressive. Certainly I’d love to build that kind of audience for Creator Interviews. In any case, Oran himself believes he’s “still in that process of building my following.”
Oran’s first tipping point came from a video he’d originally posted in August 2016, featuring him sailing across the Atlantic ocean on a cargo ship. Near the end of March 2017, that video went viral on Reddit.
“It blew up on a subreddit called r/videos, and it was like number 2 or 3,” he told me. “Then it got posted onto the front page of Digg.com, and it got published on a few news sources around the world. People were saying ‘this guy sailed across from Europe to Miami on a cargo ship’. All kinds of headlines and stuff, and that brought a huge influx of people to my channel.”
Oran’s YouTube channel had been hovering just under 5,000 subscribers before the Reddit post. Remember, by then he’d been posting his travel videos for nearly three years. However, thanks to Reddit and the other media coverage Oran received, by the end of June 2017 he’d doubled his subscriber count to 10,000. By the end of 2017, he’d gotten to nearly 34,000 subscribers.
More travels, more growth
After the success of the cargo ship video, Oran figured he’d try it again in the second half of 2017.
“I did another cargo ship journey – shorter, more focused – and created double the amount of content. That [series] completely blew up, so I got another huge boost. Then I used that money to pay to go on the Trans-Siberian railway across Russia.”
The Russian train journey wasn’t quite so successful, but it gave him the money to travel to the Philippines in December 2017. This was when his YouTube channel really took off.
“The Philippines blew my channel beyond capacity. It got millions upon millions of views, got in certain publications and all kinds of crazy stuff happened from it.”
In early April 2018, Oran moved on to Japan, where he decided to experiment with more risque content.
“I made some viral videos there of a more promiscuous nature. Questions that people had about traveling to Japan – some aspects of tourism that not every YouTuber is willing to answer.”
His tour of Tokyo’s red light district attracted nearly half a million views, but he got his biggest viral video so far in Osaka. That was when he recorded a light-hearted video of a local “love hotel.” Uploaded in June last year, it now has 1.6 million views.
The Philippines and Japan trips helped propel Oran from 34,000 subscribers at the start of 2018, to 84,000 by the end of the year – a nearly 250% growth rate.
In terms of audience location, Oran found that his Philippines videos were mostly watched by people from that country.
“In the Philippines, I think the metrics are about 90% of views were from the Philippines.”
He said the remainder of the views came from Filipinos living abroad.
It was different for the Japan content though. The Japanese viewership was “in the single digits” according to Oran, while the majority came from people who wanted to travel to Japan.
“Japanese people don’t really watch much english YouTube. And so the videos I made in Japan were more of a guide and familiarity lesson for people who feel like they’re naive, or have no idea as first-time travelers to Japan. It was kind of like me walking them through it, because it was my first time.”
YouTube revenue equation
Most of Oran’s revenue comes from advertising on YouTube and (lately) Facebook. We’ll delve into why Facebook has suddenly become of great interest to video bloggers, but first I asked Oran how much he earns from YouTube.
He told me that although the YouTube partner program does not allow him to reveal figures, it can be easily worked out based on a simple formula: “For every thousand views, you usually make about one US dollar.”
So a million views is about $1,000, on average.
However, Oran told me that it depends on the popularity of the YouTuber. Stars like Casey Neistat and Logan Paul can make $6–7 per 1000 views, he said.
As for Oran, even his popular viral videos will have earned less than $1,000.
“It’s not a lot,” he said with a chuckle. “You don’t make much money on the CPMs [Cost Per Impression] of YouTube.”
Where he makes most of his YouTube money is on brand deals. These are sponsorship deals he brokers with brands. They can be “an ad that you place in the video, or an entire dedicated video which you can charge different amounts of money for.”
Facebook’s challenge to YouTube
Perhaps the most intriguing new revenue source for Oran comes from Facebook, which has clearly set its sights on YouTube’s massive creator community.
“Recently, I was enrolled into the Facebook Launchpad program,” Oran told me, “which is this amazing opportunity that Facebook gave me to create content for them. They completely blew my page out of the water, doubled my Page size, paid me over quadruple – five to six times – more money than YouTube has ever paid me, for the same exact content I created on YouTube.”
Oran says he’s “pretty much being funded by Facebook right now to create content for both platforms, which is really really incredible.”
“It’s basically a six-month program where they pay you bonuses for a lot of the videos that you upload,” he explained.
However, he noted that the program is difficult to get into. But if you’re one of the lucky ones, the benefits are clear – even apart from the money.
“They promote your page for you without charging you anything for it, and they just share your content around and make sure that your page gets to a point where it’s sort of autonomous and has a following.”
Of course, this is a classic bigco play from Facebook: swoop in on a market with a cloned product, steal as many influencers as possible from the original platform, and see if it turns into a profitable part of your business. Microsoft pioneered this playbook in the 90s, and companies like Facebook and Google have become masters of it in this era (Instagram Stories and Google Reader being two other recent examples).
Oran is now nearing the end of his six month cycle with Facebook Launchpad. But because of the program, he’s grown his Facebook Page followers to nearly double what he has on YouTube. It’s set him up for continued success.
“I’ve grown so much on Facebook,” he said, “and I have a fully dedicated page that’s making me an income every single month, which is absolutely incredible.”
Is it a full-time job?
Other than Facebook and YouTube, Oran describes his revenue streams as “pretty narrow” at this time. He also sells merchandise on his website, but isn’t making much from that.
Although Oran isn’t getting rich off his videos, he is earning a living from it.
“This is my full-time income and it’s been my full-time job for the last year and a half,” he said. He started doing it full-time in June 2017, just after his first video went viral on Reddit.
“I was living in Asia for a while and so things were very cheap. I was doing a lot of backpacking and traveling like that, so I was able to cut down on costs a lot,” he explained.
Oran recently made the move to New York City, so he must at least be earning enough to pay the rent there.
As his income has grown over 2018, he’s also started to think about how he can use it to rapidly expand his business.
“I’m a little less scared to take risks with the money, because I want to obviously double it and make content that will generate me even more revenue.”
Tal Oran is an inspiring example for young creatives, who are striving to earn a living as an indie digital media creator. He proves you can have fun, travel the world, and at the same time build a brand as a new media personality.
Also, as Oran explained during the interview, now is a great time to start your video blog! With both Facebook and YouTube competing to host and distribute your videos, and Facebook paying an above-market rate to try and usurp YouTube, it’s a promising market for indie creators.
But wait, there’s more…
In Part two of this interview, Tal Oran discusses how he creates his videos – including his equipment setup and the production techniques he uses. He also talks more about his approach to distribution on social platforms like YouTube and Facebook.