Two More Vox Journalists Go Indie 🤝

Inside the "how" of Howtown

Good morning. We’re headed to San Francisco this morning to attend science creator William Osman’s Open Sauce conference. If you’re going too, let us know by replying to this email. And keep a look out for Hannah and Josh from the Publish team.✌️

BTS of a Journalism YouTube Channel

Adam Cole (left) and Joss Fong (right) share their plans for their science and journalism channel Howtown / Howtown

Howtown, the new YouTube channel from former Vox journalists Joss Fong and Adam Cole that asks “how do they know that,” released their second longform video yesterday—an exploration of the Covid death toll with Hank Green. 

Fong and Cole shared with us what went into the launch, plus how they’re approaching the channel with fresh eyes after 10 years of making YouTube videos at Vox. 

BTS: Fong and Cole take turns producing each biweekly video. They banked four videos before launch, and they’re teasing new topics on Shorts. 

  • “There’s so much that’s been said about having a strong cadence and having your audience know when you’re going to be publishing,” Cole told us.

  • “We’re constantly wondering if it’s still true and if it’s true for other people, is it true for us. More data is coming in by the hour.”

Their channel’s differentiator…in addition to cameos from big names like Cleo Abram and Jarvis Johnson? Adhering to journalistic standards like using primary sources, issuing corrections, and forgoing sponsored content—instead doing ad reads with no editorial input from advertisers.

  • “I think it would be cool if these [journalistic tenets] became more of a norm, but it’s tricky because there’s a lot of different pressures on YouTube than reporters have inside a news organization,” Fong said. 

  • “Things like how you make money and what kind of deals are brought to you by brands and what you can and cannot consider depending on where you stand in the ecosystem.”

Fong and Cole started a Patreon to hedge against that risk: Viewer support gives them a buffer should AdSense tank or a video get a 10/10.

Looking ahead: “I still think there’s a lot of room to explore in terms of combining information in journalism with visual creativity, visual explanation, and those kinds of techniques,” Fong said. “So even though we’ve been doing this for a decade there’s still more to play around with and more to do on YouTube. Though the competition is more fierce than it was in 2014. We’ll say that.”

Ryan Trahan Preps for ‘Joyride Day’

Ryan Trahan (left) promotes the release of Joyride in Target stores and what products to look out for (right) / Ryan Trahan

Vlogger and challenge creator Ryan Trahan added a new title to his résumé in February: candy entrepreneur. He joined better-for-you candy company Joyride as co-owner and chief creative officer.

Now, Trahan has declared tomorrow, June 15, as “Joyride Day.”

Why? The candy brand will become available to purchase at 1,200 Target locations.

  • “Our goal is to be the #1 selling candy in Target, even if it’s just for a day,” Trahan wrote in an Instagram post.

  • The creator has pulled out all the stops to market the launch, including developing an online store locator and revealing a mascot named Joyride Jerry.

Looking ahead: Trahan said on IG that the sales success of Joyride over the next three months will influence the candy line’s opportunities to stock products at other retailers. We’ll be keeping a close eye on how it pans out.

YouTube Experiments with New Features

YouTube tests QR codes for channels and more / Illustration by Moy Zhong

YouTube announced several new tools and features in testing this week. Some that caught our eye…

  • Channel QR Codes. Ever pay a friend back for dinner by scanning their QR code on Venmo? YouTube is experimenting with a similar feature that allows creators to share their channels IRL—and the codes are scannable both online and offline.

  • Live Chat Summaries. When logging into a creator’s livestream, test users can toggle between reading comments normally or skimming AI-generated discussion summaries.

  • Google Lens Search. Some Android users can now receive search results on YouTube based on where they point their phone’s camera (think a nearby statue or type of car tire).

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The content we’re looking forward to reading, watching, and listening to this weekend.

  • Read: Why the staff of an Indian restaurant in England is filming bad music video parodies to boost its business via TikTok.

  • Watch: Johnny Harris shares a look into his actual brain to explore why we often fall for lies—and what we can do to prevent it.

  • Listen: Film critics Amanda Dobbins and Sean Fennessey discuss the fallout from recent movies’ poor box office showings (and build their own fantasy movie studio from scratch) on The Big Picture podcast.

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