For a guy who’s gained loads of recognition from a book that’s become a movie and been on the bestseller list for about 130 weeks running, John Green of the Vlogbrothers remains incredibly down to earth. He spoke to Rhett & Link about authenticity as the cornerstone of his work on this week’s “Ear Biscuits.”
John and his brother Hank began their vlogging career as a means of brotherly correspondence, using YouTube as their sole means of communication (no texts or emails allowed). The brothers first realized they had a real community surrounding their videos when John was hospitalized for an eye condition and Hank asked their viewers to “put something on their heads” to cheer him up. Out of about 300 audience members at that time, the Green brothers received 240 pictures of people with things on their heads.
Even before this touching fan moment, John “never wanted to think of the community as just a launching pad for other ideas.” Rather, he “wanted it to have its own life and its own meaning.” Thus, even as the Vlogbrothers’ followers (called “nerdfighters”) expanded in ranks, John made sure to keep the movement from growing “unwieldy.” He realized questions would arise like, “What’s a nerdfighter if everyone’s a nerdfighter?” So he worked to make homes for all of the different sects within his and his brother’s fan base, creating “communities within the community.” John called this “really important to making [the community] sustainable so people still feel involved enough to want to do stuff with us.”
He applied this same concept when “The Fault in Our Stars” created such a massive splash in the entertainment world. In fact, his first vlog right after the movie came out was almost entirely devoted to the nerdfighters’ shared summer reading (a book other than one of John’s own). For John, this was a way of telling his community, “Okay, now back to normal.”
This marks only one of many examples in which John valued his audience over superficial matters such as money and fame. YouTube is all about your fan base, after all, and creating a genuine connection with them. As John explained of any successful YouTube endeavor, “It has to be good. It also has to be authentic. You have to really genuinely want to talk about something and want to connect, [going beyond] oh, this is a way to get rich…First off, it’s a terrible way to get rich.”
Overall, the man stands by the principle, “Community over virality.” He noted that one thing he admired about Rhett & Link was that they “use community as a way to build virality” instead of the other way around, which actually speaks a lot to John’s (and his brother’s) work, as well.
To hear more words of wisdom from a man with some genuine perspective, tune into John Green’s interview on “Ear Biscuits with Rhett & Link.”