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YouTube Thumbnails for Web Series Creators

Thumbnails are a huge part of YouTube Marketing

A lot of traffic on YouTube comes from someone clicking on your thumbnail and watching the video. That means your thumbnail has to be hot.

I’ve been redoing all mine to make them stand out in a crowd.

Here are two of my videos — an old thumbnail on the left and a new one on the right. (Eventually, I’m going to update that lefthand one and then this comparison will be useless.)

I checked out what a bunch of popular channels are doing with theirs — Lizzie Bennet Diaries, AwesomenessTV, Geek and Sundry. I notice a lot of them are using text on their images. Especially web series, to indicate the name and also the episode number. I have been emulating them.

I like to use people’s faces — head and shoulders usually — to fill about half the space.  In a couple of cases, I’ve used a graphics program to (clumsily) mask out a complicated background so that I can add readable text.

I’m using big fonts — 45-65.

The YouTube playbook tells us that thumbnails should be 640×360, bright and high contrast and that foreground should stand out from background.  They also remind us that the image should represent the content.

It’s worth noting where the YouTube overlays are locating and adjusting what you do accordingly.  YouTube places a narrow black overlay at the very top of the image, the red and white “Play” triangle in the middle and in some cases, a small video length box in the right hand corner.

Enable your channel for custom thumbnails:

If your channel is enabled for monetization, you should have the feature that allows you to create a custom thumbnail.  To check, in YouTube, go to settings.  

In settings, enable monetization.


It may take a week or two after you enable for monetization before your custom thumbnail feature comes online.

How to upload a custom thumbnail:

In your YouTube, go to Video Manager. Under the video you want to work with, select Edit.

On the right hand side, under the three thumbnails that YouTube automatically generates, there will be a fourth option: custom thumbnail. Click on it and select the thumbnail you want to use.

Input please!

My new thumbnails aren’t perfect by any means but getting there… I hope. I would love your thoughts on what works and what doesn’t. And on how to improve these.

Facebook Doesn’t Play Nice

We did have one little glitch and that’s when pulling a video into a Facebook promoted post. When you post a video on your Facebook channel, the thumbnail becomes the image.

But when we tried to promote the story, Facebook “disapproved” it. Facebook advertising guidelines say that not more than 20% of an image can be covered in text.

Photos with too much text can be disruptive in news feed, where people are used to seeing photos of their friends and places in their lives. Use text sparingly to brand your image or add emphasis to what it’s showing.

So to use my YouTube videos in promoted posts now, I will have to find a work-around. If you know of one, let me know.

Transmedia 101 Presents… Me

I will be speaking at Transmedia 101’s First Meetup of 2013 in Toronto.

Creator Jill Golick will present Ruby Skye P.I. on January 15, 7-9 pm at our regular host location: InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Center. The night begins with a screening and demo of how the interactivie, followed by a talk on how to integrate interactive into narrative and world building. For the second half of the night, Jill will explain a bit about marketing and distribution for transmedia and tween series.

Tickets are $5 cash at the door. Please RVSP here.

I’ll be talking about the process of creating The Haunted Library (Season 2 of Ruby Skye P.I.) and many of the features of the show.  I’ll also devote quite a bit of the time to our marketing and distribution techniques.

Lately a lot of people have been asking about YouTube advertising (Google AdWords), so I will discuss my experiences using it and some of the pros and cons.  Also some of the tricks I learned after being selected for some special attention from AdWords specialists.

Please come on out to the event.  It’s a great opportunity to connect with other transmedia-ites.

Indie Soap Award Nominates Ruby Skye P.I. x 5

Five nominations for Ruby Skye P.I.: The Haunted Library!


The Haunted Library has been honoured with five nominations from the 4th Annual Indie Soap Awards from We Love Soaps! Two of our five noms are for editor extraordinaire, Mike Reisacher, who got nods in both the Best Editing and Best Visual/Special Effects categories. Yay Mike!

Several other Canadian web series got nominated as well. Our pals at Out With Dad took nine — count ’em, nine! — noms! Hitman 101 was no slouch either with seven nominations. Pretty in Geek and Clutch also received nods.
We’re excited by our nominations and thrilled for our nominees. But at times like this we always remember what a team effort making Ruby Skye P.I. is. There are tons of us involved and it take hard work from a lot of people to make anyone of shine. And every nomination in any department is really a nomination for our director, Kelly Harms.


ONCE YOU LEAVE – Nate Locklear
HUSBANDS – Nathaniel Atcheson
RAGGED ISLE – Barry Dodd
OUT WITH DAD – Jason Leaver
THE OUTS – Adam Goldman & Jay Gillespie
RUBY SKYE PI – Mike Reisacher


THE BLOODY MARY SHOW – Jamey Leigh-Weber
BREAKING POINT – Tina Soares & Nicole Evans
HITMAN 101 – Tzu-Jung Toby Lee
PRETTY – James Freitas & Brenda Oen
RUBY SKYE PI – Jessica Panetta


THE BAR – Sam Diaz
THE BLOODY MARY SHOW – Christopher Skipper
DRIFTER: BROKEN ROAD – Michael Brasier
RUBY SKYE PI – Studiocat, David Wall, Jamie Shields & Adam White


RAGGED ISLE – Eric Anderson & Derek Kimball
DRIFTER: BROKEN ROAD – Geoffrey Palmer
RUBY SKYE PI – Mike Reisacher
HITMAN 101 – Pranjal Verma


HUSBANDS – Brad Bell & Jane Espenson
WRECKED – Liz Ellis & Gabriel A. Carbajal
I HATE BEING SINGLE – Rob Michael Hugel
PRETTY – Steve Silverman
RUBY SKYE PI – Julie Strassman-Cohn & Jill Golick

We’ll find out the winners at the Indie Soap Awards on February 19st, 2012 at New World Stages in New York City. Good luck to all!

1.5 Million Video Views

Ruby Skye P.I. Season 2 “The Haunted Library”
Hits 1.5 Million Video Views on Koldcast TV, blip,
YouTube and DailyMotion 

Toronto, ON [December 10, 2012] — Ruby Skye P.I., the award-winning web series for tweens and teens, hit a milestone on the weekend capturing over 1.5 million video views for the first eight of its nine Season 2 episodes. Currently, Ruby Skye P.I.: The Haunted Library is available on KoldCast TVblipYouTube and DailyMotion.  Season 2 has topped over 600,000 video views on KoldCast TV alone and has been among the most popular shows on blip, hitting over half a million views on that platform.

The final and ninth episode, “Apparently The Heir”, premieres on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 on RubySkyePI.com.

Ruby Skye P.I. is produced by Story 2.OH. It was created by interactive storyteller Jill Golick and directed by Kelly Harms. Harms and Golick executive produced the series along with Steven Golick.

“While Ruby Skye P.I. was created to entertain tweens and teens, and it does that extraordinarily well, we believe the show constitutes good old-fashioned, family-wide entertainment in this new era of television and digital media,” says David S. Samuels, CEO of the popular online television network, KoldCast TV. “The series creator has done a brilliant job stretching the Internet’s capabilities to make her story come alive in an unprecedented way, and KoldCast is thrilled to have Ruby and her fellow sleuths entertaining our audience in such creative fashion.”
“We’re delighted that Ruby Skye P.I. is connecting with a dedicated and engaged audience,” says Golick. “We have followers from all over the world in every age bracket and we are delighted that the web gives us the opportunity to get to know them.”
According to Harms, “the enthusiasm of our audience shows that high production values, excellent acting, and great writing are a formula for success on any platform.”

Launched in early October 2012, Ruby Skye P.I. The Haunted Library advances the story of intrepid teen detective, Ruby Skye (Madison Cheeatow) and her small, tightly knit group of friends. A natural next step in young adult entertainment, Ruby Skye P.I.takes the girl detective genre into a new realm as high-tech tools meet good old-fashioned sleuthing. Along the way, Ruby gets herself into plenty of hot water en route to an action-packed resolution.

In addition to the over one hour’s worth of original, narrative video content, Ruby Skye P.I.: The Haunted Library includes 50 behind-the-scenes and “extra features” videos, four web sites, four Tumblr blogs, multiple social media channels, and ten interactive cluesBetween episodes, viewers can study and solve the clues which Ruby finds in the story.

Mystery-loving tweens and teens can also solve puzzles on the companion websiteODearyPuzzles.com or explore the “haunted” O’Deary Library to learn more about the characters, the books mentioned in the mystery and to find – or submit – book reviews, author profiles, interviews with YA authors and book cover artwork.

How a TV-PG Show Became the Edgiest Series Online: Rube Skye P.I.’s Case of the Missing Rulebook | The Sixth Wall, 11.21.12

Ruby Skye P.I.: The Haunted Library stars series regulars Madison Cheeatow (Ruby Skye), Marlee Maslove (Hailey Skye) and Elena Gorgevska (Diana Noughton). Season 2 cast includes Scott Beaudin (My Babysitter is a Vampire), Rosemary Dunsmore (Anne of Green GablesMurdoch Mysteries), Geri Hall (This Hour Has 22 Minutes), Jordan Prentice (Mirror MirrorIn Bruges), Laura de Carteret (My Babysitter’s a Vampire), Samanatha Wan (Leslieville) and Shaun Shetty (Call Me Fitz).

Ruby Skye P.I.: The Haunted Library was shot at the Emmanuel College Library (University of Toronto) and at various location in Toronto, Canada.

The series was produced by Story 2.OH with the participation of The Independent Production Fund (IPF) and made possible with the support of The Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC).

Season 1 The Spam Scam has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a Parent’s Choice Silver Honor, a Youth Media Alliance Award of Excellence, a 2011 “Rockie”, the New York Television Festival’s Best Family Pilot and eight Outstanding Achievement Awards from the L.A. Web Fest.

Twitter — http://www.twitter.com/rubyskyepi/
Visit http://rubyskyepi.ca/about-the-series/press-room/ to download hi-res images, headshots, logos and other materials.
#rubyskyepi #webseries #transmedia #story2oh #jillgolick #interactive
Story2.OH is a Toronto-based production company. Stepping beyond the television model, Story2.OH combines video, photos, graphics, blogs and more to create the next generation of Web serial.
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Know Your Audience

One of the coolest things about being a web creator is getting to know your audience.

If you write TV… or film, you don’t know much about the people who watch your shows.  You might get some demographics or sometimes you meet someone at the PTA or a dinner party who reports watching.

But Facebook has this incredibly powerful subscription mechanism.  I have all my notifications to everything turned off, but not when someone subscribes or comments on YouTube.  That comes right to my email inbox.  And whenever we get a new subscriber, I go over and check them out.  I can leave them a message, see what else they’re walking and watch any videos they’ve uploaded.

I find it incredibly powerful to get up so close and personal with the people watching the show. It makes you a way better storyteller when you know who it is you’re telling your story to.

Now if you’re an old media type and you’ve seen Ruby, you know my audience is tweens — probably tween girls.  Well, not so on YouTube.  I mean, there are tween girls, but here are videos of a few of the recent subscribers:

The guy in the next video is not a fan. In fact he called the show “cheesy”. But it’s nice to know the people who choose not to watch you too!

The Zone

I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with Bruno Masi, one of two creators of The Zone, the brilliant web-documentary on Chernobyl 25 years after the disaster.

Bruno gave a fabulous presentation on the project, the making of it and the realities of being a transmedia creator, which sometimes has its share of frustrations.

One of the frustrations in the case of The Zone is how hard it is to find the link to the English version of the web doc.  And as Bruno says, the URL is ugly.  But you don’t have to look at the ugly URL, just click here and begin your exploration.

The Zone transmedia project is made up of several elements.  At its heart is the web doc.  The other elements are

  • the blog that Bruno and collaborator Guillaume Heraut updated daily during each of the five visits to Chernobyl.
  • four or five articles that they wrote for major magazines — these articles also formed part of the funding of the web doc
  • the news of the Zone that they presented on their Facebook page and through the Twitter feed (including a live “retro-blogging” of the disaster on the day of the 25th anniversary of the event)
  • a 185 page book detailing Masi and Heraut’s trips to Chernobyl.
  • a multimedia installation.

Bruno’s presentation was the first of three Transmedia Storytelling Lectures that will be taking place at York over the next few months.  All the presentations will be free and you are welcome to come to them.  I will post information about the next one here, because Bruno’s presentation was wonderful and I am sorry you missed it!

Launch Day Thanks

It is launch day.

It is now more than two years since we launched the first season of Independent Production Fund who have supported this project from the beginning and to the Ontario Media Development Corporation which has many awesome and amazing programs that have helped tremendously.

Even with the financing which surely makes Ruby Skye P.I. one of the best funded independent original web series around, we still could not have made the series without the contributions of many wonderful individuals and organizations:

The Haunted Library Overview

We are getting very close to launching Ruby Skye P.I.: The Haunted Library and things seem to be getting done bit by bit.

It is a massive project in terms of the number of elements I dreamed up to include and I have been panicky for months, certain I will never get all the pieces made. Head down, working from morning till night, with a ton of other wonderful people helping out.

We shot an hour’s worth of original story which we’ll roll in nine episodes. We also have a ton of extra-content video, which will allow us to release at least a video a week between now and April.

We have four web sites. RubySkyePI.com is all redesigned and we’ve had a tremendous team of transmedia volunteers preparing content to roll out in the coming weeks. ODearyLibrary.com is the website of the fictional library. We’ve filled it with a combination of original, user generated and repurposed content. It looks pretty amazing if I do say so myself. ODearyPuzzles.com is Ava O’Deary’s puzzle site. Solve a puzzle on it and it will reward you with a link to a video. We’re still tinkering with the coding of the puzzles, but the site looks beautiful and there are lots of puzzles to entertain you.

And there’s another web site, but that one isn’t ready for you yet.

Then there are our four Tumblrs. Hailey’s, Diana’s and one that is the home of our fictional band, The Mint Chip Girls.  Each of these Tumblrs gives you a little insight in the personalities of our characters.  The last tumblr is for the series; Ruby Skye P.I..
We also have a fundraising campaign for Because I Am A Girl. In the story, Hailey is raising money for them and when Diana finds out she can win tickets to The Mint Chip Girls concert, she starts raising money too. We love the work Plan Canada is doing for with the Because I Am A Girl initiative and so we decided to raise some money for them in real life. We’ve set up Hailey’s fundraising page, so you can make a donation. We’ve also produced a couple of fundraising videos and will have a weekly column about Because I Am A Girl on the Ruby Skye P.I. web site.

There’s more to the project, but I’ll get to it another day.