“Switch Over. Let’s Hope We Don’t Have a Burn Out…” – RetroBlasting Looks Back at 2015

We are already into 2016, but we at RetroBlasting wanted to take a moment and reflect on our recent past as well as look into our future to see what’s in store.

At the beginning of 2015, we made a pledge to do our best to make one video per week. Despite our 50-hour-a-week day jobs and normal life goings on, we made every effort to keep the production schedule running.

We closed out 2015 with a total of 41 videos produced within those 12 months, so there were 11 weeks where we fell short. In June, a wedding and a party right on the heels of one another threw us off, there was DragonCon prep in late August, two major feature videos took us almost three weeks to complete, and the holidays are always, well…the holidays. All told, we’re proud of what we were able to accomplish, including:

 Our favorite restoration of 2015, R5D4

Our favorite restoration of 2015, R5D4

  • Restorations: In 2015, RetroBlasting rescued six toys; the G.I. Joe Night Raven, the B-Wing Fighter, the TIE Fighter and Darth Vader TIE Fighter, as well as a very special R5-D4 action figure. Melinda also completed her long-awaited conclusion to the My Little Pony Restoration tutorial.
  • A Tribute: The production of our feature on Star Trek toys of the 1980s sadly coincided with the death of Leonard Nimoy, but we were grateful that the Star Trek toys were already staged for the larger video, so we were able to produce a tribute to his memory with all resources at our fingertips. Still, not the kind of coincidence we like around here.
  • Standalones: 2015 was also a year of standalone videos that were a lot of fun to produce. We had the comedy-driven shorts about the Arco MCB-1 and G.I. Joe’s Fast Draw, a video about Masters of the Universe storybooks, Panosh Place Voltron Villains, a tribute to Back to the Future, and a video on the rare Wily Twins “Companions” from the Thundercats toy series. We even made our first dedicated blooper reel!
  • Features: Standalone features were also in supply. Melinda reviewed the Pole Position cartoon, Michael reviewed Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, the Indiana Jones toys of the 1980s finally got a video feature, and RetroBlasting saluted Halloween with the Remco Mini-Monsters.
  • Star Wars Follies: This series received two new entries in 2015 – videos about the Kenner Cloud City playset and, thanks to a generous donation, the Palitoy Death Star playset, narrated by Broken Vader himself!
  • In-depth presentations: There were three productions that gave us a run for our money. As always, the DragonCon presentations were heavy in the planning and filming, and took weeks to finalize. Our big feature of 2015, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, went into overtime due to the sheer scope of the toy line. We’re really proud of that feature, but it was touch-and-go getting it done.
  • New Heights: Our last video of 2015, and the first part of a major RetroBlasting feature, was both the biggest video we produced last year as well as the most complex. Dungeons & Dragons: Part 1 – Uni-Vision proved to be a bear, but we couldn’t be happier with the final result. Two weeks of shooting after more months of research and scripting, and nearly a full week of editing, gave us a RetroBlasting video that set a new standard for our channel.

Looking back, we are proud of what we have accomplished. Which begs the question: What happens in 2016? Well, not to be cliché, but…it’s complicated.

The first video you’ll see this year is Dungeons & Dragons: Part 2, followed by other new features and, yes, more Star Wars Follies. But there’s an elephant in the room, and you know us, we don’t hide from those elephants so we’re just going to put this out there for you.

We are constantly asked when the next video will come out, why they take so long to produce, and why we don’t make them more frequently. We will attempt to explain, as there are a number of factors.

  • Subscribers: One of the most direct measures of a YouTube channel’s success is the number of subscribers. The higher that number, the larger your base audience, and the higher your average views in a 2-3 day period will be on any new video you post. Which means YouTube will return your video more frequently in search results, because they want people to keep watching YouTube and, thus, ads. 

This time last year, we joined a network, and subsequently left that network because they almost broke RetroBlasting’s visibility on YouTube. Unfortunately, the damage was done, and it took several months to recover. At the same time, YouTube changed the game behind the scenes, re-prioritizing more commercial channels like Vevo over user-generated channels like ours in their search engine.

In 2014, we went from 2,000 subscribers to 9,000 subscribers, so we’ll call that 7,000 for the year. In 2015, we went from 9,000 to 14,000. That’s 5,000. What was supposed to trend upwards and build on itself, something like 15,000 or 20,000 subscribers in projections, fell below 2014 gains.

 This is definitely the look we get when reading social media comments.

This is definitely the look we get when reading social media comments.

  • Online Comments: If anything will make you want to pack up your bags and quit the internet altogether, it’s reading hateful comments on social media. Yes, we know, we are all supposed to accept that people are jerks and that’s what you should expect if you put your work out there – and we do expect it. However, it’s one thing to say “yeah, that’s just how it is, don’t let it get to you.” It’s another thing entirely to read those comments – constantly – for years. Ask Butters on South Park. It’s enough to make you wanna throw in the towel, or at least take a break for a week or two. You only need to read the comments on “Thundercats are Racist Porno Kitties” (our first video) to get an idea what we mean.
 A particularly biting comment left recently on our first video. 

A particularly biting comment left recently on our first video. 

If you’ve left a comment in recent months that you intended to be funny or sarcastic  and got a surprisingly terse response back, this is the biggest reason why. It becomes nearly impossible to tell people’s intentions online, and we find ourselves walking around in a generally defensive mood. We pride ourselves on our responsiveness to you guys, but we are pulling back from reading/responding to every comment for the sake of sanity and maintaining motivation.

  • Slow & Sorta Steady – Putting the kind of effort RetroBlasting does into videos is difficult, but we know our work is considered some of the best toy-based content on YouTube because you’ve told us it is. One person even used the term “Gold Standard” to describe our content quality. Our reward at this stage isn’t money. If we attempted to live off RetroBlasting, we’d be homeless in weeks (we definitely aren’t raking in the cash with ad revenue). Our reward has always been seeing the community grow and finding new opportunities that off-shoot from RetroBlasting.

In 2015, that community grew very slowly and our horizon became very distant from where it was at the end of 2014. When you know your efforts won’t allow you to seize a new opportunity as soon as you’d expected, you begin to slow down because there’s not as much urgency. Why sprint your heart out if the door at the end of the hallway just gets farther and farther away? After three years of lost weekends, late nights editing and shooting, and “working vacations,” all while trying to keep up and improve an already-high standard of production quality, we’re not seeing the growth.

There’s only so many times you can hear someone say, “I can’t believe you don’t have more subscribers!” before you become a little disheartened and want some of your normal life back to do things like vacations, work on the car, read a book and enjoy life. Michael will tell you he’d happily make RetroBlasting his vocation and make videos 10 hours a day all year if it grew to a point that it could support him or provide him an opportunity that was related that did the same.

Don’t worry – we’re not throwing in the towel! Even with the challenges noted, we are not ready to walk away. We just want you, our supporters, to know why it may be a few weeks between videos in the near future. If 2016 proves to be a bigger year for RetroBlasting community growth on YouTube, if word-of-mouth and shares from our supporters is robust and results in a subscriber growth rebound, it fuels the enthusiasm (and frequency) of new video creation.

You Can Help! – Although we don’t like to ask for help, you really can make a difference by spreading the word about our channel with friends, family, coworkers, and other online groups/forums you frequent.

 Meeting you guys, online and in person, is truly our favorite part of RetroBlasting. 

Meeting you guys, online and in person, is truly our favorite part of RetroBlasting. 

RetroBlasting will be making more videos in 2016, some of which you’ve been waiting on for quite a while, but unless subscriber growth hits light speed, we’re switching the controls over to a more relaxed production environment because otherwise we’ll have a total burn out. In this way, we hope to ensure we keep the channel alive for the long haul.

Thank you all so much for your support, and have a happy and prosperous 2016!