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Contributing significantly to the recent mainstream adoption of web and online content consumption, comedy collective All India Bakchod‘s YouTube channel crossed the 1 million subscriber mark in March 2015. Presently, AIB’s YouTube channel has over 55 videos which have garnered over 1.2 million subscribers and 9.2 million views (as of July 2015).

Co-founded by Gursimran Khamba and Tanmay Bhat, along with Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya, they describe their humour as “edgy, politically incorrect and several other other adjectives.”

As always, intrigued by the how’s and why’s, we decided to catch up with them. In the first part of MediaNama’s interview with AIB, Tanmay Bhat speaks about the group’s content strategy, lessons from the initial videos and their approach to testing videos. (Read part 2 here, and part 3 here)

MediaNama: AIB has done 55+ videos in the last 3.5 years in an inconsistent fashion. How does it work? Does consistency really matter?

Tanmay Bhat, AIB: Consistency does matter but I think we have worked on consistent quality over quantity as of now. Quantity really helps in terms of pushing your channel numbers on YouTube. But we have been consistent without compromising on our quality. Last year, we were going from sketch to sketch. Now we are trying to get into doing one video every two months. But the key is to make sure that the quality consistency remains the same, which is difficult to maintain when you are trying to increase the number of videos. Now we are trying to do that. More people have come on board. We have opened our own office. But the key is to make sure that the quality consistency remains the same. Having said that, take a look at the channel of someone like Kanan. Kanan hasn’t put out a lot of videos but the ones he has, have really exploded.

MediaNama: How do you ensure consistency of quality of your videos?

Tanmay Bhat, AIB: We know that we are not consistent in terms of quantity so we try to be consistent with the quality. So the number of scripts that end up going on the floor and get produced, we make sure that it goes through a number of drafts. A lot of people are surprised with the amount of time we take to edit it. The current sketch that is going to come out soon has been in the writing phase for four months. The production phase took a good month to achieve and now it has been on the edit table for a good month. So this is a video that we worked on for a really long time. For us, this video is really massive. For us, a lot matters on how much we end up learning on this and what does this to do to us as a brand.

MediaNama: Considering that you take time on some of your videos, do you test your videos with a control group to ensure consistency and quality?

Tanmay Bhat, AIB: Yes we do. How we work is once the video is done, we have a pool of 50-60 people who keep rotating every now and then to test the video with. Every video goes through a number of rounds. What we don’t like in our videos, is to have a lot of flab. While we are trying to experiment with long form content, the first cut will be 25-28 minutes depending on whatever it is that we have made.

If the first cut is about 10 minutes, we take it through a round of about 20 people and we ask them very specific questions. We prefer to do it face to face. So when they come to the room, we show them the video and we watch how they react and then a round II with another set of 10 people and then a round III again. By the time you reach round II, you roughly know what is wrong with the video. Once that happens, we work it, work it and at the end of it, you have to be sure that this is the best output we can have with this idea. So this is a process that we take very seriously.

MediaNama: Having been so meticulous, what have your learnings been from the videos that didn’t do well initially and what will you not do now on YouTube?

Tanmay Bhat, AIB: With almost every video that did not do well, it comes down to the writing and the base idea. I think there are 3-4 videos that didn’t do as well, as we had hoped for. It will be a combination of a whole bunch of things. Either the idea was irrelevant or not as good as or as hot as we thought it would turn out to be or we screwed up at an execution level. So there is always one or two things to learn from a video that did not do well. Basically, it comes down to how long you spend with the idea. The more you work on each script, the better it turns out to be.

MediaNama: What are the specific rules that you follow for all your videos after your initially videos?

Tanmay Bhat, AIB: One thing that has changed from the initially videos, is the production element. Because this is going on the web, we thought we could compromise some amount of production quality. Now that has changed massively. Now there is an art department. Initially it was only a bunch of ADs doing all of this. Now we try and make it as good as possible, try and get the best equipment which is available to shoot this. Spend that extra little money on a nicer camera.

Another thing that has massively changed with respect to production will also be the post-production aspect. Earlier, we used to keep whatever the editor could do. Now we take it to professional sound engineer and make sure that the sound is good. It is being now played not just on laptops, it is being played on laptops, mobile, tablets and TV. So how can we make sure that the sound aspect of it is as good? It is consumed across different devices, across different timing by different people. But the biggest driving factor was in terms of production quality.

Why should web be the one to always suffer? While it comes to television and film, this process is done consistently whereas when it comes to the web, producers tend to take it slightly more lightly. If people start taking the quality of the video that goes out on the web more seriously, then the standards go up automatically. I believe if people start adhering to certain standards there automatically more money will be pumped into it. Overall standard of digital production goes up. If you look at the west, content producers have all scaled up over time in terms of how they produce. Take Nigahiga or Superwoman for example. Nigahiga started off with made at home kind of quality. Now we know that if a video is good that it can also hit 10 million views. 10 million views is more than what a movie gets. If they charge Rs 100 per ticket, it is 200-300 crore movie and that many people are going to watch it.

– Read part 2 of the interview here
– Read part 3 of the interview here