Platform outline

YouTube is the home of video content on the web and what started out as a place for people to upload their home videos has become a social platform that sparked new forms of video content, celebrity and business models. YouTube is both a platform for video and a community builder that allows likes, comments, and subscribers and it is also possible to monetise your video content should you wish.

With such a large audience base there is no doubt that archives can find their place amongst the catalogue of content available on the platform. Many people use YouTube to find specific content and it will be in creating interesting and specialised video content that you will find your audience.

If you are using YouTube for the first time consider reading the following guides for beginners:

YouTube’s Creator Academy – Creator Basics

TechSmith – How To Make A YouTube Video

If you are familiar with the platform but are interested in learning more before approaching storytelling on the platform, then these guides looking at YouTube from a museum’s perspective may be helpful:

SF MOMA – How Should Museums Use Their YouTube Channels?

American Association for State and Local History – 16 Tips for Creating a Small Museum YouTube Series


Across the Digital Engagement Toolkit, we are looking at who engages with a particular platform by generation. You will find more detail on this within the platform finder. When looking at audience engagement by generation it is important to keep in mind it is not definitive of everyone’s behaviour. However, understanding the broad trend of a generation’s approach to a platform is useful to understand the audiences you are most likely to find there. For the purposes of this toolkit, we are using terminology that defines audiences with the following demographic terminology: Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z.

There are dedicated audiences that seek out specific content on YouTube and there are many people who use YouTube more than they watch television or streaming services.

YouTube is a platform with an intergenerational audience that spans Gen Z to Baby Boomers. However, generally speaking, Gen Y are known as the YouTube generation and many use it to browse for new and engaging content. Gen Z’s relationship with the platform is similar whereas Gen X are less likely to be active searchers for content but will be familiar with the website. Baby Boomers are likely to have been directed to the platform from a social media platform they are familiar with or to browse the recommended content.

It can also be useful to think about your potential audience being in two categories:

Passive Viewer: watches videos when seeking specific content and may or may not have channels they watch regularly.

Active Viewer: uses YouTube as a resource and entertainment platform to seek out content that isn’t on other platforms. Seeks out specific video content based on their interests. Is looking to support the content they find interesting and unique.

Both audiences are useful to your channel’s success. The passive viewers help with your view count and will form a large bulk of your viewership. The active viewer is the person who likes, subscribes, comments and potentially even points others in your direction. This viewer is the audience segment that you want to understand and make content for. They may well want to support your work financially, through a Patreon account for example, if they know they will be supporting more of the content they love. The more you understand and make content for your core active viewers, the more passive viewers will come along for the content you create.

Communities on YouTube

Communities on YouTube are people connected by similar interests, videos styles, personalities and trends they follow. Communities support channels and creators they love and connect with others who like the same things. Many audiences search for particular styles of videos or are looking for more from their favourite hobby or interest.

Creating a community is the best way to grow an audience but it takes a significant amount of time and effort. Replying to comments and emails, holding Q&A’s and potentially even embarking on competitions, rewards and livestreams. Creating a community has the potential to provide revenue streams and a dedicated audience but be direct and honest with your audience about the level of interaction you are able to provide. Perhaps you’re a small team and you can’t reply to everything; that’s okay as long as you let your community know the best ways to support you.

Making content for YouTube will always be far more than uploading video content on the platform. You will learn about who your audience are as you go but be prepared to have conversations and dialogues with them. Many audiences on YouTube are looking for a sense of community around the content that they watch. Consider what other archives are doing on YouTube and how you could collaborate and do crossover content with their channel. Connecting and sharing audiences is vital to connecting with YouTube communities.

Storytelling guide

In this section, you will discover information on developing your channel’s identity, the format of your story and how to plan your content on YouTube. Video stories can be produced in countless ways and the form is ever evolving. YouTube is a place for creators and educators each with their own voice and video style who build a community around their content.

Therefore your YouTube channel has to be so much more than just where you upload video content; you will need to discover the identity of your channel, who your audience might be, what existing YouTube communities might be interested in your content and clearly define the goal of your content.

Your channel’s identity

Whether you are a new creator or you are looking to improve your channel, it is important to examine your intent. Your videos can’t be for everyone so it is important to understand who they are for and how they reflect who is making them.

You may already use YouTube as an audience member, so consider why you turn to the platform and what your behaviours are within it. It is vital you begin to understand the varied content that you can discover there. Not just the content you think may be directly related or what you are already interested in, but also the content you’ve never engaged with before. Understanding the platform and why so many people go to YouTube for a range of different things will help you to understand its varied communities. Within each of these types of content, you will find various styles, identities and voices.

Popular genres of YouTube content include:

  • Vlogs
  • Commentary
  • Educational
  • Instructional
  • Product & Gift Unboxing
  • Comedy and Parody
  • Song Covers
  • Best of/Favourite/ Lists
  • Q & A
  • Cooking
  • Gaming
  • Reviews

It is easy to conclude that an archive should be creating educational YouTube content. However, this doesn’t have to be all your channel does and crossing over into other popular content types, like the ones listed above, will help you capture new audiences. Considering how your archive could approach different types of content will also spark new ideas for future content.

Finally, think about how the content on your channel is presented. Do you create a series of short videos that are linked by theme or topic or do you create one longer video that covers one particular aspect of your collection? When you are considering this, think about the amount of time that your audience has. Often shorter videos that are part of a series gives the audience more agency and freedom in engaging with the content.

Here is a good example from The Tate where their YouTube channel has curated playlists by theme and topic. Their videos are usually between 5-7 mins.

Planning your content

After a period of experimentation and creation, you will be ready to plan your content in more detail. Scripted content may be easier to begin with if you are finding your footing. If you are planning to hire filmmakers to work with you then it is vital that you bring them in during the planning stages.

The first 15 seconds of any video is key; this is the window where most viewers decide if they will continue watching. It’s worth outlining or giving clarity here to the full video’s content as well as thinking about what your hook is for this video.

If you are looking for help with the structure of a video, many YouTubers use the HICC video structure.

Hook: Your hook is something that rapidly catches people’s attention. It might be a question, proposition, statement or a mystery. It’s a flavour of your video and something to ‘hook’ your audience in.

Intro: The intro is about rapidly explaining your topic now that you’ve piqued your audience’s interest. This is the part where you convince them this is of interest to them.

Content: This is the majority of your video’s material and the main section of your video – the interview, the story, the discussion or whatever this video is about. Here you can take more time as the people watching this section are interested.

Call To Action: Finally, you should include a call to action in your video that encourages viewers to like, comment, subscribe, watch another of your videos, and follow you on social media. This is about building a relationship with your community. Invite them to be a part of what you are doing, let them know why it’s important to you and what your community is about.

Don’t forget to make a video thumbnail – it is important to consider exactly what the best visual representation of your video is and don’t forget to use your archives branding.

And remember, YouTube itself is full of helpful tips, tricks and support from other creators on how they make videos. You will find a useful search phrase to be ‘How to…’ for example ‘How to publish a video to YouTube’.

Creative thinking and exercises

The best way to discover your channel’s identity is by doing and the process of creating will enable you to discover a lot about what your channel may become.

Discover different communities that already exist on YouTube and think about how you might make a video for them. Below are some examples:

A popular style of content on YouTube is ‘unboxing’ videos. This is where audiences watch someone unwrap or open something like a mystery package or new piece of tech. There are ways for archives to capture some of this audience by creating content that uses this language and video style. Think about the delicate, boxed or wrapped items in your archive. Could you create a video series of opening mysterious items from your archive and then tell their story? Pulling the audience in with the mystery of what might be discovered.

Another audience that you could connect with would be the Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) community. How might the sounds of an archive reach this audience? How might this challenge your archive to connect with audiences through a particular interest that isn’t directly related to what you do.

Cooking – This one might be an unlikely match but does your archive hold any old recipes? Could you bring an old recipe back to life?

Exercise – starting your channel

Before you begin making any video content, it is important to shape the identity of your channel. On a piece of paper, write down your answers to the following questions:

  • Who is your current audience?
  • What YouTube communities have you discovered that you would like to reach?
  • Is the focus the archive, the archivist or the archive’s content?
  • What connects all of your video content?
  • Do your videos talk directly to the audience?
  • What technical abilities does your archive have to make video content?
  • What types of video are you comfortable making and what style of video would make you uncomfortable?


The British Museum’s YouTube channel has a range of different content. Take a look at their ongoing series Curator’s Corner which platforms a different curator and story each episode. By creating serialised content you can create content that regular audiences return for and create playlists of content for your audiences to enjoy. You can also see how this only forms part of their overall channel. It also increases the likelihood of someone watching a second video from your channel.

There is much that can be learned by examining how the British Museum’s content has evolved and shifted over time. You can learn lessons from watching their journey and get an insight into what of their content is most popular and consider the reasons why.

Explore York Archive’s YouTube channel features a mini-series of interesting videos on Social Welfare and Change, Women’s Work In Health, Infectious Diseases and Living in Poverty. They tell a story with images from their collection and blend it with the present-day and mix in different effects including hand-drawn animations.

Helpful stuff

Free video editing software

Adobe Creative Cloud Express


Creating YouTube thumbnails

Influencer Marketing Hub – 15 Best Online YouTube Thumbnail Makers to Boost Click-Through Rate

Generating income

Many creators use platforms like Patreon as a way to generate income from their YouTube content outside of the inbuilt creator mode.

Measuring impact

YouTube has extensive tools to help you measure your impact and grow your channel. Utilising these tools will be vital in growing your channel and understanding which of your content is popular and which is less popular.

YouTube split its impact measures into four categories:

Reach: This gives you data on how your audience is discovering your content.

Engagement: This gives you a sense of how long your audience is watching your content

Audience: This gives you data on returning and new viewers and subscribers.

Revenue: If you have chosen to monetise your content then this is where you will find related metrics such as estimated revenue.

This guide will help you understand YouTube’s analytics further:

Hootsuite – YouTube Analytics: How to Use Data to Grow Your Channel Faster

You will also find details within Google’s support pages:

YouTube Analytics basics


One of YouTube’s strongest accessibility features is its auto-generated captions. It is vital that you provide captioning for all your video content and YouTube makes the process very simple with its AI-generated captions.

You will find more details on auto-captioning and YouTube accessibility here:

AMI – YouTube Accessibility

Further reading

The YouTube Creator Academy has a lot of useful information for starting and developing your content including how to begin a channel.

Once your YouTube channel is up and running you may want to look at how you grow your audience. This guide from BackLinko shares some insight into where to begin.

Digital Pathways – Resource portal. This portal has aggregated useful resources from different organisations on a multitude of digital topics. Guides relating to aspects of digital engagement are included.