Payoff

How NOT to create curiosity in your next YouTube video

March 8th, 2024

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10

min read

Why So Curious? 🤡

Curiosity gaps are what keep people watching your videos.

But a lot of YouTubers aren’t using them correctly.

And, until you understand the problem, you’re constantly at risk of viewers clicking away to watch something else.

So let’s talk about how to set up a curiosity gap that doesn’t cause your audience to leave.

❌ The Common Approach

Read this paragraph and see if you can spot the problem:

"To understand which type of soil you need to grow tasty parsnips, we need to talk about soil density.

But I would never have understood soil density if I hadn’t heard of a principle that’s so important, gardeners who don’t understand it fail 90% of the time.

To show you that principle, I’m going to reveal what my gardening mentor told me in 1989."

At a glance, this might look ok.

The creator has opened a few curiosity gaps to keep me hooked.

Which is a good thing, no?

But the problem with this approach becomes obvious when you break down what’s actually being said:

“To understand A, we need to talk about B.
But I would never have understood B, if I hadn’t heard of the super important principle C.
So, to uncover principle C, I’m going to reveal critical thing D.”

Think of it like this…

The white line is the viewer’s “starting” level of understanding.

They want to understand mini-payoff “A”.

So we tell them they first need to understand “B”.

But before we’ve explained “B”, we introduce another curiosity gap, “C”, and so on.

This is “Curiosity Gap-ception”.

We’re creating curiosity gaps within curiosity gaps.

In our attempt to create a ton of curiosity for mini-payoff “A”…

...we’ve taken the audience down so many extra rabbit holes that they’ve probably forgotten what “A” was, and why it mattered.

And, when your audience forgets why what you’re saying matters…

They’ll get bored and leave.

✅ A Better Approach

It’s time to fix this.

Notice the difference between my last paragraph about parsnips, and this one…

"To understand which type of soil you need to grow tasty parsnips, we need to talk about soil density.
[Explain important things about soil density]
And now you know about soil density, it’s way easier to choose the right type of soil!
​But that raises an important question - how much soil do you actually need?
​To explain this, I’m going to reveal what my gardening mentor told me in 1989…"

These aren’t big changes.

In fact, a few sentences are exactly the same.

But the difference is that we’re no longer stuffing curiosity gaps within curiosity gaps within curiosity gaps:

“To understand A, we need to talk about B”
[Talks about B]
And now you’ve understood B, you understand A!
But that raises an important question, C.
So, to explain how we solve C, I’m going to reveal important thing D…"

This diagram makes it clear why our second approach is so critical…

We’re no longer getting bogged down in curiosity gaps just to reach a single mini-payoff (e.g. ”A”).

Instead, mini-payoffs ”A” and “C” are achieved by opening and closing individual curiosity gaps each time (”B” and “D”).

Every time we open a curiosity gap, it’s clear what we’re building towards.

We keep the viewer oriented within the overall structure of the video while giving them a regular "hit" with each mini-payoff.

Rather than drowning them in a ton of curiosity gaps that obscure the direction of travel...

...now, their understanding is constantly progressing.

This approach is far more likely to keep people watching.

Welp, I’m never saying “curiosity gap” again in my life. The words have lost all meaning.

Perhaps I’ll let AI write my newsletter from now on.

Speaking of which, you can check out my recent conversation with Gwilym and Jamie about how we’re using AI in our YouTube workflow.

(Side note - this was recorded a few months back, and I’m wayyy more on the AI hype-train these days. Don’t come for me in the comments 🤖)

Watch Now!

That's all for this week!

Speak soon,
George 👋

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