This traditional storytelling technique is perfect for YouTube

April 14h, 2023



min read

Buckle up for 3 more reviews, Retentioneers…

Video #1


Creator: Plugin Alley

Average % viewed: 56.9%

What worked

(1/2) Hook

The hook is sick (though the music drowns out the voice a little).

The creator puts himself in the audience’s shoes and precisely articulates the problems they’re facing (they’ve tried mimicing tutorials to a build mix bus, yet always find the result they never had the same energy).

Mix this with the high energy performance, plenty of B-Roll, some humour, and I’m in.

But there’s an even cooler (and more subtle) trick he uses to bring us into the “story” of the hook…

Now, you might expect this from a sound engineer, but listen to how the music is timed to exaggerate key moments in the intro (e.g. he sits back in disappointment at 0:14, and a subtle, base-y “boom” can be heard). Most creators underutilise techniques like this.

(2/2) Editing

A lot of personality comes across in the edit (see funny B-Roll example at 0:22 and silly cutaway style at 5:06).

It’s full of highly intentional Ken Burns crops, zooms, SFX, incorporation of memes, etc.

Hayden Hillier-Smith often talks about showcasing your personality through editing, and this creator does it constantly.

What to improve

(1/2) Overexplaining

The dropoff during S3 can probably be explained by a little too much dry explanation.

I love that the creator is incorporating storytelling, but after the excellent use of B-Roll and cutaways up to this point, the pacing slows too much.

Always think: what is the next payoff my audience is expecting?

In this case, it takes 70 seconds to get from introducing the point to revealing the point. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but nothing really happens to re-engage the audience during that time – it starts with an amusing meme, but then transitions into a “and then, and then, and then” story about how this mastering trick was discovered.

(2/2) CTA

Last payoff happens at 5:58, but the video goes on for another 35s.

In this case, the CTA is too wordy and spends too long summarising the current video.

For a quick recap, here’s how I write a CTA.

In this case, the “link” (the bit that relates the CTA to the current video) goes on for too long:

(“I bet your mind is blown by all the tricks you just learned that the pro’s use to make their [etc etc]”)

It comes across like a summary, rather than a CTA. Your audience are 10x more likely to click away during these final moments, so you need to open a new curiosity gap right away.


Always think: what is the next payoff my audience is expecting? And is it clear that we’re constantly building towards it?

Video #2

Title: Why you might fail A-Level maths – and how to avoid it!

Creator: Kevin Olding – Mathsaurus

Average % viewed: 22%

What worked

(1/1) Relaxing

Kevin’s delivery style is relaxed and, in turn, relaxing!

Opening by acknowledging that A-Level maths is difficult instantly warms me to him, and I think it’d do the same for any students watching.

The type of camera presence required by you, as a YouTuber, will obviously vary based on your niche. But this calm style works perfectly here.

What to improve

(1/3) CTA

Way too many CTAs in the first minute:

  • Check out the link in the description
  • Like the video
  • Subscribe
  • Comment below

Front-loading all this before the video’s value has been delivered is unlikely to be effective, because it doesn’t feel like we “owe” you anything yet.

It’s also overwhelming to be asked to do too many things at once, so decision fatigue makes it likely we won’t do anything at all.

(2/3) Storytelling

The story about Newton and Hook was way too tangential to the topic at hand. A cursory reference to this at the start would have built sufficient intrigue, before explaining the relevance of the quote is about “building on what’s come before”.

Currently, the core idea is explained at the start, so hearing a 150 second anecdote about Newton now becomes frustrating, because I’ve already understood the lesson Kevin needs me to take from it.

The ultimate payoff from this video is about how to avoid failing maths, but so long is spent just setting up the reasons that it’s hard in the first place, I found myself desperate to start skipping ahead.

This was a common theme across the video – we needed to get to the point faster.

(3/3) Target Audience

From the title, this video seems to be aimed squarely at students.

But anecdotes like the one in the middle seemed more appropriate for teachers.

Overall, the video lacked focus – I wasn’t sure who the ideal viewer was. Students? Teachers? Parents? Parts of the video seemed to appeal to all three.

This is where drawing up an audience avatar comes in handy – figure out who you’re talking to, what drives them, what they fear, etc. It becomes far easier to tailor your script to that audience.


Don’t frontload your video with CTAs because it doesn’t feel like we “owe” you anything yet. Make sure you deliver at least a bit of what the audience has clicked for before making the ask.

Video #3

Title: Twitch is Worse Than You Can Imagine

Creator: Big Craig

Average % viewed: 61.2%

What worked

(1/2) Curiosity Gaps

People like me who haven’t used Twitch for a few years will be surprised to hear:

  • It’s now full of NSFW content.
  • It’s used to promote gambling.
  • It somehow resulted in someone’s death.

Craig deliberately contradicts viewer expectations right at the start.

(Worth noting that he also delivers on all these claims – it’s not clickbait).

(2/2) Storytelling

This storytelling method in this video is called “in medias res” and it’s fairly common on YouTube. Hook the audience with the most explosive points, then gradually join the dots to show how you got there.

After the arresting claims in the hook, we jump back to understand how Twitch started, and are shown the good things that came from it initially (community-building, people able to make a living, etc).

Then, gradually, we build towards the state of play we were shown at the start, with each issue (gambling, NSFW, fatality) first hinted at and then explained.

(Side note: music is used brilliantly to aid the storytelling too… see how the whole tone changes from 4:10 because of the music.)

What to improve

(1/1) Repetition

For the most part, the pacing is great.

But the dip during S3 coincides with a moment where a payoff is given too early, then B-Roll is used to simply repeat the point that was just made.

Specifically, Craig explains that a certain streamer was loaned $100,000, then B-Roll of the streamer revealing this info is played.

But given we already know the amount, we’re not learning anything new. The B-Roll also drags a little, with the streamer stumbling over his words a bit. So for 25ish seconds, we’re basically discussing a payoff that already happened.

Craig could have hinted at “a massive loan” the creator was given, then show the B-Roll (trimmed) which reveals the amount.


Classic storytelling techniques like ‘in medias res’ are just as effective on YouTube when done well. Reveal one of the most explosive points at the start, then gradually help the audience join the dots to see how we got there.

That’s all for now!

Speak soon,

George 👋

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