Getting noticed these days is no small feat. While it goes without saying, you need to be different in order to stand out against the din of online content. You can be sensationalistic but that tactic burns out quickly. The ideal combination of information, personality, and originality is paramount in the realm of online tech videos and Linus Tech Tips is one of the most popular creators of these. Jono Tan is the behind-the-scenes face of many of Linus’s most popular shows such as ShortCircuit, Channel Super Fun, Mac Address, and others. A fan of early Linus productions, Jono’s talent led the company to bring him aboard to launch new channels and reinvigorate others while maintaining the all-important relationships established with sponsors and brands. It’s nearly impossible to teach creativity but examples of it can influence and inspire; Jono’s impactful contributions to Linus productions models the ways in which tech videos can elevate and possess the elements often found in many of the productions of film and television which are so captivating. When questioned about whether his success creating online productions might tempt him to accept offers into more “traditional” avenues, Jono communicates, “I always had a passion for film, movies, and TV, but it felt a bit out of reach since at the time I didn’t live in a city that was known for producing content. Vancouver is now a growing major hub for filming but at the time it was mostly the X-Files, which was exciting but rare. While the allure of film and television is really high, I think I still prefer to work in the online content world. The industry is somewhat similar in terms of personnel and talent but the platforms are completely different. In one medium you could be spending months and years to get a project off the ground while in the other, you can simply pick up a camera, shoot a few minutes, edit, and post. That video could be the next viral hit and trend. Granted, it is extremely rare but the pathways and risks are much lower, You can keep trying over and over again and improving each iteration much faster.”
There are many facets to Jono’s role at Linus Media Group [LMG] but they can be grouped under the general heading “recognizing potential for success and steering it in that direction.” His track record has continually testified to his predisposition in achieving this goal with more than four-hundred-twenty shows produced over two years; productions like ShortCircuit (1.89 million subscribers). While initially imagined as a show which would go back to check out products and tech that didn’t make it to the flagship channel, ShortCircuit evolved into a show as driven by personality and talent as by the products being discussed. There’s no shortage of YouTube channels featuring unboxing experiences and thoughts about the product; Jono was imagining content that surpassed information while still retaining the nucleus of it. Expert hosts were encouraged to let their excitement and frustrations be freely communicated, and other hosts were allowed to poke fun at these in a good natured manner. The end result was the tech version of a group of friends hanging out in a bar with discussions that elicit the responses that only true friends allow. The inverse of stiff, ShortCircuit and its featured personalities became an online set of expert friends for viewers. This relaxed approach gave way to TechLinked often interrupting video production, so they could produce their own video in the studio. The action led to on-screen arguments between channel managers and sparked a subtle “Channel Wars” between ShortCircuit and TechLinked. It was all in good jest and created a sense of surprise within the video, with viewers wanting more and hoping it would happen in each ShortCircuit video release.
When LMG’s Channel Super Fun was falling short of its potential, Jono was brought in to produce content, develop video ideas, and hire key personnel to help take the channel in a new direction. The benevolent effect he had is obvious with videos that garner an impresseive 20 million views (YT Short). In Jono’s estimation, success is a matter of designing a plan and focusing on the goal. He relates, “If you don’t have a plan, or a semblance of a plan, then it won’t succeed or at least it won’t turn out the way you were expecting. I’m not saying you necessarily need plans to be executed perfectly for a video as the unexpected occurrences can make a video great, but at least if you have a direction, you can have a better result in the end.” For LMG’s Mac Address Channel, that plan was to attract Apple “fanboys” back to Linus Media Group. The perception of LMG’s attitude towards Apple is that the treatment of the company’s products were rough, to put it mildly. While content and the host were a given, Jono stipulates that the aesthetics he worked on with the production team were essential. Jono reveals, “There was a lot of involvement between the writing manager, editors, and cinematographers at the start involving the look and feel of the channel, set design, and content discussion as the people I was involved with were fans of Apple products themselves. Getting their insights led to us how the channel looks and covers topics to this day. I find that Apple fans really have automatic expectations on how a video needs to look, established by Apple themselves. If you have a beautiful product, you need to showcase it even if you have a ‘bad’ product. And, if you are going to highlight a bad product, you have to be ready to go in-depth to see “why” they do it and take your bias out of it.”
If you want to evolve in the world of online productions, you’ve got to accept the criticism with the praise. Most of us avoid disparaging statements but Jono Tan leans into them, using them as a tool to test possible deviations. He imparts, “Most people tell you not to read the comments on your YouTube videos but I think those are probably the people who are afraid of criticism. YouTube comments are a wealth of information but you just need a very THICK skin when reading them.”
Writer: Arlen Gann