Internet Famous: How Mitch Moffit (a.k.a. AsapSCIENCE) got 9 million followers making science videos on YouTube
Genre: Educational science videos
Subscribers: 8.92 million
Most popular video: Do You Hear “Yanny” or “Laurel”? (SOLVED with SCIENCE), 57 million views
Year started: 2012
Life before YouTube: Studied biological and biomedical sciences at the University of Guelph
After graduating university in 2010, I moved to Toronto and bounced around between jobs while living with my parents. I got a job at a lab, did some video editing and worked in the travel industry but nothing stuck. While I was working in travel, I met a group of Canadian YouTubers who were getting a lot of traction online. I started watching and realized there were channels out there like SciShow and MinutePhysics making awesome videos. My boyfriend Greg, who I met at Guelph, was working as a science teacher at the time, and so in 2012 we came up with the idea for a weekly YouTube series where we create two-minute science lessons on a whiteboard. We joked that meeting Bill Nye would be our ultimate goal.
The first couple of videos, on topics like prostate cancer and the Big Bang, weren’t super popular. Then, two months after our first video, we released one on the scientific power of naps, which blew up and amassed 500,000 views in its first week. I remember driving from Guelph to Toronto and during that time the channel had grown by 3,000 new subscribers. We started crafting videos about everyday life experiences like the science of heartbreak, smoking versus vaping, and how sex affects athletic performance. Six months later, we were doing so well that Greg quit his job as a teacher so we could both work on it full-time—and we had Bill Nye on the phone asking to do a video together.
We started out earning an income with generic pre-roll ads that paid us a percentage based on how many views we got. As the years went on, we partnered with companies like GE and the Bill Gates Foundation, who sponsor videos to highlight an issue that they cared about (we always maintained creative control). In 2015, we released AsapSCIENCE: Answers to the World’s Weirdest Questions, Most Persistent Rumors, and Unexplained Phenomena, a New York Times bestseller which has sold over 100,000 copies. We also recently started Sidenote, a new podcast.
Working on YouTube was overwhelming at first because neither of us had a background in business. We were always in a panic trying to pull it together, but we managed to make it work. The revenue we were making allowed us to bring on more people and create more videos. By 2017, we’d assembled a team of six people, including writers, editors and illustrators. Over the past eight years, we’ve been able to buy a home in the west end, travel the world and invest money for our future. Things were going so well that we were able to take four months off last summer to reevaluate our business direction.
Being a gay couple that is popular in the science space has been occasionally contentious. Sometimes people post negative comments, but we want to represent who we are. And so many people who come up to us are queer people. We were just in Mexico City on vacation for five days and got recognized like 10 times.
As told to Andrea Yu
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