YouTube success with kids' videos

GOING VIRAL: David Martin’s online YouTube children’s channel Busy Beavers is getting huge. From left, Animator Wenxuan Liu and Dave Martin.
GOING VIRAL: David Martin’s online YouTube children’s channel Busy Beavers is getting huge. From left, Animator Wenxuan Liu and Dave Martin.

Millions of parents around the world are tuning into a Hamilton musician's YouTube videos to entertain and educate their children.

In 2004, Canadian ex-pat David Martin started We Are Busy Beavers - an online business which produces educational content for kids on YouTube and DVDs.

In the past year Busy Beavers YouTube videos have started going viral with one 33-minute video Color Songs Collection Vol 1 having been viewed more than 130 million times.

All up Busy Beavers' 500-odd videos on both its paid and free channel attract about 1.7 million views per day, Martin said.

One year ago the channel had 40,000 subscribers. It now has 681,000 subscribers and is getting about 2500 new subscribers daily.

"It took me 4 years to get to 40,000 and it's taken me 12 months to get to 675,000. "That's how exponentially it's grown," Martin said.

"It's such a dream come true for me."

Martin, who writes, records and animates the content himself, said about 90 per cent of his income came from ad impressions on YouTube.

"It can be lucrative if you have something that people want to see over and over and over again."

The turning point came when he started uploading a new video every Monday and began bundling Busy Beavers' videos to create longer episodes of about 30 minutes.

In March, Martin launched a Busy Beavers paid YouTube channel which provides access to all of its videos ad free and in high definition for US$2 per month.

That has just 500 paying subscribers but Martin said more users will start subscribing to paid channels as YouTube advertisements become increasingly invasive.

Using the Busy Beavers' paid channel also reduced the risk of children being exposed to other, potentially offensive YouTube videos, he said.

"On YouTube you're one click away from somebody dropping an f-bomb at all times."

Children aged six months to three years were the main audience for Busy Beavers with about 50 per cent of its market being in the United States followed by the United Kingdom and Canada.

Martin recently released Busy Beavers foreign language video lessons on its paid channel as well as some "clips" on its free channel as a taster.

Busy Beavers' 24 "level one" videos have already been translated into Mandarin Chinese, Korean and French.

Spanish, Italian and German videos would also be released soon.

"I'm trying to bring the culture of foreign languages to English-speaking kids."

Aside from being in a different language, the content was exactly the same, he said.

Martin hired New Zealand translators for the project with each language series taking about three months to produce, he said. He employs one assistant and has been producing from his home in Hamilton but recently leased another home which will become his office.

He is looking to employ two animators and another administrator after July.

Martin moved to New Zealand in August 2011 with his New Zealand wife, Jane Martin, who sings the harmonies in Busy Beavers. He said the goal was to keep growing Busy Beavers' audience and license the Busy Beavers brand to toy and merchandise manufacturers.

"I just want to keep growing. Business is fun."

Early Childhood Council chief executive officer Peter Reynolds said educational videos such as Busy Beavers could be a useful tool for childhood centres when used in a way that supports other educational activities being taught.

Parents should interact with their child while the video was playing rather than using it as a babysitting device, he said.

"The optimum situation is where mum and child are enjoying it together."

Sunday Star Times