Celebrity Buzz: Chat with YouTuber Michele Ponte
Italian Michele Ponte’s full time career is YouTube influencer. The travel vlogger, who boasts over 30,000 subscribers, is on a spree now! He began his YouTube channel six years ago and in the initial few months, his subscriber base increased steadily. Ponte’s biggest break came late last year when he landed in Kenya. The YouTuber’s top tier content attracted over 11,000 Kenyan subscribers, earning over a million views in just three months; thanks to his first viral Kenyan vlog, Scam vs Kindness: First Day in Kenya, Africa.
Michele Ponte adds roughly about 800 to 1,200 new fans to his ever growing subscriber list per day! Isn’t that just incredible? We caught up with him to find out about his experience in the world of YouTube, what makes his audience tick, his advice to upcoming YouTubers plus more.
KB: Hi Ponte, thank you for granting us this interview. First things first, how has your experience in Kenya been so far?
Delicious like Nyama Choma that just got off the grill, yet terrible like a tiny rock you can’t get out of your shoes! In pure stats: 80% positive, 20% negative.
KB: You do not subscribe to the 9-5 routine. What does your average work week look like?
I wake up when there is a vlogging opportunity. I fall asleep while editing – literally smashing my head on the keyboard of my computer. To my vlogger friends I preach about having free time, time for yourself, but I’m very bad at listening to myself.
KB: You have an ardent following on YouTube. While a lot of vloggers have more subscribers, they probably don’t see the kind of engagement your channel gets. What do you think makes your content so engaging?
I’m very personal and straightforward. I say what I think, even if it makes me uncomfortable and people can relate because everybody’s life sucks 🙂 But the trick is listening and answering comments.
KB: You are very active on your videos’ comment section and see to it that your followers’ queries are addressed most of the time. How much time do you spend doing that and why do you think that is important?
Once a subscriber was so disappointed that I didn’t reply to her comment that I had to write to her: “Please, understand that I spend almost 170 hours per month (which is the average hours for a monthly and paid job), replying to comments and messages, so I can’t answer everything or I won’t have time to make videos.”
And this was when I had 11k subs. Now that my channel is getting bigger and bigger, it’s becoming almost impossible to reply to everybody. It was hard to convince my mom that when I would spend hours sitting in the toilet it was because I was replying to comments 🙂
KB: You have also been very vocal about the “haters” on your channel. Tell us about that.
That’s one of the reasons I don’t already have 100k subs. I simply don’t want dumb people on my channel, they don’t need to be part of the audience, they don’t need to ruin the conversations our community is having. If you get offended about jokes that you don’t understand, go watch a Disney movie – where I’m sure you won’t understand the subtext either, but at least you’re out of my way!
KB: Every YouTuber has a favorite YouTuber. Who are your current favorites – anyone who inspires you?
Mr. Ben Brown and Fun For Louis (who were the first people to do daily vlogging). The duo brought me to Casey Neistat, and in the current years, I passed from Harald Baldr to Bald and Bankrupt whose female audience is less than the snow in Mombasa. But the thing is, everybody on YouTube has their own audience and that’s great!
KB: What can you tell us about the financial picture of YouTubers?
I need a sponsor (not a woman, even if I’d be delighted), but an actual sponsor to whom we can partner and grow my brand. My channel is growing, jump on my train!
Apart from the self-promotion, YouTube is a seasonal thing: In December, the ads pay okay cause it’s Christmas and people buy. In January, however, with one million views, especially after paying the “authority pressure” you could make $800 and then pray for PayPal donations. Because to shoot these videos and continue this lifestyle costs me at least $50 per day. At least!
By the way, life ain’t cheap in Kenya. In the markets, lots of food costs more than in Italy and the internet is so expensive – my contract in Italy is $6 per 30gb per month, here it’s like $1 per 1gb!
KB: Builder or seller –choose a word that represents you and why?
Builder, all the way a builder! Hopefully, my channel will build a community of people that will be able to connect the world. People behave the same everywhere, all people believe that their country is the worst, people are scared of what they don’t know. Hopefully, I’ll be able to break some prejudices and build something that will last.
KB: With great influence comes great responsibility. How has YouTube influenced what you share and how people interact with your content?
I’m just more focused on core values, and I believe my family taught me well, and the audience understands it, so I don’t have to censor myself anymore.
When I started YouTube, I was a bit shy to completely show what I felt, now I feel free to say what I love and to try to spread some positivity, to use sarcasm and jokes that would get you canceled because I believe in the power of comedy. A light heart will go farther than one in pain.
KB: Now that your unique talent is getting noticed nationwide, what next for Michele Ponte, the person and the brand?
Maybe make Kenya a base while I keep exploring Africa…but to get a good visa here I should probably get married – and it’s not in my plans, yet!
KB: What advice would you give to a YouTuber just getting started?
Niche, niche, niche. If you love food, make 100 videos on a specific type of food (for example Swahili food), then once you get bigger expand (African food), then expand more (global food) and maybe when the Aliens arrive you’ll have more job to do 🙂
KB: Your parting shot?
If you’re open-minded enough, like to joke, have some empathy, you’re very welcome to join my channel. One day we might be friends and that would be awesome!