YouTube Video Subscriptions

I recently had a conversation with Ken Fallon of Hacker Public Radio that resulted in me offering to discuss my YouTube video subscriptions. And since that is a good topic for, I thought I would start here.

Although my wife and I have a Cable TV subscription, I have maintained I could give it up easily because so much of what I am interested in is online anyway. For many people that might mean Netflix or Hulu, but for me it means YouTube. This is the golden age of narrow-casting, as opposed to broadcasting, because YouTube gives so many creators the opportunity to find their own audience for things that don’t appeal to the masses. A television show needs to reach millions of people to be economically viable to advertisers who pay all of the production costs, but with the rise of services like Patreon a video series can be viable with just a few thousand viewers as long as they are willing to pay a small amount (often as little as $1 per month or per video) to support the creators. For less money than the salary of one Hollywood star, you can have an entire ecosystem of interesting videos. The ones I like might not appeal to you, of course, but that is the point. A thousand flowers can bloom in this environment.


Patreon ( ) is a subscription site that lets you pledge to support creators of content. You give them a credit card they can charge, and then make your pledges. You can pledge in a variety of ways, but for these videos I typically pledge either per month or per video. At the end of the month my credit card is charged, and Patreon sends me an itemized statement of what I have paid for. Now, none of these is behind a pay wall, so you could free ride, but I’m sure no one I know would do that. If I subscribe to a series I am willing to pay for it if they ask (some of them are advertising supported).

YouTube Subscriptions

When a video series is on YouTube you will see a button under the video that says “Subscribe”. Right now that does not do a whole lot other than build the stats for the creator, but for advertising-supported series that is a good thing. But one thing it does let you do is sign up to get an e-mail when a new episode is released. To activate this feature, log in to YouTube with your Google account, and on the left side go all the way down to the bottom and you will see a button to Manage Subscriptions. Click on that, and you will see that you can put a check-mark to get e-mail updates for any subscription. I like to do that, and put the e-mails in a folder in my Gmail. I can then delete the e-mail when I have watched the video.

Vlog Brothers

The brothers Hank and John Green have created a pretty good collection of videos. They started, as far as I can tell, by sending videos back and forth to each other (Vlog Brothers), and that continues. But then they got serious and created a convention called Vidcon ( that showcases many of the video series creators and their work. YouTube then got the idea to promote an expansion of videos and provided money to support new work from folks like them. This lead to a group of videos under the heading Crash Course (, which is not one series but a collection of them. The first ones were World History and Biology, and then they added American history, Literature, Ecology, Chemistry, Psychology, and so on. They also have a series of science-related videos under the general heading of SciShow ( When the YouTube seed money ended, they switched to a crowd-funding model, and are currently on Patreon. They also partner with PBS Online for some of their series.

My favorite show from this group is Healthcare Triage. A doctor gives straight analysis based on actual studies, and explains which studies are more reliable and why. I guess I am a bit of a data geek, but that appeals to me. Plus, I have worked for a few hospitals in my career, and previously taught a little about healthcare economics.

Brady Haran

Brady Haran is a video producer originally from Australia who went to the UK, worked for the BBC for a period, and then decided to become independent. He has a fascinating group of video series that a lot of geeks would like:

  • Computerphile – about the history and underlying technology of computers. If you ever wanted to know about flip-flops, nand gates, and Acorn computers, this show has covered all of them.
  • Deep Sky Videos – All about astronomy, including a detailed look at the telescopes at the European Southern Observatory in Paranal, Chile.
  • Numberphile – All about mathematics, and the unusual numbers that pop up. What is the largest number described? They covered it.
  • Objectivity – A look at objects from the history of science, and in particular the collection of the Royal Society in England.
  • Periodic Videos – An award-winning series on Chemistry, demonstrating some fun experiments. Sir Martyn Poliakoff is the host.
  • Sixty Symbols – The world of advanced physics, this covers everything from Quantum Mechanics to Relativity to String Theory


In addition to the two big producers I looked at above, there are a lot of YouTube series that I love from the smaller producers. Here are some of them:

  • Alton Brown – First made famous as host and creator of Good Eats on the Food Network, Alton is known for scientific approach to cooking and food.
  • BBC Earth Unplugged – Science videos from the BBC
  • BrainCraft – The science of the brain, produced by PBS Digital
  • BrainStuff – How Stuff Works – How Stuff Works is another place that produces a number of video series, this one is science-related.
  • Candyrat Records – This label specializes in guitar music, and a number of my favorite people record for them. They very sensibly publish videos on YouTube to promote their artists, and I have purchased a number of CDs as a result.
  • Dan Carlin – Host of Hardcore History and Common Sense, two of the audio podcasts I subscribe to. On this channel is the occasional video.
  • FW Thinking – Mostly about the future and how it will be different.
  • How Stuff Works – More of a general knowledge show.
  • It’s OK To Be Smart – Another science show from PBS Digital.
  • Kurz Gezagt – One video a month on a science-related topic.
  • Mental Floss – Trivia!
  • Minute Earth and Minute Physics – Short science videos.
  • NASAeClips – Videos from NASA.
  • nature video – Science videos from nature magazine.
  • Physics Girl – Exploring physics with interesting experiments.
  • Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD Comics) – Science videos.
  • Science News – Science videos from Science News magazine
  • SpaceFrontierOrg – Occasional videos on space-related topics.
  • Takei’s Take – Yes, George Takei has a video channel. What’s not to love?
  • TheFrugalComputerGuy – How-to videos that are very good.
  • Veritasium – Another science-related series.
  • Vsauce – A quirky look at a number of odd topics. Hard to describe really.
  • Welcome to Night Vale – A video channel to go along with the audio podcast that everyone in the world should be listening to.

So it is obvious that I subscribe to a lot of science-related channels, but that is what I enjoy. With all of my subscriptions, I probably average 6-7 new videos per day that show up in my mailbox. But with so much content now available on YouTube the chances are that you will find lots of things you like, so give it a try.

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