Mark Rober's most impressive feat of engineering may be his own YouTube success

You’re probably already well aware of Mark Rober. He’s been making viral YouTube clips for nine years now. Some of his early videos were pretty successful but he really seemrf to hit his stride with a combination of engineering and fun concepts about six years ago. From that point on it’s pretty rare that his videos don’t get at least 10 million views and his average is now above 30 million.

I think the first time he really got my attention was his infamous Porch Pirate video back in 2018. That clip was the perfect mix of smart engineering and gleeful revenge on people who really deserved some humiliation.

Mark’s most recent clip, released Monday, is titled “World Record Domino Robot (100k dominoes in 24hrs).” Just four days after it went up the clip is already nearing 14 million views and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a fun concept, using an absurd amount of effort (he says he’s been working on the concept for five years) all to set up a domino stunt that lasts less than a minute. But like all Rober videos, the video is fun, colorful, not remotely controversial and maybe even a tiny bit educational. It’s exactly the sort of thing advertisers love.

But I recently watched a video by another YouTuber who argued that Rober’s greatest feat of engineering isn’t the gadgets in his videos, it’s his own channel which seems to have found the perfect sweet spot for this kind of light entertainment. Rober only has 19 million subscribers. That’s a lot but it’s a long way from PewDiePie’s 110 million subscribers. And yet, despite all those subscribers, PewDiePie’s videos get 3-4 million views each while Rober, as mentioned above, is average about 37 million. Rober is arguably “the man who beat YouTube” or at least cracked it’s algorithm in a way that very few others (Mr. Beast, Dude Perfect) have managed.

This 10 minute clip explores how Rober did it, breaking his process into three steps:

  1. He generates viral ideas using certain repeatable tropes such as “extreme” concepts (like world records) that can appeal to a wide audience.
  2. He writes and edits all his videos himself, something that’s unusual for a creator this successful. In film director terms, Rober is an auteur. All of his clips are really his.
  3. He starts every clip by envisioning the title or visual he knows will grab people and if his initial thumbnails or titles aren’t working, he changes them.

I found the whole thing pretty interesting and well put together, including some interview clips where Mark describes his process in his own words.