Every college student must decide what’s worth losing sleep over, and for UW-Eau Claire sophomore Isaac Carlson, it’s making YouTube videos for his 239,000+ subscribers.
As the host of popular YouTube channel Wotso Videos, Carlson, a mathematics student, wakes up every Tuesday and Thursday at 5 a.m. to work on his content, which is focused around Disney movies. These early morning hours can include planning, script writing, recording, editing and publishing his videos online.
“Fun videos for fun people” is his channel’s tagline.
But he’s not just doing this for fun. Right now, Carlson said he’s making enough money as a YouTuber to pay all his college expenses — room, board and tuition.
“Initially I was just hoping that I could make $20 or something on the channel, and I was just thinking that if I could buy a few toys and video games that that would be enough,” Carlson said. “But over time, as it continued to grow, it became a larger and larger source of income for me. So initially it was not supposed to be a full-time career; it was really just to make a few extra dollars for something I was already enjoying doing.”
He said he started using the ad program on YouTube to make money back in 2015. Later, Carlson’s father suggested he get into business and pursue entrepreneurship.
Today, Carlson is involved in UW-Eau Claire's entrepreneurship program, and he said the university and surrounding community are what make that possible.
“I decided I would pursue entrepreneurship at the university, and what allowed me to do that is finding a support system, a community of entrepreneurs and opportunities to further explore my interest in entrepreneurship,” Carlson said. “The community of entrepreneurs in Eau Claire is a lot different from what I’ve ever experienced, and it’s been invigorating to see that type of innovation and creativity applied in Eau Claire.”
Since starting school at UW-Eau Claire, Carlson has participated in events like Startup 48, Swim With the Sharks and 1 Million Cups, at times presenting his channel as his venture, and sometimes bringing forth new ideas.
Carlson wasn’t sure what people would think about his YouTube channel when he got here, but he said all of his entrepreneurship professors have been very supportive thus far, at times helping him to see how he can apply classroom ideas to the channel.
The Manitowoc native said part of what drew him to UW-Eau Claire was access to science and creative programs, the affordability and the “feeling” he figured he could get out of his university experience here.
College isn’t the only place where Carlson is looking for a specific type of feeling. He does so in his videos as well.
The goals of his channel, Carlson said, are to educate, entertain and intrigue. By giving in-depth analyses of Disney movies, he feels he can teach viewers something they didn’t know before while also providing the necessary entertainment factor to keep them coming back for more.
“I would say the value of my channel is to provide the same magical feeling that I would get or other people would get when entering the Disney parks or watching a Disney film,” Carlson said.
Carlson started at UW-Eau Claire two years ago and has grown as a creator in that time.
“Since I started college, I’ve become a lot more analytical and creative when I’m making my videos,” Carlson said. “I am very interested in finding ideas that’ll capture my audience and grow my influence on YouTube while continuing to capture the magic that I’m trying to focus on.”
The Disney-centered videos take a bit of research. Coming up with an idea happens for Carlson in one of two ways: Either he comes up with an idea on his own and searches the relevant Wiki pages for more information, or he explores the Wiki pages in search of an interesting topic that could warrant a video.
Some of the videos he’s created already are centered around questions like: What regrows Rapunzel’s hair? And who were Moana’s parents?
Although he has been interested in video-making since third grade, his first YouTube channel came to be in 2012, on which he first tried his hand at stop-motion animation videos. A few months later saw the creation of Wotso Videos, which is not strictly defined.
“Wotso was derived by my brother when we were on a camping trip,” Carlson said. “And it was just an idea of a word that we could just do anything related to. So because it had no meaning, we could define it as we felt fit.”
When he first started Wotso Videos, Carlson said he was producing Star Wars-related content. When he realized there were plenty of creators putting Star Wars videos on YouTube, but very few discussing classic Disney animation, he decided to adjust course.
With his most-watched video racking up more than three million views, Carlson is no stranger to attention. Unfortunately, because YouTube is a public forum where people can say whatever they want, not all the attention is positive. Sometimes people leave rude or hurtful comments on Carlson’s videos, which he said can be hard to deal with.
Not only that, but close friends can sometimes say hurtful things as well.
“Of course, there’s always going to be hateful comments and people having trouble with certain things in the video, but the thing that normally hits the hardest are the people who are closest to you,” Carlson said.
Despite these comments, Carlson said he keeps moving forward with his content because he holds onto the idea of why he started creating in the first place. He said it’s very important to ignore the naysayers and think of how he feels when he’s making videos and chasing his dreams.
Carlson’s big-picture goals are to reach one million subscribers and to turn being a creator into a full-time job.
In the meantime, through his videos, Carlson aims to harken back to the romantic feelings that come from watching Disney movies and try to capture “that Walt Disney type of perfection.”
Photo caption: Isaac Carlson is paying his way through UW-Eau Claire thanks to his legion of followers on YouTube. Carlson's Watso Videos channel has more than 239,000 followers who enjoy his analysis of Disney movies.