WORLD-FAMOUS vlogger Nas (real name Nuseir Yassin), the creator of the 60-second tell-all video, swept through Cyprus this week to reel in some of the island’s amazing stories and share them on Facebook with his millions of followers.
Yassin or Nas is a Harvard graduate who hails from the Palestinian city of Arabba in Israel. Almost two years ago, he quit his $120,000 a year job in New York having come to the conclusion that, at 24, he had already lived 32 per cent of his life and he didn’t want to spend the remaining 68 per cent the same way.
Since then, every day of his life, often while visiting different countries, Nas has been making his trademark, one-minute videos that he posts on his Facebook page NasDaily. These information-packed, fast-paced shorts now boast a following that tops four million regular viewers. For Nas, that translates into a monthly income of $10,000.
“It wasn’t that my boss was bad or the company was bad. No, they were nice people. But I felt enslaved. I was enslaved to make money and I wanted to be free,” Nas tells the Sunday Mail.
“So I set myself a goal. I decided that I want to have a million followers and a million dollars in my bank account, and started thinking how to achieve it. The idea of one-minute videos came to me through a process of elimination, by taking into account what I didn’t like or didn’t want to do. For example, I don’t like long videos, and I don’t like You Tube, so naturally that meant the videos had to be short and they had to go on Facebook.”
Nas, a cheerful, energetic, highly articulate, self-described “hairy kid”, had $60,000 in savings after having worked for PayPal and other IT companies in New York. He invested some of those savings into a good camera and a drone and then set out to conquer the world.
“The first video I made was on the day after I quit my job and it was pretty simple,” he remembers.
“I just basically sat there in New York and said that I quit my job and from now on I will be travelling the world and doing these one-minute videos and that is it — see you tomorrow.”
That was 648 days ago and Nas indeed has kept his promise. Every day of his life, no matter where he is, he produces a one-minute video on various subjects. Many deal with places he visits and people he meets along the way. Some are personal — about his life, his family or his future plans. Each video ends in exactly the same way, with his signature catch call: “That’s one minute. See you tomorrow.”
For a long time, Nas admits, his videos were mostly watched by his friends. That goal of acquiring one million viewers seemed unobtainably distant. But the discipline of sticking to his self-imposed target of a video a day gradually paid off “because by doing something every day you become very good at it”. As he grew to understand better what his viewers liked and responded to, more and more people began to follow Nas’s daily stories.
Nas says some topics are more popular than others and that his videos showing people where they can have fun for less are always great hits as are the stories about the interesting people he meets along the way.
On day 270 of his travels, while in Asia, he made a one-minute video “How Cheap Thailand Is” that has since been watched by over 41 million people. The same happened with a similar story from the Philippines, filmed on day 298. His video of Haji, a Zanzibarian man with two wives, had 4.5 million hits in 11 days.
During his eight days here in Cyprus, videos shot by Nas included a story entitled “The Easiest Border” explaining how to cross the Green Line in Nicosia and the differences between the island’s north and south. Within four days of being posted it had been viewed by 1.2 million people. Another, the tale of a British woman in Tala who takes care of 800 cats was seen by 1.4 million within the first 24 hours. His portrait of the youngest mayor in the history of Cyprus, 23-year-old Nicos from Lofou, was viewed by 1.4 million in three days.
Most of the time Nas puts the complete video package together on his own from concept through shooting and editing. Sometimes, not often, he gets a little help from his friends. On average it takes him about six hours to film his footage and then another three hours to edit it. Allow for travel time and sundries and that’s much beyond a nine-hour day. He admits that his work is not that easy.
“As a matter of fact, I have never worked harder in my entire life. I haven’t had any holidays since I started and to get really good videos done, I more or less have to think about what I am doing all the time,” he says.
Asked how much he prepares before visiting a country he admits that often he just learns as he goes by meeting people. Not quite flying by the seat of his pants but relying on encounters and exchanges with in-country followers.
“What I do before I land is I send a message saying that I am coming and asking for tips on what is happening out there.”
His vlogs are notable for their brisk pace and image mix as well as Nas’s speedy delivery of well-organised comments delivered through a lively combination of sound and subtitles. He always prepares a script before he starts production of each new video.
“Well, of course, I have to prepare well. The one-minute concept is not that unique. A lot of people out there do similar things but nobody has managed to pack so much information into 60 seconds as I do and can… So contrary to the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words, the whole idea and driving force in my videos is that the words coming out of my mouth are important, perhaps more important that the pictures or the equipment that I am using,” he explains.
This is why it is vital, he says, that he keeps in mind the real time constraints as he shapes the video to engage, entertain and, above all, inform the on line viewers.
“I have to always remember that the whole video will last only one minute so I always have to make sure that one, I know what I am shooting, and two, I have no time to waste because in one minute every second matters.”
Nas doesn’t have problems talking about money when asked about his income nowadays. He readily admits that even though many days (and videos) have passed since he attained his goal of one million followers, he still has a way to go before achieving his millionaire target. He has $200,000 in his bank account at present and, measured in minutes, that means a lot of hard work before he acquires the rest.
“When I finish talking with you I will have to call a company that wants to pay me $2,000 to make a special side video for them, and this is how it usually works: every week or so, I am approached by one company or another looking to commission me to make them a special video or else to pay for the rights to feature one of my regular outputs on their channels.” These approaches can be for thousands of dollars, he notes. “So yes, there is money in it, as there is in the speaking engagements that I do, and in a TV show… Plus of course, there are the ads… You can make money from Facebook ads but the truth is I don’t like ads very much so I only put ads in four videos every month and then only in my longer films that run longer than three minutes.” This, he explains, is how he earns that $10,000 dollars a month.
So what is next?
“I will continue making one-minute videos for another 348 days until I get to 1,000 and then I will start up a company producing similarly engaging videos but not on a daily basis,” he says. “I believe there is money to be made in there, and I want to become financially free. Not because I love money but because I love being free.” As he might say in one of his snappy captions, that’s Nas, folks, the Whizz Vid!