We talked about YouTube, social media, Honest (Prague) Guide, Seznam.cz, Stream.cz, Prague, and the Czech Republic with Janek Rubes and Honza Mikulka.
We have two guests today from the heart of the Europe, the city of a hundred spires: Prague. The capital of the Czech Republic attracts millions of visitors with its architectural gems, cultural heritage, rich history and unique atmosphere. However, as it happens in all major tourist destinations, Prague suffers from scams and tourist traps.
Two guys decided to fight against the crooks with the support of giant Czech media company Seznam. For their video series “Honest (Prague) Guide”, Janek Rubes and Honza Mikulka film all these crooks and travel tips and share with the world. In their videos, they have a unique style which has brought them success.
Welcome to Worth Of Web Academy!
Please tell our readers about yourself. We would like to learn more about your background and your life before being our honest guides.
Janek: I have studied photography, film, and history of arts in high school. Then went to film school in Pisek, that I did not finish. I have my degree in marketing from Tomas Bata University in Zlin. I have been making videos since I was a kid. Met Honza 10 years ago, and eventually ended up here.
Honza: Hi, I’m from Prague (obviously), I studied marketing at the Charles University, I have 2 dogs and I’ve been crazy for videos since I was like 9 or 10.
I will keep using “The Czech Republic” instead of “Czechia” throughout this interview. I observed that Czech people are not so satisfied with this new name. You both have degrees in marketing and communication. Do you think that it was a smart move for marketing to start using “Czechia”? Which one do you prefer?
Janek: I don’t know who made the move, and I don’t care. I will call my home Prague, Czech Republic. Nobody can force us to do otherwise. The reason for the change, was for our country to be more recognizable around the globe. Well, this is not gonna help it.
Honza: I personally don’t like the Czechia name, it just sounds so very weird so I keep using the Czech Republic instead. Not sure if it was necessary to come up with a new name for our country. Should have changed that name to Prague :))) that’s obviously a joke but…
Janek: We met ten years ago on Stream. We were both very passionate about making videos. Prague vs. Crooks was a show I have worked on for couple years with my amazing friend Markus Krug. Year after that, Honza came up to me and said, if I would like to try to do a show where we guide people around Prague. I would never think back then it would be such a success. Mainly thanks to Honza.
Honza: We were both uploading videos to Stream.cz, Czech internet TV, we both had a different channel for our little videos. Once, we ran into each other in the streets and Janek said “Hey, let’s go get a coffee some time” and well, yeah, that was like 9 years ago? Time flies… Honest Guide is a show we started together a year ago. Janek was looking for a new project after his Prague vs Crooks series and I was looking for some host.
Janek: Working for Stream is as being part of a family. We have absolute freedom and never ending support.
Honza: We both work for Stream.cz, which started as online internet TV, it was acquired by Seznam.cz, which is a search engine and also the most visited site on the Czech internet. Working for Stream.cz is absolutely perfect because they provide us a great environment which helps us making new videos without any censorship or anything.
“Social media is all about having fun with your content. If you love making content (like we do), then have fun with sharing it and showing it to others.”
– Honza Mikulka
Seznam.cz (Czech word “seznam” means “list” in English) is used more than Google in the Czech Republic as a search engine. Why do you think Seznam is the leader? Is it the first mover advantage, the lack of localization of Google services or something different?
Honza: Many Czech people believe that “Seznam.cz = Internet”. They grew up with that at the time when nobody really knew what Internet was. Seznam.cz was first (1996) and once you set up your e-mail address somewhere… it’s hard to move somewhere else :))) Kidding. It’s just a great service.
How is a typical working day for you? Which projects are high-priority? How much time does it take to prepare a video? How many days are spent researching, filming outside, and editing? Are there any other members of your team?
Janek: We research all the time. We try to visit new places, new spots every day. Filming usually takes a day as well as editing. Everybody from Stream helps us in any way they can. For example, if we need some help with story telling we go to our dramaturgist Martin Krusina. Sometimes we go out with the camera not knowing what we are about to film. But since we know the city so well, we always think of something.
Honza: Not a single day is a typical working day, cannot really describe that one 🙂 Some day we just grab the camera and start filming without having any script. We never do the script. We’ve had them for the first 3 episodes, we used 1 line for the 1st episode and then we were like “Naah, this is not how we want to do it” 🙂
Do you have personal projects or projects that you work on together outside Seznam?
Janek: Nothing that I can think of right now. I do work on other things within Seznam. Mainly as a cameraman for a show about architecture with my friend Adam Gebrian.
Honza: Well we travel together, we do BBQs,… we’re friends and luckily enough we’re colleagues. But no, we don’t do other projects outside of Seznam, we do other projects together within Stream.cz (we film some more stuff in Czech).
How much does Seznam help you in terms of marketing? Do you believe would it be possible to achieve the same level of success if you would do all these without the support of your company? What are the differences between having your own YouTube channel and running a part of the channel of a big media company?
Janek: Our friends at Seznam and Stream help us. I never think of it as work. But as a family. Your mom, sister or brother would help you. I don’t look at my job as working for a corporation.
Honza: We don’t have any marketing budget and we’ve build the YouTube channel from the scratch without investing money into advertisements. Seznam helped us in terms of giving us enough time to build the channel on our own, creative freedom and legal support, too.
How long have you lived in Prague? Is Prague winning the fight against crooks according to your observations? Is the number of dishonest taxi drivers, fraudulent currency exchange merchants or drug dealers decreasing each year? How do you feel when you see that these people damage the reputation of your beautiful city?
Janek: I have lived in Prague my entire life. 29 years. It is not about winning a fight. Prague is losing a big war. Officials need to act soon. Crooks are taking over the city, and the people from the city hall don’t even know it. Our country spends billions of crowns to lure visitors to our capital, and then this “investment” is destroyed by a single taxi driver or a person behind the counter at the exchange office. Money spent on marketing should be used as an apology to all these tourists that have been scammed or hurt in Prague. I take part of the responsibility for that.
I think you are bringing a fresh perspective to the classical guide videos where a person plainly tells about the city he/she visits. You are professional but at the same time, one feels like a close friend is telling the dirty secrets of a city and literally fighting with bad guys to clean his city like a superhero. Please tell us about this mindset. I also wonder if there were moments that you felt in danger in any way. Are there any lawsuits against you or your company? What has been the hardest part of being an honest guide so far?
Janek: Thank you. We are happy that our viewers feel that they are close to us. I really don’t know what my mindset is. But as of moments being in “danger”. There is no real danger. It is more of fun. And if there is a camera pointed at me, there is no reason to be scared. Truth is, as Eva (*) says “It is bad for your PR, that you are still alive.” (Czech – my kind of humor). But in all honesty, she is right.
* Eva Albrechtova is a Communication Specialist at Seznam, and she is in charge of PR of Stream.cz and its creators.
Honza: We’ve been threatened by a lawsuit, but we’ve never received one. I’m pretty sure everything we do is right and I stand behind everything we do.
You get millions of views on your channel now. Do you have a celebrity status? How are the reactions on the street? You had the chance to be interviewed by various televisions, magazines, and websites, and you had the chance to interview important people even your mayor (it turned out to be a piece of “Michael Moore” documentary though). Tell us about the highlights of your adventure, please.
Janek: I am taking too long with answering this question. But celebrity status is for others to decide. I really don’t know how you measure it. I prefer other statuses. I am not really good at doing interviews, nor giving answers to questions.
Honza: I’m definitely not in a status of celebrity, I’m behind the camera and (luckily :D) no one knows how I look like 🙂 So I got to enjoy my privacy. Janek gets stopped in the streets a lot but he’s very nice about it and he takes a selfie with anyone. He’s very friendly and he always suggests cool places nearby.
What is next for you? Any new ideas or projects to pursue? Honest Guide started to cover towns and cities outside Prague and the Czech Republic. Is it a change of focus that you wanted or the management suggested? Do you think that there will be challenges to apply the same honest guide approach to other cities because you need to make research more compared to Prague or the Czech Republic where it is your hometown?
Janek: Research in other cities is little more difficult, but we will still be honest about it. And since I have friends all around the globe, it is possible. Other plans are well-kept secrets.
Honza: There’s no management that would tell us “do this, do that”, but there’s a lot of trust from our company. We just felt like we can do other cities as well (so far we’ve been doing those which we know and that’s how we want to do it with the help of our local friends – we’ve always asked our friends from that cities if our tips are good and if they can recommend something else etc.).
For our readers who are YouTubers and content creators, could you share some tips? What to focus on, how to reach your target audience and keep them engaged and happy? What is your opinion about ad blockers and alternative revenue channels like Patreon?
Janek: Never heard of Patreon. If you use the ad blockers, you are not really fair to us. But there is not much we can do about it.
Honza: Stay honest with everything you do 🙂
“Prague is losing a big war. Officials need to act soon. Crooks are taking over the city, and the people from the city hall don’t even know it. Our country spends billions of crowns to lure visitors to our capital, and then this “investment” is destroyed by a single taxi driver or a person behind the counter at the exchange office. Money spent on marketing should be used as an apology to all these tourists that have been scammed or hurt in Prague.”
– Janek Rubes
You use social media professionally. What would be your advice to our readers about the effective use of various social media channels?
Janek: I prefer any channel where I have as little audience as possible. Otherwise, I self-censor myself. So I prefer Twitter over FB.
Honza: Social media is all about having fun with your content. If you love making content (like we do), then have fun with sharing it and showing it to others.
What do you think about the future of YouTube, social media and online businesses?
Janek: Do you remember MySpace? A week from now, anything can change or even end.
Honza: It will be more and more about videos – about great quality videos. Clickbait will still be a thing, I’m sure of. The best creators will learn how to make high-quality content with a perfect tip of clickbait. I guess 🙂 This area changes so rapidly and so drastically that it’s really almost impossible to predict anything.
Is there a book, movie, event, workshop, etc. that changed your life? Any suggestions? Do you have mentors, idols or role models?
Janek: There is a Czech movie called “Jizda”, that really changed my life in a way. It is about 2 guys buying a car, cutting its roof and just driving around the country. The book would definitely be “Into the Wild”. Since I finished it, Alaska became my dream destination. And role models will always be my parents. Mom and Dad.
Honza: If I could recommend some book, I’d pick 2: “Mindset” by Carol Dweck (great book about how to have an impact on your own mind and actions) and “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” – one of the best books I’ve ever read. And a role model? Ed Sheeran. For sure. I love that guy.