Tuesday, April 30, 2019

It's WAR! LEGO reviews vs. city updates & MOC work


The numbers are clear.  When asked directly, the majority of JANGBRiCKS YouTube channel viewers want to see reviews of current LEGO products more than anything else, by a significant margin.  However!  There some other reliable quantitative measures very strongly disagree.  The situation is just maddening enough to motivate the kickoff of a risky, radical experiment, and it all starts this week.

Madness

For about three years now, viewer feedback, analytical data, and the rise of the evil YouTube algorithm & "adpocalypse" crises have brutally ripped at my very soul. Every bit of information about the health of my channel, whether subjective or fact-based, has told me I need to change something, and much of that information has been agonizingly contradictory.  It's a lot to process, and I'm being bombarded with it literally every single day.  I need:
  • Shorter videos with less "rambling," as younger viewers have minimal patience.
  • Longer videos, more personable with more subjective insights, plus mere view counts mean nothing on YouTube now; "watch time" is the key metric for everything.
  • Quicker uploads, forget care & quality, speed is all that matters, gotta be first.
  • Slower uploads, too much is overwhelming, viewers feel "spammed" if they get more than one new video in their subscription feed in a day or so.
  • More humor and "personality."
  • Less humor (many call it "memes" these days, even when it's not, plus all memes are automatically dead memes), more "professionalism."
  • More reviews, people need analyses to inform purchase decisions, plus reviews on the whole drive the lion's share of channel-wide viewership.
  • Less reviews, anyone point a camera at a thing and emit words about it, and reviews generate the highest ratio of gross unsubscribes per view.
  • More custom builds & city updates, which are unique and happen to generate the highest ratio of gross new subscribes per view.
  • Less custom builds, as all of my custom stuff looks like it's made by a 1-year-old.
  • More Mega Construx.
  • Less Mega Construx.
For every single type of content that I make, there are solid, defensible reasons to do more, and equally defensible reasons to do less.  It could easily be paralyzing if I wasn't adept at extracting myself from the static cloud of mixed signals and just getting stuff done.  Nevertheless, I can't keep plowing forward in the same direction while the world around me is transforming.

The Bottom Line

Viewer behavior & expectations have changed significantly over the past 13 years I've been active on YouTube, and obviously the platform itself has changed quite a bit as well.  Where once it was good to offer variety to viewers to keep them engaged & interested, now they key is absolute consistency.  Most people subscribe to a specific channel to see one and only one very specific type & style of content.  On the JANGBRiCKS channel, I have made many types of content and gathered many subscribers with incompatible interests, leaving me in a terrible pickle.

Ideally, I should split all of the content and all of the subscribers into a bunch of nice, happy, homogeneous buckets.  Unfortunately there's no way to actually do that without enduring great pain and loss along the way.  Creating just one new channel means starting from scratch with zero viewers.  Moving multiple genres of content to their own fresh homes simultaneously would inconvenience everyone & drive many viewers away permanently.  Besides, which one content type should be left behind for the 1+ million original subscribers?  What of the people who enjoy the existing mix of videos?

I've pondered all of this endlessly.  There's no easy solution, no magic spell to put everything right.  I need to make hard decisions, implement big changes, and cause some serious headache for myself and, to a much lesser extent, for viewers.  The good news is that I've already started the process, and it's going as well as I could possibly have asked.  The bad news is that I've barely scratched the surface of the problem, and the worst is yet to come.

Taking Action

I have done speed build videos since as early as 2012, but never settled on a formula that worked for both me and viewers. This year I have fixed that by honing equipment and a dedicated space to get JANG Builds It! rolling along at full speed. Numbers are relatively humble so far, but half a million views from nothing in just 4 months (with no anomalous algorithm luck) is nothing to scoff at. It also fully ends the run of one of the main channel's entire genres of content.

With one solution came the revival of an old problem. I made a speed build channel, but not everyone wanted the same speed. I've solved that already too. A bit of experimentation quickly brought me to a good time multiplier for most viewers. For those who want builds without the "speed" part at all, I already split off a separate Pure Builds channel and modified my workflow to allow both types of content to be created in a single effort. It may sound like too many splits, but viewers in both homogeneous buckets are quite happy, as am I. Outside detractors can simply stay outside. This is a growing dual success in progress.

Now it's time to prod the two 800 pound gorillas of reviews & MOCs (including the whole LEGO city).  With the stakes as high as they are, I need to take this on with great care and collect a bit more data.  First I'm going to carefully test an artificial shift in the ratio of two types of content I put out. For the month of May 2019, I will impose the following rules upon myself:
  1. Publish no more than 3 consecutive days of reviews.
    • No matter how many new products LEGO releases, if I upload reviews 3 days in a row, the next day I upload, there can be no reviews in the mix.  The wording there is deliberate. If I do 3 days of reviews and then take a day off from uploading altogether, I can't publish another review until a further day later.
  2. Publish no more than 6 consecutive days of videos to the JANGBRiCKS channel, period.
    • This will give me a little extra breathing room for custom work (which takes often 10-100x longer than casual viewers imagine it should) as well as the significant back-end work of inventory management & studio maintenance.
That's it.  Two simple rules.  It may seem like a conservative experiment, because it is.  However, consider that I've done over 4,000 videos on the big channel and most (including the first) have been reviews.  Also factor in LEGO's average release release rate of more than one brick-based product per day of the year.  Any forced pause in coverage is disruptive, and doing this many in a short period of time will generate some noteworthy data to help inform my next step.

Ultimately, I am open to the possibility that one day either most of my reviews or most custom work & city updates could be diverted to a destination that isn't the original JANGBRiCKS channel.  Know that if this happens, it will be a move of necessity, not desire, made deliberately and with significant forethought and confidence.  For right now, though, let's just see how May goes.

20 comments:

  1. Hi Jang,

    I don't have a google account so have never commented on your video's before, but wanted to ask here after reading the mention of average viewer length on video's this question - do I need to watch the whole video for you to get the full monetary value from Youtube for having had a "view"?

    I always make sure to disable my VPN so my view is coming from a unique IP address and watch all of your videos to help offer support. Personally I love the reviews and MOC and can't understand why someone wouldn't just not watch whichever they weren't interested in rather then watching so they comment that they don't like it, but hey, I'm a rational no social media using person! (she (mostly) sarcastically says lol). The speed builds I find interesting for some sets, but have to admit to mostly starting them, then skipping to the end. I even watch the Mega thingys and now pure builds to support your efforts.

    Anyway point is, love your work and want to make sure I'm supporting it as much as I can, so is skipping parts or stopping after a minute costing you revenue? I appreciate this may not be a question you're happy answering so please ignore if it's going to far, I just want to make sure I'm adding to your review efforts as best I can as they help me a lot in deciding on large sets and have even changed my mind on small sets, so are greatly appreciated.

    Best Regards and Thanks

    Nichole

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    1. I hope you get a reply from Jang, but here's my understanding: Youtube counts views after an undisclosed amount of time, but generally speaking this need not be the full video. "watch time" is a separate metric, it's meant to count how much someone watches his videos.
      I wouldn't worry about watching every second of the video in order to support Jang, the algorithm may be evil but it's not dumb. You can watch a video partially and it will still be recorded by the system. Hope that helps,

      wookiesuperlady339

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    2. Thanks for the information, it's much appreciated :)

      Have a great Lego filled weekend!!

      Regards

      Nichole

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  2. Hey Jang, never forget that you got yourself in this "pickle" precisely because you've been so incredibly successful so far :-) I hope you will always be optimising for your own happiness rather than for views/subscriber numbers.

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  3. My only suggestion would be to act defensively, and start a Patreon. This will result in much more stable income that doesn't rely on the Youtube algo, and shields you from any adpocalypse or whatever other nonsense the site does. If it hits a sustainable level for you, you can make videos about Queen Watevya Wa-Nado.

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  4. Whatever you do, I'm here for it! I'LL FOLLOW A HUNDRED CHANNELS ;)
    And yes, I would love if you started a Patreon...I feel like I should be paying for your work in some way.

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  5. make more videos about your city

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  6. A couple of additional things that you might consider. One is that you do have something that's consistent in all of your videos (reviews, city build, Mega Construx reviews, speed builds, etc.). And that something is you. People are subscribing to you, because they trust and respect your opinion and whatever you're doing. Note that some of the biggest YouTubers are just rambling on about whatever is going on in their life. There is no consistency in what they are talking about. People are subscribing to the person first, the content second.

    I know you are a humble guy, and it took years just to reveal your face. And you pride yourself in quality work. But consider that what people are subscribing to is you as a person; your voice, your honesty, and your opinion on stuff. I have gotten into Mega Construx and Playmobil because I already trusted you through your LEGO reviews. If you would start reviewing hot sauce brands, I would know where to go for a reliable review when I want to buy some. That's because I trust that you will do honest, non-biased, and non sponsored reviews.

    Because of this, personally I'm not in favor of splitting out into different channels. It's hard to keep up, and I actually end up with more notifications in my inbox than if I just subscribe to one channel. I do understand keeping your knife reviews and other non-toy topics separate, and maybe even the different toy brands if you are churning out lots of videos in each of them, but in my humble opinion splitting up the LEGO topics into different channels is an overkill.

    Chasing after and trying to please the ever-changing YouTube algorithm is an attempt that burned out many YouTubers. Making changes and taking new directions because you're inspired to make them is what leads to long term success and satisfaction. It is also what creates a more solid and longer standing channel. Be a rock that the fickle winds blow around, instead of a leaf that gets blown in whatever way and end up in a muddy puddle. Make you, your honesty, and your impeccable quality your brand. And let YouTube chase you.

    There is a small book I read and really like titled "Differentiate or Die". It analyses how and why some brands stay household names for generations while others die. It usually has to do with simple marketing and branding mistakes. The book also gives some excellent tips for no matter what type of business you run, even in a saturated market. It's a book I have been referencing for many years and I highly recommend. I think you would find some valuable insights that is applicable to your situation.

    Another thing I learned in marketing is that whenever you make changes only make one change at a time. Leave that running for a bit (few weeks or months, depending on your business), record the results, then start the next test. Take it like a science experiment in a lab. If you make too many changes at once, you won't know what made things better or worse, you will steel feel like you are not in control of the situation, and you still don't know what exactly makes your business successful.

    Anyway, these are just some thoughts that came to mind when I read your post. It's not an easy situation you are in, stuck between what you would like to do, the wishes of your audience, and the platform you are using (YouTube). Hope you find some of it helpful. Wishing you the best!

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    1. That was perfectly said. I completely agree with the supporting the person, Jang, no the only the content. He is what makes the Jangbricks channel, not the bricks, but Jang.

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  7. I honestly think there's nothing to change to the channel at the moment, and I think the creation of the speed builds channel was a great idea.
    I would also suggest to keep your MOC videos for the periods when LEGO doesn't release a lot of new sets, since there wouldn't be enough content for a video otherwise.
    P.S. I know it's been about a year now, but I'm still waiting for your Bugatti Chiron review, even if at this point I think it's a lost cause.
    Keep up the good work!

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  8. A youtuber called SML had a similar problem with some viewers favouring a new character, others the older ones. Ultimately they resorted to alternating the videos, one video for one preference followed by another video for the other. ABABAB ... etc.

    Having separate review seasons and MOC seasons might upset some viewers due to the gap in content they seek on the channel. The other channel I mentioned started with a similar schedule before they changed. I think this is especially true with younger viewers for the reasons you mentioned.

    Ultimately I would argue that your creativity and MOCs are what is most unique to your channel. Your original Hero Factory MOCs really impressed me years back and of course your city after that.

    But I stay nonetheless for all your reviews and your content as it is all of great quality. Enjoying yourself in what you do personally is what I think matters most. It is indeed a pickle. Good luck in whatever you decide!

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  9. I really like both content and personally prefer them all in one channel, but with slow build videos in their own channel. So as it is now!

    Happy to become a Patreon if you go that way.

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  10. I can only speak for myself really and I am very happy with your reviews. So nicely devoid of clickbait-sensationalism. Just calm, positive and balanced. I also like the updates on your city (especially the latest blog on it was an interesting read!), but the reviews are really were what brought me to your channel in the first place.
    I just hope that you watch your work/life-balance. Lego is, contrary to popular belief, NOT the most important thing in the world!^^

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  11. Jang, I watch everything Lego that you put out, 99% of the time I watch it for the duration, on the main channel. Not got into watching the builds tho so a separate channel for them works for me.
    I agree that it is you that is the USP of your content, its certainly the reason that yours is the only lego channel I consistently watch all the content.
    Other than splitting off the Mega stuff I'd leave well alone and keep the quality, it's what we come to you for.

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  12. Custom, Review, Custom... Custom

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  13. Hi, first time commenter.

    My wife and I watch all your stuff via the TV YT app so I've only just found out that this voting thing was going on at all! I'm subbed almost exclusively for the city updates and the MOCs as we'd love to have the same space to do the same one day. At the moment we've got enough room for one modular street but I've got a city's worth of stuff in my parent's loft.

    We do tune into reviews of sets we've been considering (mostly modular stuff) but otherwise we'll tune in for the occasional random review.

    We appreciate you've got to make moolah off of this so produce as many reviews as you have to to feed the algorithm mate. We just look forward to the words "the review season is over"!

    I'd be interested to know if you get stats for what devices people are watching your stuff on though, would wonder how many adults are just putting reviews on to placate their kids and the like.

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  14. I discovered your YouTube channel a few months ago. Since then, I've been slowly building some trains (well, they are in the garage until it gets too hot outside, then I will show the kids). Can't wait! I found your city tours exciting. I also really like that fishing village. Might get that for myself.

    I like the MOC stuff, but also like the reviews of current products. Don't really care for the speed builds, but that's just me. Have you seen 'Video Creators' on YouTube? And 'VidIQ' has a good YT channel. You probably have.

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  15. Hi jang , I am a fan from mainland China. I really like the LEGO video you made, thank you for your contribution. This letter is mainly to know if I can establish a cooperative relationship with you to jointly operate your video works on the mainland Internet.

    Since YouTube is not accessible on the mainland, most of your videos are not searchable by Chinese. Because I also like LEGO bricks very much, I hope that more excellent LEGO videos will appear in the Chinese Internet. I know that respect for copyright is the fundamental driving force for the world to have more content. So now I hope to communicate with you and reach a standardized cooperation model.

    Here are some preliminary ideas about cooperation.

    - Authorize me to upload your video on the mainland.
    - I provide Chinese translation.
    - After accumulating a certain number of fans, I will help explore the profit model. 90% of the proceeds are for you, I take 10%. (or negotiate other ratios as well)
    - All accounts and passwords will be made public and you can view all background information.

    Bilibili.com ( NASDAQ: BILI ) is a favorite video site for young people in the mainland in recent years. It is also a video site most similar to Youtube.

    If we can establish a partnership, I will translate and upload your video to Bilibili.com. After accumulating a certain amount of broadcasts and fans, I will try to contact the online store merchants for business cooperation, and put a commission link in the profile. . If there is a lot of interaction with fans, we can explore more forms of activity.

    To sum up, I hope that the Chinese Internet will have more good videos of LEGO and hope to jointly explore a stable, sustainable and win-win cooperation model. Looking forward to your reply.

    My email address:owenhsiao#outlook.com (Change # to @)

    Thanks for reading
    Owenhsiao
    May 8 , 2019

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  16. For me, some of those mutually exclusive wants are for different types of content. I love your professional production (good mic, lighting etc) combined with your "un"professional joking around and comments. Shorter reviews are nice since you do ramble a little bit (not trying to be mean!!) but longer videos of your city are perfect places for rambling. I'm good with your planned balance of reviews and MOC stuff, I'm here for you as much as your content! If I wanted boring objectivity I'd just look at the Lego homepage! Keep up the great work :)

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  17. Hello my friend. I have been watching your videos for a long time and want you to know that you and Alex Nunes inspired me to start building a city too. I have been a lego fan my whole life but nothing like you guys. I am a cancer survivor left disabled from the surgeries. But i am still here . so i decided that god gave me another chance at life and it was time to give back. So i watched yalls videos and built Palm Brick Gardens. You can see my bad videos at my channel. Matt perlman palm brick gardens. When i was finished with what i tried to complete before xmas i opened my home up and allowed all the children in our neighborhood to come and see. Was a great success.. And made me feel great in my heart. I have learned a lot about the mistakes i made and when i do it again i will know how to do it better now. I would like to ask a small favor. I see that you built a custom fork lift. The thing is it looks just like the machine i ran for 30 years before cancer. Would love to have one 5in my house .can you help me to build one. Maybe some directions or hints . lol.. Thanks for your time and may god bless you and your family.. Matt @ matty1220@netscape.net

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