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Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Why 4,000+ videos have comments & most ads disabled, but new ones don't


I've covered the fallout of the FTC vs. Google settlement for YouTube's flagrant violation of COPPA in three dedicated blog posts, five videos, and probably over a hundred smaller postings. Anyone concerned about the issue with regards to me and my channel should have no questions about where I stand on it all and why.  Yet, questions & confusions remain, so here we are again.  In my last video on the subject I very clearly explained that the real-world effects on me after YouTube's compliance update necessitated a significant and immediate change to my video style & approach, otherwise JANGBRiCKS as you all know it was all but done for. During 2 & 1/2 weeks of downtime that followed, I figured out a new plan, completely disassembled & eliminated my review studio setup, and built something entirely new.
What I ended up with was not what I had first envisaged last year as a contingency for the then-hypothetical worst case scenario that would hit me at the start of 2020.  Putting myself in videos was part of that plan, as was a move to a very different visual style that would permanently retire the white void concept I've used since long before JANGBRiCKS was a thing.  However, as I read through ongoing viewer feedback as I always do, I saw significant concern that a dramatic change would be too difficult to adjust to.  Simply put, fans loved the white void & didn't want it to go away.  This pushed me toward the idea of a hybrid approach, and after a lot of drawing, measuring, experimenting, hair pulling, in- and out-of-the-box thinking, and plain old cash (well, credit card) investment, I got a very tricky new studio setup ready for production.

My old videos remain completely crippled and marked as "made for kids" (even though they're not) for reasons I've explained multiple times and in exhaustive detail in the past.  My videos (with the fewest exceptions) are not literally made for "kids" (under 13) and never have been.  They do not specifically or primarily target kids, and kids make up the very smallest portion of my actual subscriber base. However, my videos have always inescapably, undeniably, and extremely strongly matched COPPA "directed to children" factors, consisting visually of nothing but kids toys. I thus fit into a special category called "mixed audience" and due to YouTube's refusal to properly accommodate the compliance requirements of this situation, I'm forced to default all the way down to full-on "made for kids."  If I self-categorized as "not for kids" and got challenged, my primary defense would be that oh, the tone of my narrative and particular vocabulary that I choose & use is, though not kid-exclusionary, at least not intentionally kid-targeted or kid-attractive. An unsympathetic counterparty (whether YouTube, FTC, or advocacy group) could then dismiss such thin semantics with the factual evidence that the first and only things you see in every single video are toys that are made for kids. I've even had (and still do have) various videos hand-picked to be featured in the YouTube Kids app, a favored go-to axis of evidence used in the FTC's own original complaint that's on permanent record.  Here's a fun experiment.  Load up any of my old LEGO Star Wars reviews on a phone, mute the sound, then hand it to an elder who's not a YouTuber or YouTube fan and ask them if they think what they're looking at is "made for kids."  If they say "no," never talk to that person again.  There's something seriously wrong with them.

As an adult who has seen and experienced loss, who understands the value of hard work as well as stability, who has a mortgage payment, who maintains a comfortable household occupied by not only myself, I do not and will not actively court disaster. I will not risk my entire channel and ten YEARS of work on a gamble that YouTube's AI & content review protocols can be trusted to be fair and accurate and would never look at a body of over four thousand identically presented videos consisting solely of kids toys as being "for kids."  Thus, in spite of a truly breathtaking loss of income from those over four thousand existing videos, I keep them marked the only way that seems even slightly logical when looking at the big picture.  With this decision, I comfortably and confidently maintain the right and the opportunity entertain my over 1 million strong subscriber base and slowly claw my way back up from the muddy ground to which YouTube pounded me down out of nowhere.

So why does the recent studio change give me the confidence to marking new videos as "not for kids?" Again, my videos are quite literally not made for kids, and they're overwhelmingly not watched by kids. Now, instead of the first & only thing you see in the video being COPPA factor-matching kids toys, you first see an adult, dressed in regular clothes, speaking as an adult directly into the camera to the imaginary viewer who is clearly not a child. If you're a fan of the greater LEGO YouTubing community, you've noticed I'm not the only person to arrive at this exact solution! I now have both visual and audio establishment of clear intent from the first second of every new video.  Further reinforcing this, the entire long freeform narrative segment that ends each video features again, that adult, talking at length in the same way (if not with an even higher apparent age target).

Now, does this new strategy guarantee I won't ever be hassled by YouTube or even the FTC? No.  There are no guarantees in life, especially when dealing with other peoples' opinions and/or incompetencies.  However, I feel I now stand in a strongly defensible position, where before I absolutely did not.

At least with new videos.

The past 10 years worth of hard work & buildup remains all but destroyed, though. So there's that.

30 comments:

  1. If it help, I actually like the new format. I find having you on screen more engaging and approachable. I guess I interact better with a human being than a white void :)

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  2. Hey Jang. Got to say, i like the new format. Always thought your reviews were/are the best on youtube. Now, i think they are even better. Good luck. With the future.

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  3. Thanks for the explanation as to your "appearance from the void", which is very cool by the way. Love the new style of video, as well as the old. You'll get back to where you were before COPPA - and you've already got your giant fan base, so that helps. You're not starting from absolute zero. Best of luck to you.

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  4. I loved the white void too, but the solution you have come up with is perfectly fine (and really well done in a technical way) and I'm already getting used to it.

    Will there be that patreon-thing as you asked us viewers about in the near future to support you directly? Or did I miss anything, where you already explained about it?

    I think I get your meaning of the last two sentences, but I want you to know that I watched all that old stuff too when I came out of my dark ages and discovered your channel and the joy and entertainment of, let's say that Classic Space Cosmic Cruiser (one of your very best vids) review will strongly remain.

    All the best!

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    1. Patreon will still happen, I've just been focusing on getting the new studio set up and returning to putting out a consistent stream of content before I offer any way for people to tangibly support it.

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    2. I'm rather shocked you don't have a direct avenue for fans to support you, particularly in the wake of this latest YouTube debacle. I've enjoyed your videos enough (and consider them a vital resource!) that I would gladly contribute. Please, PLEASE make a video promoting your Patreon once it's established. Perhaps give a studio tour of your new setup and process (assuming it isn't something proprietary you'd like to keep secret) to show your investment and it's connection to the Patreon. On another note, as someone with dramatic and public speaking training, THANK YOU for your professional style. There are a great many popular Youtubers who make me cringe at their "wacky" personas or their feigned disdain for whatever toy/game they are reviewing. Your diction and lack of repeated terms, misused terms, or verbal pauses are truly a breath of fresh air. Keep making great content, sir!

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  5. Thank you for the detailed explainer on the old vs new setups (like others, I find the new more appealing too). Might I suggest linking this post in the pinned comments for a few new videos? Viewers will likely continue to be surprised by comments reappearing (and you appearing) for a while.

    Got quite poignant towards the end. Considering that your worst-case simulation turned out to be off the mark, do you think Youtube is penalizing videos "made for kids" more than videos with personalized ads intentionally disabled? If so, maybe there's some small chance that a future tweak could improve your post-COPPA residuals.

    One thought about the 4,000 video full of hidden nuggets -- there's no easy, indexed, categorized way to find things from the archive, though "lego SETNUMBER review" will usually have you in the top 3 results if one exists. Such a list--if you ever have the spare time to create it--would be a nice Patreon perk and a very indirect way of monetizing all those videos. Perhaps vetted patrons could even volunteer to assist in populating the list.

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    1. I honestly don't know how there ended up being such a huge discrepancy between the full-channel test and the January reality. I have no ideas.

      An easier way to find & access old content would definitely be nice, though it would probably get very limited use. As you said, searching works pretty reliably. Also my review videos are attached to their respective entries on Brickset.com. I do have some interest in the idea, though. I need a little more control over some form of access to my work. I'll give it more thought. Thanks for bringing it up.

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    2. I wonder if you could automatically create old archived blog posts that embed your YouTube videos plus description. Would at least get you some search engine rankings.

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  6. Hi Jang,
    let me begin saying how much I like your new studio and new review style. I had already come to the conclusion myself, that an adult speaking directly into the camera changed the assumptions about the audience as well. I´m looking forward to further analysing the results of the changes you made and will make.
    I rewatched plenty of your older videos on your MOCs for New Jang City while you were dealing with the new studio, they are great! Your city is great. The reviews are fantastic as well, it´s just me personally liking your city-related stuff most.
    I´m seriously mad at YouTube for forcing you to take the consequences for them not protecting kids as they should under COPPA. In that sense: I´m not a fan of YouTube, I`m not a YouTuber, I don´t think your older videos are made for kids ... well, talking to myself wouldn´t be a healthy thing to do anyhow ;-)
    I appreciate the professional way you are dealing with this horrible situation. Please do let us help with the financial side to show, we value your new and old content as adults. This may not be the path you would prefer, but unfortunately I´m not in any position to change YouTubes ways.
    Greetings from Germany!
    Ennasus


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    1. Thank you for your uplifting words. I'm glad the new format is working for you. The city, yes, it needs more love.

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  7. For your old videos . . . Have you considered making a compilation video where you are a host introducing things? Imagine Classic Space videos for example . . . Use your new setup to introduce the subject with some sets as props maybe. Then add one of your reviews. Maybe afterward add comments about the old review or simply introduced the next one.

    As a bonus a longer video run time seems more gunned to adults. Plus ASMR junkies would have a longer video to listen to.

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  8. I was also thinking about the possibility to re-edit your old videos with newly shot footage of yourself at the beginning and end - is it even possible to re-edit existing videos or would you have to re-upload them?

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    1. You're not the first person to suggest that and it's something I'm considering on a slow, limited, but long-term basis. I'm not sure what exact form it would take, but there are certainly some possibilities.

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  9. I like the new format and love to hear you talk about Lego. I look forward to any other surprises you have for us in the future. It's a shame Youtube has reached a point where it is as indispensable as it is ill-managed. Thank you for keeping at it ❤

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  10. Thank you for your explanations. I sincerely hope that this works out fine for you and that you will be able to defend your position successfully, if you are challenged by Youtube or the FTC.

    About the new setup: I like it a lot. Very happy you kept the white void. The wide angle lens will take some time to get used to for me. I don't like the distortions very much, but also I don't see a better solution.

    Now a little off-topic, but I have the impression you are making more 2-in-1-videos recently, sometimes reviewing sets together that actually do not have much in common except being from the same theme, for example the Ninjago Empire Dragon and Cole's Speeder Car. Is that also a COPPA-related change? I am interested in the City Safari Offroader, but I don't care much for the Ice Cream Truck, so I don't like having to fast forward the review looking for the Safari conclusions. Same with Obi-Wan's Hut and the Landspeeder. Why not make individual videos for each set? Sometimes set comparisons are interesting and add to the review experience (your recent speed champions video for example) but for me mostly I would prefer a one-set-per-video approach.

    Does not change the fact that you are my favorite LEGO-Youtuber...

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    1. I think 2-in-1 reviews of small sub-$20/~250 pcs sets are perfectly fine; it cuts the fixed setup/post time that would otherwise be spent in half without otherwise detracting from the review. One suggestion is, like some other LEGO youtubers, consider adding a few timestamps in the pinned comment for people who want to skip directly to the conclusions or to the second model.

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  11. Jang, thanks for writing this post. I've really been glad to see new content from you, and I'm glad that you've been able to re-enable comments on your new videos. The new studio setup looks really nice!

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  12. Thanks for the post. I was curious what aspect of the new video style gave you confidence in marking the videos as not for kids, and I'm glad you addressed that question here.

    As a viewer, outside of physically seeing you, I felt the content itself was nearly indistinguishable from your older videos. As a fan of those older videos, I find that to be a good thing.

    Seeing you in person, with almost no apparent video editing cuts between takes, I'm even more amazed with your ability to deliver these videos as you do. I would think being physically visible on screen makes it even more important to get the takes right, the first time, to avoid having to redo a lengthy segment in which you were on screen. When off camera, it's likely a lot simpler to make video edits if you want to redo a small part of a segment, without the viewer noticing. But perhaps after 4,000 videos, you've just mastered this style of reviewing that it's not much harder for you to be physically present on screen, even though to me that seems like it'd be a lot more challenging.

    In any case, glad you're back with videos earning revenue and glad the content is just as good as ever.

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  13. hi Jang, glad to see you back, the only thing I would try and change is the focal length of the lens, the wide angle distorts pretty badly, is this due to space constraints for your studio setup?

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  14. It sucks comments are disabled I checked the comments for more info and opinions to see if its actually a good set to buy

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  15. Hey hang how much money would you want to build me a exact replica of your version of the kylo ren shuttle with the color change and wing mods. Thank you, I can give you my email if you reply.

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  16. I haven't had the time to figure out how to get compliant yet, i'm just a hobbyist as far as youtube goes, so i hope it's okay if i follow your lead, you're an excellent creator and i hope to be as successful as you someday!

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  17. Jang, I am a long time viewer and love your videos. I am a 37 year old man that loves legos and
    I think if YouTube demonotizes or terminates you, you should post your videos on your website. Best wishes on your monotization :)

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  18. Hey Jang -- longtime AFOL and follower of yours here. Glad to see that you're sticking with it despite all the roadblocks being thrown up!

    A question: are you planning to review the Bookshop anytime soon? Inquiring AFOLs want to know...

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    1. Thanks for the support! I will indeed be covering the bookshop set. With all of the craziness of the past month or so I briefly forgot I had it, but not to fear, 'tis in the queue.

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  19. In truth the new format is great! We get to see the person behind the review and in between the actual set in detail. So basically it is just reviews but this time with bonus features! Keep up the great work Jang!

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  20. Sorry if someone has already said this, but could you do some of the old videos as flash back Friday type ones and just record a new intro bit, so you get the "you" part the new videos have at the start but can still re-post some of your more popular older videos to get some monetary value out of them?

    I haven't seen a flashback Friday video for a while on your channels and while most people may not watch them, I'm sure there are a lot of your viewers who like me watch everything even if I'm not interested all the way through to make sure we are supporting you as much as possible.

    Hope the new changes are all working well towards the needed levels for you and it's starting to get less stressful. Your reviews and insights are very good and often rather witty and much enjoyed.

    Best regards from Australia!!

    Nichole

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