When is a YouTube show just an advertisement?

If you type in “youtube reviews” into Google search chances are you won’t find many blogs, websites, journals, or articles actually reviewing YouTube content, creators, or the like. Instead what you typically find is either a score of YouTube videos of products being reviewed by someone, usually a vlogger, or you find articles by companies trying to lure you into reviewing their products, for money, on YouTube.

How, then, does the person watching a YouTube video really know when they are getting a conversational piece with someone they admire informing them of a product or service, instead of listening to a paid advertorial?

All forms of media, ranging from television, radio, print, websites, etc., rely heavily on advertisers in order to operate as a business. A YouTuber is no different. They are running a business and they rely heavily on advertisements to help pay for the content they produce. In journalism, there is a wall of separation between the editorial side, or the news, and the advertising side, or the business. This is more noticeable in newspapers than any other form of news media. Television often blurs the lines. For example, in a broadcast news segment you will have different reports that start with something along the lines of “the following segment is brought to you by…” and they run an advertisement of the sponsor for that segment.

Typically the sponsor is only paying for the time slot, not the actual content. Meaning if they want to sponsor the sports section they just get to ensure their ad runs during the sports coverage, they have no say in the way the journalist covers the team. Suppose the company that makes the team jerseys for a local team decides to run an ad during the Friday night football recap. They don’t make the jerseys for the team that beat the team they make clothes for. It would be unethical, possibly illegal, for them to tell the reporter not to mention the team that lost in a negative light. The reporter should be free to just tell the story he or she observed.

Things get stickier when you get into web content. Often you will run into what are called Advertorials, essentially the equivalent of those “Paid Content” spots you see on TV where it’s basically an infomercial. Advertorials are pretty much the same thing. Now as a business if a blog or website needs the money there should be nothing wrong with charging a sponsor for a full article no different than if an advertisers wanted to run a notice in the classifieds of the local newspaper. The key is sponsored content always needs to be labeled as such.

If you are watching a review video of a product, let’s say a cosmetic product. If the reviewer is being paid by the cosmetics company for their opinions or views, they need to disclose this. The reason is they are going to be more optimistic about the product, and thus less likely to talk about any negative aspects. Even downplaying a negative trait could be as bad as flat denying it if the person watching the video isn’t able to distinguish the person distributing the content is biased or not.

Unlike opinion bias in news media, which is frowned upon, but not illegal nor unethical, when opinion is masked by paid content there is a problem. The car dealer can run an advertisement on the local TV news cast telling you all the great deals they have at their lot. The news reporter who investigates accusations of fraud should be free to report their findings on said car dealer without facing repercussion. You can trust the journalist was just reporting the facts, were as if the car dealer paid for an advertisement that looked like a news segment complete with their own reporter, that would be dishonest and misleading.

When you are watching YouTube reviewers make sure you check their other videos. First, there should be some disclaimer up front that the video is sponsored. Then you need to be sure to watch other videos by the reviewer to determine their style, preferences, and tastes to see if they align with yours. If their tastes are similar but their values are not, you might want to consider if you want to support this persons content. If you follow a regular reviewer who constantly trashes the products of one company, but praises the products of another, then all of a sudden the company the bash pays them to write a positive review of a new product, you need to be aware of that so you can determine of the reviewer can be trusted.

Be on the look out for these things when you subscribe to reviewers on YouTube and make sure to engage with your favorite YouTubers on social network. If they disable comments, do not publish their Twitter, Instagram or Facebook accounts, chances are they have something to hide. Even Hollywood celebrities go out of their way to make their profiles public so they can interact with their audiences. If the YouTuber you watch is not doing so, and their content appears to be sponsored, you might re-consider whether or not you can trust this person. Remember when you watch a video, ads or not, they get paid for that video so you want to make sure  you are not funneling money into dishonest YouTubers when you would prefer your money to go to those whom you can trust and admire.

Getting to know famed video game collector The Immortal John Hancock

When I started getting really into video games I went all in. At the height of my collection I had hundreds of games spanning dozens of consoles. I couldn’t begin to list all of the games I had, but I can tell you the systems I had games for. When I sold off my collection to help pay for college I had an Atari 2600, 5200, Sega Master System, NES, SNES, Genesis, Sega CD, 32X, Saturn, Dreamcast, PS1, PS2, N64, Game Cube, Game Boy, GBA, DS, DS Lite and even a Sega Nomad.
Well none of that amounts to much compared to a “super collector” that goes by the name: The Immortal John Hancock. A middle-aged family man, Hancock hosts a Youtube channel where he talks about his massive collection. How massive is his collection? For starters it was large enough to be featured in a January 2004 article in the Tips N Tricks magazine. Hancock’s collection consists of 26 complete sets. That is, he owns every single retail game released for 26 different systems. Still not impressed? The man has been collecting since the 1970’s.
How does a person find the time to collect all that stuff? It didn’t happen all at once.
“My mother was a collector. I used to go to flea markets with her as a kid. I began collecting carts, comics and figures. The collection evolved into games which I found much more satisfying.” he said.
His first game console he had as a kid was a Radio Shack TV scoreboard. He described it as basically a Pong clone.
As someone who also had a Radio Shack pong system myself as a kid, I find it refreshing to know many of us can still go back to our roots. In fact one of my only 2 true retro consoles remaining is a Sears Super Pong. My other retro console that sits in a box, a dusty old Intellivision 2 with Intellivoice Voice Synthesis Module. What’s interesting about Mr. Hancock is he started by seeking out unique Pong systems.
“I always have had a fondness for collecting pong consoles.  Mostly due to them being forgotten by others.  I just picked them up along the way due to being very affordable.” he said.
As a family man he enjoys sharing his collection with his wife and kids.
“My game collecting is something that I can share with my kids.  I always try to remember balance.   More strengthens my bond with my kids.” he said.
He also enjoys the support of his wife in his endeavor.
“My wife does not collect but she supports my hobby and I return the favor by not having it affect our relationship in a negative way.”
he added.
So what games do his kids enjoy? Well probably the same ones we all did when we were kids.
He said, “My kids love Nintendo and playing on games like Smash Bros or Mario Kart on the Wii U.  ARMS on the Switch is also a favorite.  Hard to say if they like video games the way I like them, but I can see them carrying on the mantle of at least playing video games with others.”
In recent years he has stated one of his goals is to some day see his games in a museum. Preservation has become more of a focus of his in the last 10 years. He is currently building a new game room onto his house to showcase his collection to his Youtube followers. His internet fame has begun to get him and his wife noticed. He said he gets noticed more at shows or conventions, and it hasn’t had any negative impact on his life to date.
A no regrets kind of guy, he has stated he doesn’t give much thought to his legacy after he is gone. He prefers to just do his best to be as good a person as he can.
“[I] ry to do my best as a human being whatever I do each and every day.   Teaching, talking, and interacting with others each day gives an opportunity to make a difference.” he said.
Speaking of teaching, aside from being a public figure on Youtube, he is also a school teacher. We all had that one school teacher that stood out for us. For me, when I was in grade school I had a teacher that would keep me after school to teach me BASIC programming on the classroom’s Apple II computer. At the end of the school year, I was able to demonstrate my programming ability to the class by showing off the program I had written. It was a monochrome bit map recreation of the Death Star from Star Wars. It was programmed line by line. It sort was sort of animated but not much. To me it was just really cool to have a teacher that recognized my potential outside of the classroom to give me that opportunity. Mr. Hancock has demonstrated that himself by using his video games to teach his students.
“I offer my kids experiences playing classic gaming at the end of the year. This last year my students got to play the original Oregon Trail.” he said.
He also shared he gives considerable thought to his students who has also impacted his own life.
His true goal is preservation. He wants to tell the story of gaming history and keep an objective outlook on the early days of video games. He shares his collection through his own channel, The Immortal John Hancock, and with his friend MetalJesusRocks, who helped launch his channel, and his friend Drunken Master Paul, also on Youtube, who helped give him the nickname that has become a part of his branding.
As I look back on the games I gave up in order to fund my college education I find solace knowing there are people out there that aren’t chasing down the rare games just to horde them, you have people like The Immortal John Hancock, and others, actively trying to preserve video game history. I can’t even begin to imaging ever building my collection back up to where it was so I can at least tell people about this interesting man whose videos often remind me of all the fun I had chasing down those rare video games. Maybe someday I will get back into it, for now I will gladly keep an eye on my subscription feed for a new video from The Immortal John Hancock. You can find John Hancock on Twitter and Facebook.