YouTube Review: Techmoan

Techmoan is a Youtube channel run by a British man who only goes by the name Mat. The show mainly focuses on reviewing old audio/video equipment and HiFi stereo components, usually from the 1970 and on. In the videos the host demonstrates the different pieces of technology. He then discusses how he acquired the individual item before taking it apart and showing off the individual components. Sometimes the videos lack the break down and instead focus on showcasing the different technologies. For example he has demonstrated videos that show the differences between content contained on pre-recorded cassettes, both in the audio cassette format as well as VHS. Sometimes he picks a single component or device and reviews it.

The series quality ranges from episodes that look like they could have been aired on public access TV to those that have a professional vibe similar to what would have been shown on a Discovery Channel or TechTV sort of program. The topics are usually well researched with the host providing a bit of background information on the item or items he is reviewing. Since he only reviews machines from his personal collection he often reminds his viewers he needs help in seeking out the items he wishes to review. In this aspect he can come off as asking for donations from time to time. It’s not entirely a bad thing, a lot of channels on YouTube do take user donations. The turn off is how he sometimes makes it sound like it is the responsibility of his viewers to help him acquire the devices he intends to review. If it were a commercial run Television production he would probably have sponsors help pay for these portions. However, since the show is focuses mostly on reviewing older and out dated technology, it’s unlikely the tech companies would consider his reviews valuable marketing for their current business products.

The reviewer has a very relaxing tone to his voice. He conducts his reviews in a very matter-of-fact method. This is one of his strengths as it allows him to shy away from over the top antics as some review shows on YouTube rely too heavily on. The reviews range in length depending on the topic. Generally speaking the videos tend to be thorough with plenty of background information in addition to the technological info that tech fans would enjoy. The videos are more informative than entertaining, however. This isn’t a bad thing it just might limit the audience to those who prefer videos that are more straight forward.

The show channel does offer a decent glimpse into the history of audio/video technologies. There is one slight draw back to the series. As the reviewer is based in the United Kingdom, his videos tend to have a very British slant. This can be interesting when discussing technology that was more popular in the U.K than in the United States, for instance. However it can be limiting when it comes to reviewing products that either had more success in the US or didn’t exist in the U.K. at all. For example he reviewed CED Discs which were a lot more popular in the United States so his exposure was limited. Also since his reviews typically cover PAL products he tends to have an emphasis on PAL signals which might be confusing to some residents in the US. This isn’t necessarily a negative of the show. After all he does a great job explaining the limitations when they do arrive. Yet it still has the potential to limit the audience or at the very least the enjoyment of those who are not as versed in the U.K. region.

Summary: Techmoan offers reviews of different technologies mostly from audio/video sectors. He often digs into the history of the individual technology he is reviewing while breaking down the items to demonstrate how they function, or how they were intended to in the case of items he was unable to repair. The host has a sort of dry personality that might not appeal to some foreign viewers, especially those in the US that are more used to the flashy reviewers who rely heavily on satire and over the top antics for their shows. As such the audience is limited.

The show has decent production values. It’s well researched with good lighting, editing and transitions. The draw backs include the hosts British sensibilities, his tendency to drone on, as well as having some times limited scope when it comes to items that were more popular in the United States. He does often admit to his shortcomings. The show comes off as more informative than entertaining which might be a turn off to some viewers.

Rating: 3.5 stars.

Youtube Review: Cracked After Hours

Michael Swaim, Soren Bowie, Daniel O’Brien and Katie Willert co-host a comedy variety show on YouTube via the Cracked.Com network.

The show centers on four co-workers sitting around a table, typically in a diner, discussing different aspects of popular culture. The individuals each portray a different character type. Soren is the rugged, handsome leading man type, Daniel is the nerdy, unsure of himself social anxiety OCD type. Micheal plays the cool but clueless character who is often impervious to other people’s feelings with Katie filling out the roster as the chick. She sometimes plays the feminist, others she plays the typical girl in a guy group. Most often she is used as fodder for the table to crack jokes as her expense.

Each character supplies a topic of discussion from one episode to the next, then they either enthusiastically or begrudgingly (depending on the topic) discuss the topic at hand. Some episodes discuss what-if scenarios, while others ponder the real-world ramifications the actions of a certain film would have if the rules of society applied.

Each episode is mostly self-contained. Although references do occur from time to time, they often happen in the form of quick flash backs, typically call backs to a previous joke, such as Katie’s changing hair styles or the waitress reaction to the group’s orders.

The jokes often rely on a combination of the characters reactions to the topic as well as satirical references to the topic. A character might behave with “nerd rage” if the topic disproves a popular myth about a particular pop icon that individual character held dear. An example was in the episode where they try to prove Batman is terrible at his job.

There have been rare occasions where the setting will move outside the diner. Some other locations have been camp sights on the side of the road or when the diner burned down they had to move to a new diner and the characters didn’t even notice for several episodes.

The topics are varied enough to keep the viewer coming back. Some episodes will center on a comic book icon or an animated character, such as the Simpsons. While other episodes will discuss the issues of a certain sitcom, or theme of sitcoms as in the episode that breaks down the fatherless sitcoms of the 1980’s.

The show is written by a team of comedy sketch writers who work for the website, Cracked.com. The characters are also featured in other video content on the show. The main “host” Daniel O’Brian is the head of video on the website, taking on a larger role in other shows the team produces.

The production values are high. The sets look professionally built and well lit. The extras are professional in their takes. The hosts deliver their lines as believable characters in the world they inhabit. The acting is probably the only down fall of the series. The characters are more or less caricatures of the personalities the individuals exhibit elsewhere on the channel. When they do show emotion it is often over the top. While this is clearly done for comedic affect, it can become repetitive at times. The actors have demonstrated in other videos they have a limited range so it’s quite possible the episodes are written to their strengths. All in all it’s a fairly entertaining series with short episodes that often provide a brief distraction from the monotonous while also providing alternative perspectives on popular tropes in Hollywood.

 

Summary: The series combines aspects of Seinfeld with a group of friends sitting around a diner talking about random topics. The comedy relies heavily on the way the characters react to what is being said rather than the delivery of the jokes. The series is well written and professionally produced. The show should appeal to those who are fans of films and television that want to get a nice break from the norm with a entertaining and often humorous look atĀ  films and TV shows.

The over acting can be a distraction at times depending on the episode. The series can also rely on slapstick comedy which is hard to pull off when the characters are confined to their seats. These are minimal nitpicks rather than true flaws, however they could be potential negatives to some individuals. The comedy is typically good while the shows topics are usually varied enough to remain mostly fresh.

Rating: 4.5 stars.

 

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 sureĀ  you are not funneling money into dishonest YouTubers when you would prefer your money to go to those whom you can trust and admire.