I commented on a YouTube sailboat review yesterday. I found myself a little confused by the tone of the reviewer, so I gave him some feedback. Yes the review was from four years ago, but I was pleasantly surprised to find I’d gotten a personal reply.
First I’m honored that the author replied. Thank you. This is my explanation to you, Sam Jefferson as to why I wrote my comments. It took me most of a morning to reply so I hope you understand that I took you seriously.
I’m posting on this website because I suspect others could benefit from the understanding that video and written reviews can be made to complement each other, especially when the same person is presenting both.
This is Sam’s video of that sailboat:
This was my comment to Sam on the Sailing Today youtube video:
Laughter On Water – (22 hours ago)
Apologies… But this is more of an endorsement than a review. There isn’t enough video or specific data for this to be an actual review. Nothing wrong with a short endorsement. It’s just that I was really hoping for an actual review. It seems like you don’t really have time for this. It’s more like you were compelled to poop out a “review”. Inexpert audio and scene transitions are entirely forgivable because this is YouTube, and very few of us begin with professional video producer chops, but when your attention is not on what you’re talking about, it comes across that maybe, just maybe you don’t really endorse this product. You were there in body, but not in spirit. If stuff is going on in your life that needs to be addressed, why the heck are you making a video about something you’re not wanting to make a video about? I hope you get it figured out. Stay safe.
This was Sam Jefferson’s (the reviewer’s) reply:
Yachts Magazine — (2 hours ago)
An endorsement I don’t endorse? What should I have done? I had travelled for 16 hours from the UK, slept in the back of a Ford Fiesta, enjoyed a great day of sailing on a good boat and then made a video where apparently I’m not 100% enthusiastic – largely because I was trying to appear impartial. What would you have done? If I didn’t make the video I didn’t get paid. As I explained, the clip is meant to make you want to buy the magazine – still available – so you can read the full review. Surely you understand that principle? If I give the full review in a three minute video clip I am both a genius and have just ensured you don’t need to buy the magazine to read the review. It’s available here amongst other places: https://gb.readly.com. I hope you get it figured out too.
Reviews are not Journalism
Both reviews and journalism can be critical, but journalism requires impartiality. Journalists report news. A review is opinion/editorial. By default a review cannot be impartial. You can’t do a review without having an opinion. The review must either be favorable, undecided… or otherwise. Reviews come in different flavors. Unrequested, requested with no strings, or requested and paid to be favorable. Many reviewers on YouTubers do unrequested reviews, basically giving their unvarnished opinion of one product or another, whether it’s a phone, a backpack or makeup. Some reviewers become popular and are requested by a company to do a review of their product. Most good reviewers will say up front that they’ve been asked to do a review of the product by the company if this is the case. They’ll also say they are giving their unvarnished opinion about the product. In other words, even if the requesting company doesn’t like the review, without extenuating circumstances, the YouTuber isn’t going to take down or modify the review. When someone reviews a product but doesn’t disclose that they’ve been paid to make a favorable review, it’s pretty much frowned upon by the YouTube community. That said, if you have been paid to do a favorable review and you disclose that, it comes across as a hair less sketchy than not disclosing it.
Sam, I’m going to assume that this is an unpaid review (not sponsored or paid for by the boat builder) requested by the boat builder to the executive editor of Sailing Today because you said you had to spend a night sleeping in a Ford Fiesta in order to get the story. Certainly that is dedication to what you’re doing, and I’m thankful that you took the time. However, you asked me what you should have done, so I hope you’ll allow me to suggest some ideas for the future.
Posture / Presentation:
Watch your video before you post it. What you’re thinking about telegraphs in your posture, your facial expressions and your voice. Face it. You weren’t a happy camper. You probably didn’t get any sleep and while you may have liked the boat, it didn’t come across because you weren’t present to the camera. I was confused by your comportment. Perhaps I misinterpreted. Because I haven’t met you and I don’t know your resting face or general demeanor I can only guess at what you’re thinking. Your body and actions aren’t making it clear on screen what you’re thinking. And I’m not the only person guessing at what you’re thinking based on facial expressions and posture. It’s what humans do. Consider that most people who are watching this are going to skim through. They’re not going to watch the whole video. A few like me are going to watch it more than once and then skim back to the parts of interest. Unless you make the camera lens your best friend and speak from the heart, viewers are going to make wild assumptions that may be contrary to what your body is telegraphing because you didn’t sleep last night.
As a member of the paper magazine world, you’re in a unique position in that you want to be invited to review boats, but if you create enough unfavorable reviews, you’re unlikely to be asked by the boat-making community to do more. At the same time you cannot afford to pretend that you don’t have an opinion, because as I said above, a review is exactly that… opinion.
A good review will include a rating system, similar to what Consumer Reports does in its magazine. They don’t take paid reviews, and only depend on unbiased reviewers to give them feedback. Similarly, America’s Test Kitchen has a whole recipe book, magazine and video empire in which they review kitchen products candidly, obviously gushing over a hand-forged Japanese folded steel chef’s knife or showing disappointment in a coffee maker that produces only bitter coffee because it’s brew temperature is above the ideal 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit and takes too long to brew.
Sailing Yacht Ruby Rose (another YouTube channel) does excellent video sailboat reviews to complement their website and patreon portal. They did an entire series of Catamaran reviews while they were searching for what they wanted in a boat. Here’s one random example below:
They are gentle with their negative reviews because, like you, they want to be invited back, but they generally rate the boats according to a system they created and don’t mince words. Catamaran companies take their reviews to heart because they appreciate the knowledgeable feedback and end up making better Cats.
There are several types of explainer text in a YouTube video. You can use a lower third directly in the video to introduce people, concepts, etc. You can add an info link to the video via the YouTube Studio interface at any point, leading to the magazine’s website. You can have default information in the description area of a video. You can put a link to the website at the end of the video in the twenty-second end card.
This video did not have any lower thirds. It had no info bars. The description is one sentence telling us what we will see in the video. It could have included something like, “Like what you see? You probably should read our full story on this boat in our magazine. Here’s our website. Here’s how you can subscribe to the magazine. Here’s how to get in touch with…” This video didn’t have any link to a website in the end card.
There are about three seconds of intro at the beginning of your video where the website address for Sailing Today appears. That’s the only text in this entire video. The rest is gorgeous B-roll and headshots of you talking. I generally filter out small text when I’m watching a video unless I’m going back over it for specific information. Most people are going to filter out that four-second intro sting. They just won’t see it. You had ample opportunity to hawk the magazine all throughout the YouTube interface and even in the video itself. Sailing Today have dropped the ball on almost every count for a sales opportunity. There are only so many people who are going to be enticed by such a minimalist approach to learning more about your magazine. If I didn’t know better, it could just have been yet another YouTube channel with the name Sailing Today. I guess I just don’t understand why you’re not using all the tools available.
Social Media Management
Clearly if you haven’t made use of all the tools at your disposal in the video, you also aren’t making critical use of social media. For instance, your response came from Yachts Magazine, I assume a competing magazine but perhaps from the same publisher? So perhaps you forgot to switch accounts before replying. I am guessing you do commissions for both. Replying from a different YouTube channel (an alternate social media account) you’ve thrown more confusion into the works. If it hadn’t been for the casual remark about remembering a crummy sleepless night in a Ford Fiesta, I would probably question who is replying. By replying from an alternate account without appropriate introduction, you’ve unfortunately called into question your own credibility. It’s not the same account.
Better Author Contract
If you’re going to France to visit a specific boat, presumably still in the hands of the builder, it might have been appropriate to ask the builder to let you stay on board overnight rather than camp in cramped car. No harm in asking. It could have been wrapped into the review, even if you brought a sleeping bag and sleeping pad to lie on. For this kind of review, it wouldn’t be unreasonable. A mag about sailing is promoting sailing, sometimes by introducing positive stories about boats. Stories like this will always be softball. Editorials aren’t impartial, so you don’t have to be a stoic and keep your distance from the boat you’re reviewing. Ask for accomodation on the boat if the builder or owner is asking you to review it. Either that, or ask for accommodations through Sailing Today’s social network when you’re going across the channel. Surely they know a boat owner or two nearby where you could lay your head before the next interview. For all the talk about the boating community being tight, this kind of collaboration seems to fit right into that puzzle.
This video was too short. You’re only telling us this boat can float, is comfortable and has a few unusual quirks. It might be a test. It’s not a review.
Your Online Review
I read your review on the Sailing Today website. It was brilliant, including things you liked and disliked and scored ratings for particular categories! Your videos don’t express the same verve. You weren’t impartial in the written review. This video could be so much more. The video and the written products could have been complementary. Right now, they are separate products — distinct and unrelated. It would behoove you and Sailing Today to think of them as pieces fitting together. You would probably get more subscriptions, too.
Sam, I hope this answers your question. Perhaps there was a lot more you could have done. Video is not easy, and it was four years ago. I’ll be watching to see how things progress. I enjoyed your written review! Stay safe out there!