With Steve Johnson retiring, I’ll be heading up TFBTV. Steve, Alex Capps, and I kicked off TFBTV on January 20, 2015, which was Day 1 of SHOT Show 2015. Our third anniversary is closing in on us, and in that time, TFBTV has grown from nothing to almost 400,000 subscribers, and we should hit over 100 million views before SHOT 2018 in a few weeks. I can’t believe that this watershed moment is so close and that it happened so quickly, but in the grand scheme of things, we still have a long way to go to serve up fair and unbiased gun reviews to the YouTube public: While 100 mill sounds like a lot, bear in mind that some non-gun channels reach well over that with just one video. We’re not there, but we’re rolling in that direction.
In any event, you aren’t going to see drastic changes at TFBTV because the numbers say the formula works. Everyone has a favorite on TFBTV – and as we each know, you may have a least favorite also – but I’m privileged to work alongside a diverse group of some of the best presenters on YouTube. Miles V. is a veteran combat Marine and our resident infantry expert; Andrew has, in my opinion, the best ballistics testing videos on the Tube; and we’re lucky to have YouTube cult fan favorite, Bloke on the Range (Mike B.) appear for a monthly feature.
We also have Corey Wardop, who is also a Marine vet, joining the team in 2018. Corey is the Museum Curator at the Florida Institute of Military Technology, so he’s got an entire museum full of guns to deliver an unprecedented antique/classic gun fix that a lot of you have been looking for after Alex Capps departed with his considerable C&R collection.
2018 is going to be big.
With that out of the way, I want to address bias on YouTube. This is a big issue for me.
There has been a great deal of publicity recently over YouTube channels that have been revealed as outlets that receive cash in exchange for reviews. This is colloquially known as “shilling.” And while some of them have been outed, rest assured that there are many, many more that exist – channels that you probably watch every day. TFBTV has never accepted money in exchange for a review. Period.
And for full disclosure, I’m not saying we wouldn’t accept money for a promotional review in the future, but the only way we can do this is if we disclose to our viewers that we were paid. I won’t name any names, but every company that has approached us for a paid review has politely rescinded the offer when informed that we would have to disclose this information. It’s safe to assume that paid TFBTV reviews are probably not happening any time soon.
There’s also a gray area I want to bring to your attention: Sponsorship. This is tricky because sponsorship is important to get the resources (i.e., $) to buy high fidelity equipment, get access to exclusive events and/or travel and lodging to key, newsworthy occasions, and attract top talent (although my presence on the channel shows that we’re still working on that). We try to walk the fine line to suppress the appearance of bias and to make TFBTV profitable. This is really, really tough. But that said, we are going to strive to be as transparent as possible. [For a recent example of a review of a sponsored product, see the TFBTV review of the Savage MSR10 – note that it is mentioned specifically that it is a review of a sponsor’s product.]
Anyways, moving forward, we are going to develop a protocol for dealing with what we call in the legal field a “conflict of interest” or “the appearance of impropriety” so you guys know what you are getting from TFBTV, and you can weigh the credibility of the material yourselves. If you have any questions about apparent bias in a video, a respectful request will often be met with a respectful answer from me. Bear in mind that I am a partner at a law firm and I am married (yes, to a *woman*) so I do have responsibilities other than TFBTV; I love lawyering, I love spending time and traveling with my fantastic wife, and I love making videos for you guys on the Tube. So I get stretched a little thin sometimes.
But I also love you guys. Well, 99% of you guys. Even you guys that don’t like me, that hate on the shorts or the channel, that leave buttholic comments – I love you. It’s only because you are here, reading this, watching TFBTV videos, and commenting in TFBTV discussion that I have the opportunity to do this.
Thank you for that.
James “J.J.” Reeves