In order for a YouTuber to get paid for an ad, the viewer of their video must have Ad-Block turned off (meaning they will see all the ads on videos) and must watch at least 30 seconds of videos they could otherwise skip. Or, this will work if the viewer sees smaller ads like banner ads, according to YouTuber Mah-Dry-Bread. The money generated from the viewer watching these ads is split between YouTube and your channel.
Five years on, ChuChu TV is a fast-growing threat to traditional competitors, from Sesame Street to Disney to Nickelodeon. With all its decades of episodes, well-known characters, and worldwide brand recognition, Sesame Street has more than 5 billion views on YouTube. That’s impressive, but ChuChu has more than 19 billion. Sesame Street’s main feed has 4 million subscribers; the original ChuChu TV channel has 19 million—placing it among the top 25 most watched YouTube channels in the world, according to the social-media-tracking site Social Blade—and its subsidiary channels (primarily ChuChu TV Surprise Eggs Toys and ChuChu TV Español) have another 10 million.
On November 3, 2016, YouTube announced a trial scheme which allows the creators of videos to decide whether to approve, hide or report the comments posted on videos based on an algorithm that detects potentially offensive comments. Creators may also choose to keep or delete comments with links or hashtags in order to combat spam. They can also allow other users to moderate their comments.
This indirect, dog-whistle form of alt-right messaging is common for the channel, which deliberately uses pop culture imagery, mainly drawn from animated series like Death Note and in particular the Cartoon Network TV series Steven Universe, as a tool for spreading white supremacist propaganda. Some of the many examples littering the channel’s videos include frequent references to media creators and other public figures using the historically loaded slur “Jews,” and references to anti-Semitic conspiracy phraseology such as “the Jewish question,” a frequent alt-right dog whistle that refers to the “Endlösung der Judenfrage” — German for “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” and the official Nazi code language for planning and carrying out the Holocaust.
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I’ve been creating content on YouTube for over 3 years and on December 6th, 2018 I was given 4 community guidelines strikes in 5 minutes and my channel was terminated. I’ve never had issues on YouTube nor has my content been called into question by YouTube. I had over 83,000 loyal subscribers tuned into my content and they are all incredibly upset with YouTube’s ban. I’ve filed 4 appeals, one for each community guideline strike, and YouTube will not get back to me.
ChuChu does not employ the weird keyword-stuffed titles used by lower-rent YouTube channels. The company’s titles are simple, sunny, consistent. Its theory of media is that good stuff wins, which is why its videos have won. “We know what our subscribers want, and we give it to them,” Chandar says. ChuChu says it adds roughly 40,000 subscribers a day.
Her answer was simple: “Bright lights, extraneous elements, and faster pacing.” In one of the videos I had her watch, a little boy dances flanked by two cows on a stage. A crowd waves its hands in the foreground. Lights flash and stars spin in the background. The boy and the cows perform “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” and as they do, the dance floor lights up, à la Saturday Night Fever. Johnson told me all that movement risks distracting kids from any educational work the videos might do.
ChuChu has changed over time—it has slowed the pacing of its videos, focused on the key elements of scenes, and made more explicitly educational videos. But in the wilds of YouTube, the videos with the most views, not the most educational value, are the ones that rise to the top. ChuChu’s newer videos, which have more of the features Johnson looks for, have not had the time to hoover up as much attention, so the old ones keep appearing in YouTube searches and suggestions.
With two small kids in my own house, I haven’t been navigating this new world as a theoretical challenge. My youngest, who is 2, can rarely sustain her attention to watch the Netflix shows we put on for my 5-year-old son. But when I showed her a ChuChu video, just to see how she’d react, I practically had to wrestle my phone away from her. What was this stuff? Why did it have the effect it did?
But whereas Disney has long mined cultures around the world for legends and myths—dropping them into consumerist, family-friendly American formats—ChuChu’s videos are a different kind of hybrid: The company ingests Anglo-American nursery rhymes and holidays, and produces new versions with subcontinental flair. The characters’ most prominent animal friend is a unicorn-elephant. Nursery rhymes become music videos, complete with Indian dances and iconography. Kids of all skin tones and hair types speak with an Indian accent.
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