Go behind the scenes to find out how real people, not an algorithm, select videos for Toca TV.
- Parker Barry
With Toca TV, the videos your kids see aren’t selected using an algorithm that doesn’t take into account what’s fun, safe and engaging for kids. Each video is handpicked and must meet Toca TV standards to be included. To learn more about the process, Toca Magazine talked with Toca TV team members Dave Glauber and Andrew Skerten, who work in Toca Boca’s New York office.
What’s your role at Toca Boca?
Dave: I lead the content team for Toca TV. There are several of us on the team: producers, directors, designers, curators and one animator! We work to find and to make videos for the platform that we think kids will love.
Andrew: A big part of my role at Toca Boca is being an editorial voice for Toca TV. I work with the content team, scouring the internet to find awesome video creators that we would love to feature. Once a creator comes on board with us I carefully review the videos they submit to determine whether they are the right fit for our platform.
We work to find and to make videos that we think kids will love.
Toca TV stands out because each video is handpicked and must meet Toca TV standards. When you’re looking at videos to include, what are the most important things you consider?
Andrew: We love content that is aspirational and attainable, so we look for formats that kids can duplicate themselves, such as DIY videos, Minecraft let’s plays, toy play stories and stop motion short films. Toca TV is all about content that is playful, funny, quirky and that will hopefully inspire our audience to make their own videos or to get creative in other ways. We’re also big supporters of young creators so it’s a huge plus if a video was made by kids.
Dave: We also like videos with unique approaches, that look stylish and that are really, really, funny. The videos that make kids laugh are our favorites.
Each video is evaluated using a scorecard. How does this work?
Dave: We knew from the beginning that we wanted Toca TV to have a point of view on our content. It’s simple to do this when you’re curating a small set of videos. But it’s much harder with thousands and thousands. So we decided to come up with a scoring system to help design and enforce our point of view and to make sure that it shines through when kids watch Toca TV.
J Milligan, head of Toca TV, and I watched hundreds of videos. Then, we made a list of the qualities that we wanted our videos to have, and the qualities we wanted to avoid. We assigned each one or two points, and we decided on a target score. We run the videos that reach this score AND don’t have any of the qualities that we are avoiding for Toca TV.
We have a big list of qualities that earn points, which means that no video has to be for all kids. But we expect that the each and every kid who plays with Toca TV will find videos that they like. And whatever they find will feel like it belongs on Toca TV.
What kinds of videos typically don’t make it onto Toca TV?
Andrew: A popular genre of kids’ content that we’re not running on Toca TV is unboxing videos. They’re often sponsored by brands and are more advertorial than authentic, which isn’t the right vibe for us. Violence and guns are another big disqualifier that come up often — unfortunately they feature in a lot of videos that are targeted at kids.
Dave: We also avoid videos that reinforce gender stereotypes or that model behavior that we don’t want kids to do, like bullying.
Andrew, you’ve looked at thousands of videos. What’s your process like?
Andrew: We’ve got thousands of videos on Toca TV and add a few hundred more every month, so basically I’m paid to watch a lot of (mostly) really cool videos.
When we receive fresh content from a creator I watch and grade it against our scorecard — if it scores enough points and aligns with our brand’s values then we run it. Sometimes videos need some minor edits before we make them live on Toca TV so I oversee that process. I also tag the videos with keywords which helps with the search functionality on Toca TV — we want kids to be able to easily find content that they will love.
How does Toca Boca know which videos kids will like?
Andrew: Most of the Toca TV team come from children’s television backgrounds, so we’re very familiar with this audience. Our research team regularly hosts play testing sessions with kids so we get a lot of info from them about what kind of videos they like, what they don’t like and what sort of content they would love to watch if it existed.
Seeing what content “pops” or doesn’t perform so well on Toca TV helps us to figure out what our audience wants to see more or less of, and we also have an unofficial network of kids all over the world through family and friends that keep us in the loop with what they’re watching.
Dave: As much as possible we try to empathize with what it’s like to be a kid right now — what excites them, inspires them, makes them laugh. And thinking from their perspective, we go out and hunt for compelling, hilarious, absurd, inspiring, constructive and visually interesting videos.
We try to empathize with what it’s like to be a kid right now — what excites them, inspires them, makes them laugh.
Why is this work important to you?
Dave: Hopefully we’ve made something that delights kids, gets them to laugh, and encourages kids to make themselves laugh with video they create on Toca TV and off it. That’s important to me, and to the rest of the team at Toca TV.
Andrew: I believe that video is one of the greatest toys for kids. When I was a kid I made a lot of comedy videos with my friends and filmed re-creations of music videos (including the impressive feat of playing all five members of NSYNC), so I think it’s dope that Toca TV showcases kids playing with video in their own way and allows our audience to tell their own stories too.
I believe that video is one of the greatest toys for kids.
What’s the best part of your job?
Andrew: Aside from working with an amazing team of extremely creative and passionate people, the best part of my job is discovering and giving a new platform to a number of talented young creators, and knowing that this will inspire our audience to make their own content too.
Dave: Listening to Andrew laugh when he finds an awesome video. When Andrew laughs, I know kids will, too.