Thoughts on the Disastrous Crunchyroll Reddit AMA

HaruhiShrug

It was a whole lot of nothing.

A few days ago the leading legal English anime streaming website Crunchyroll decided to run a so-called “AMA” on Reddit:

I’m Kun Gao, the CO-Founder and CEO of Crunchyroll, the global Anime streaming service, AMA!”.

This stands for “Ask Me Anything” and can be used by anyone from your everyday person to the largest of companies. Its purpose is exactly as the name implies – to let users ask relevant questions and learn something about the host – although when it comes to companies, or famous persons, its use begin to muddle. On one hand it can be used as a fantastic way of reaching out to your potential customers and showcase transparency, on another it can be an embarrassing case of advertisement.

While my own experiences with AMAs is relatively low – I’ve only followed around 20 or so in total, with the majority being related to video games – I can say the following: the AMAs used for advertising are the ones which usually end up badly. After all, heading into an AMA with the mindset of advertising only goes against the very purpose of the format, which can more or less end up backfiring if the host only provides canned replies.

HaruhiStare

My personal thoughts on the matter are rather simple: try to be as open as possible if you’re a host and never retort to stiff wordings in an attempt to put you in a better light. After all, if you’re open about your AMA, aren’t chances high it actually increases your popularity? The advertising therefore comes as a well-rewarded bonus for doing a good job. The readers gain insight while the host in question has its share of the cake; everybody wins.

With all of this in mind, I was initially skeptical regarding Crunchyroll holding an AMA. For starters, what would their mindset be: to provide insight or to advertise? And secondly, how would they present themselves?

The anime community has long been relegated to illegal fansubs as the legal alternatives were sparse and often very limited. As such, fansubs is what many are used to as it has been the only way to watch anime. This has led to an obvious difference in standards; those who are used to fansubs are generally used to a higher standard in certain areas such as encoding or typesetting.

Crunchyroll, while having grown over time and today streams the majority of the currently airing anime in Japan, is still behind on a lot of these things. In addition to having a subscription fee, along with many years with no sorts of improvements, it is not difficult to see why this would create a clash with parts of the anime community. Naturally, the issue is much larger than this – far too large to fit into this text alone – so do not take this as anything but a mere oversimplification.

Haruhi02

So would Crunchyroll talk about these issues and tell us what the future held in store or do something else? In my own opinion, Crunchyroll is a company begging for more transparency. There are countless of rumors constantly floating around, such as their translators not getting paid, questions about where the subscription fee actually goes and so on. Not to mention customers having constant problems with their apps, being met by a bad support team, the video stream crashing and more.

To solve this, Crunchyroll needs to address these issues multiple times and provide insight – tell us how the company runs. Because today I personally neither have no clue about how its run, nor do I know if they will ever address the issues people complain about. The few times I see anyone from their support team on the forums it’s nothing more than a canned reply and a promise to become better. This does not help to strengthen Crunchyroll’s value as a customer.

The most recent example of insight would be an interview on the blog Otaku Journalist called “Where your Crunchyroll dollars really go: An interview with the CEO” written by Lauren Orsini. This interview was actually a response to an article called “Crunchyroll: Is It Worth Subscribing?” published on the website SeventhStyle and written by Primus de Pedos and Seven.

This interview was a fascinating read as I learned something I had never known before. Now I knew where Crunchyroll’s subscription fee went! This is exactly the type of thing Crunchyroll needs to repeat all the time to stop possibly fake rumors from taking over. The truth has to take over and become known to the public. Otherwise, their reputation will only continue to spiral downwards.

As such, I had slight hope that Crunchyroll would address these issues and much more in their Reddit AMA despite my initial skepticism. This would be the perfect opportunity to show us why they are worth supporting. All Crunchyroll had to do was to reply to questions and be open about it.

CrunchyrollAMAReddit02

However, that is not what happened. In fact, of all possible outcomes the worst one ended up happening. At the time the AMA was finished the thread had over 1000 comments (today it has over 2000) with only 33 being from Kun Gao, the CEO of Crunchyroll. In addition, of these there are arguably five replies not even answering any actual questions; instead making jokes. Add the fact that Kun Gao replied in lower-case letters and sometimes had odd sentence structuring and you’re not met with a good first expression.

Regarding the commentators on the AMA, on the other hand, it must be said there was a lot. It was quickly spread over the Internet and soon ended up nothing but crowded with opinions from everywhere: fansubbers, 4chan, Crunchyroll users or just curious passersby. It became difficult to follow the AMA as a result.

This is not to say the commentators were without merit, however. Many had legitimate questions about Crunchyroll as a service, in particular Daiz – who has the top-rated comment – which can be read HERE. Daiz is, to put it shortly, an infamous person in the anime fansubbing community. You may argue whether or not he does more harm than good, but he knows his stuff.

Yet, he was never actually replied to. Kun Gao completely sidestepped his questions and replied with a canned reply stating that Crunchyroll aims to be the best and that they are always improving. Not to mention how Kun Gao threw out the following comment in another reply:

CrunchyrollAMAReddit01

What does this even mean?

Is this supposed to be a joke? A tongue-in-cheek? At this point the seriousness of Crunchyroll’s AMA came into question. In one reply Kun Gao denied Crunchyroll’s illegal background, in another he replied “Over 9000!” when asked about the amount of paid subscribers only to later on properly reply it was last publicly reported being over 300,000. Furthermore, Kun Gao replied vaguely to a joke comment nested in a set of serious questions. Add in a lot of vague canned replies, never quite giving anyone the full picture, and you have a mess. This goes on and on, with essentially all of Kun Gao’s comments only damaging Crunchyroll rather than helping.

To add insult to the injury, the Crunchyroll Twitter account fooled around a lot during the AMA, only making the meager replies by Kun Gao worse. The AMA came across as if it was nothing but a joke.

CrunchyrollAMATwitter01

This only made the situation worse.

The Crunchyroll AMA seems like a failed and miscalculated attempt at advertising. Every critical question was either avoided or replied to as vague in detail as possible. We never learned if Crunchyroll planned to fix their current problems and we never learned about any future plans. Nothing was ever properly addressed in this AMA – there was no insight or transparency. Instead, it treated as a joke.

In Sweden we have a proverb that goes as follows: “Många bäckar små gör en stor å” (literally “Many small brooks form a big river”). This means that many small parts eventually end up creating a big one. This is a very apt proverb for describing Crunchyroll at the moment. There are a lot of smaller problems that are slowly building up and will eventually haunt them.

Am I, as a subscribing customer, supposed to accept this sort of behavior? Am I supposed to accept being treated like a fool? If anything, Crunchyroll’s AMA has only hurt my impression of the company and makes me question if they’re worth supporting as they act today.

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21 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Disastrous Crunchyroll Reddit AMA

  1. iblessall says:

    I didn’t really spend much time in the AMA (too many comments for my tastes), but your analysis makes me wonder if they thought they were making the company more “relatable.” Have your CEO go on reddit, crack a few jokes, answer a few questions, have some fun on Twitter…

    Like I said, I didn’t pay attention enough to really make any sort of judgements on the AMA, but it was interesting to see some of the trends that were going on & now to read your thoughts on it.

    • Marow says:

      It’s possible they wanted to make it more relatable. Not really sure, to be honest, as Kun Gao was rather stiff and impersonal.

      Good you enjoyed the post! It was a lot of fun writing it.

  2. John Samuel says:

    For all the problems, and I agree that there are several here, it still beats what I had to live with as an anime fan in the 90s.

    But, yes, definitely should have been more open/accountable in the AMA.

  3. I feel like one of the issues with such an AMA, beyond the fact that the CEO had his middle-schooler hat on for basically the whole thing, is the fact that it’s a format where legitimate complaints (from people who pay for the service and have problems with it and/or would be paying for the service if certain issues were fixed) get lumped in with complaints from people who are extremely unlikely to pay for it in the best possible case [particularly people who want it to be a download-to-own service]. Reading through a lot of it reminded me of the complaints I always hear about the price of Japanese BDs from western fans who wouldn’t buy them anyway; that sort of angry entitlement annoys just as much as the bald-faced marketing/clickbait ploys that CR and Funimation regularly engage in.

    • Marow says:

      Indeed, that is a problem. I also understand your annoyment with such behaviour. I personally feel it’s fine to complain, criticize or whatnot regardless if you’re a potential customer or not, though.

  4. Mental Invalid says:

    I’ve seen a lot of bad AMAs but this one takes the cake. I’ve gained more knowledge from the Redditors’ discussion than from Kun Gao’s actual answers.

  5. It’s a shame to see this happen. I didn’t know about the AMA before reading your most, and I was genuinely appalled by hearing about their ridiculous behaviour. Crunchyroll has such a huge potential for drawing in clients, especially here in Europe.
    Since they don’t have any competition, any anime fan with good intentions will go to them for legal streaming of anime. I mean, it’s not like we all can afford to buy every single show we want to watch. That makes Crunchyroll such a crucial source for us.

    While I’ve lost some respect for the company after hearing about this, I won’t stop subscribing to them, simply because I feel like this is one of the few ways that I can support the industry.

    • Marow says:

      Crunchyroll didn’t make much of a fuzz about their upcoming AMA, strangely enough. They did a news article on their site, they mentioned it on Twitter, but that was it. Strange marketing.

      Even more strange is, as you just said, how they don’t have much competition in Europe. I’m always confused myself whenever an anime isn’t licensed in Sweden (or the Nordics), as we don’t have anime licensors here. So the license should just be sitting there. I’d like to know if the licensing is cheap or expensive.

      I’ll be giving them one more year of me subscribing. After that, I’ll see what happens. It’s a dilemma, where it’s one of the few days to support the anime industry on my terms.

  6. Valence says:

    It felt like they were trying to get “hip” and “with it” more than actually present themselves. Like all the forced memes and jokes to try and make themselves more popular- it’s bad advertising by the wrong people for the wrong crowd.

  7. […] Crunchyroll CEO’s Reddit AMA sure left a lot of people unsatisfied, and Anime Viking was one. Crunchyroll has a lot of flaws, including its illegal beginnings and (for free users) […]

  8. Kodansha Comics AMA was ten times better than this. Dallas Middaugh and Ben Applegate maybe cracked 1 or 2 jokes, but at least were professional in their responses.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1qmqa8/we_are_kodansha_comics_the_english_publishers_of/

    I knew the CR AMA was going to be a nightmare to begin with. It makes me wonder how long CR and FUNimation can keep the anime hype train going. But I think anything Reddit involving anime/manga is going to lead nowhere.

    From what I saw of the Twitter messages, CR is treating the internet like it’s a joke, like how a lot of companies do for internet-based customers. Sure, the internet has potential, but offline still seems to the way to better communicate with someone. That’s just my take from being involved in marketing.

    • Marow says:

      I’ve now read through Kodansha’s AMA and it was pretty good! They’re professional about it; they know how to balance between serious and fun. Plus, at least I learned a lot 🙂

      What do you mean by offline marketing? Do you mean if someone would physically go interview Kun Gao, or?

  9. arimareiji says:

    Not surprised… when they tried to use a forum thread to address the rumors going around about the acquisition by The Chernin Group, what was their response to well-sourced questions and worries about how TCG was describing the acquisition in completely different terms than CR was describing it? To edit the first post of the thread into a mockery of those questions:

    “FAQ (so you don’t have to read through 20 pages):…
    5. shinji, im scared of change and im going to wildly speculate that this is really bad for no reason and vent on this thread
    -_-, take a deep breath and go back to watching more anime, trust that we have cr’s best interest in mind and that we have been around the block so we know what we are doing =)”

  10. […] ago, Crunchyroll made an AMA on Reddit only to be scrutinized well enough to make it a disaster. For all the valid points that the antagonists had, poor Kun Gao of Crunchyroll has to resort to […]

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