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I understand that you were advised to make lower quality thumbnails to attract new viewers. The logic is sound that videos with flashy thumbnails will attract more clicks from random people, but they also subtract something from the credibility of your show. I love Today I Found Out's consistently amazing quality and well sourced material, and have a playlist of videos to show to students, but im not comfortable giving a student a link if it pops up as a goofy image of bubble letters and Simon making weird faces. Colorful, silly images work well for a channel like game theory that caters to a younger audience, but fall flat for a show that tries to educate. 

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I agree, I've been much less inclined to actually watch the videos with the new thumbnails. I tend to ignore them more often now because they're so over the top, dumbed down and flashy. I'm used to ignoring that type of thumbnail. I much prefer simple, modern and clean thumbnails that feel professional. Personally I'd be happier if YouTube offered a list view without thumbnails.

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I think that the advice regarding the thumbnail format is targeted to the "general YouTube viewer." Hardcore TIFO subscribers may likely be the outliers as YT users, and such tactics don't work as well or at all on us. I personally prefer the older, professional-looking thumbnails as well, but I can't blame them for trying to increase their subscriber base and therefore make more money.

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It's an experiment.  Will likely need tweaked a bit as we get data on how things are going, and maybe even scrapped altogether. No sense annoying people if it's not increasing views/subscribers. 🙂

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