YouTube’s Positive Coverage Controversy Creeps Onwards

A few days ago, we heard allegations that Microsoft was paying for positive coverage on YouTube. The scheme, which was running through Machinima’s family of channels, offered $3 per 1000 views for videos that featured promotion of the Xbox One.

Machinima’s UK Community Manager tweeted encouragement to enter the scheme and has since deleted not only the tweet, which promised “the easiest/best promo [they’ve] ever done!” he seems to have deleted his entire twitter account – an account that’s now been taken over by an extremely anti-machinima tweeter.

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Now a user on NeoGAF has posted evidence that EA had similar schemes in place. EA’s schemes offered $10 for every 1000 views of videos that met their stringent guidelines in the screenshot below. They also prohibited participants from disclosing their arrangement.

eayt

This is nothing new and we suspect that many more companies take part in similar efforts to get their products promoted by YouTube’s massively popular videomakers.

The ethics of it are a bit of a grey area. YouTube content creators are not bound by any code of journalistic ethics – they’re individuals taking part in a hobby. But that hobby has become extremely valuable to advertisers as some gaming channels rack up subscriber counts in their millions and view counts that dwarf traditional media outlets.

The question is simple: should influential people be compelled to disclose if they’re being paid for the statements they make? Is it dishonest to put those paid-for opinions alongside their own and present them to fans and an audience that trusts them?

UPDATE: EA have released a statement to The Verge.

“Through EA’s Ronku program, some fans are compensated for the YouTube videos they create and share about our games. The program requires that participants comply with FTC guidelines and identify when content is sponsored. User-generated videos are a valuable and unique aspect of how gamers share their experiences playing the games they love, and one that EA supports.”

“We explicitly state in the Terms & Conditions of the program that each video must comply with the FTC’s Guidelines concerning Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”

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20 Comments

  1. I wonder about the legality of it – “celebs” making sponsored tweets now have to be clear that they are sponsored, YouTubers are not.

    • i don’t see why any laws that apply to “celebrities” wouldn’t apply to Youtubers.
      they’re in the public eye, they make a living, some of them anyway, from creating entertainment for the public, and some are reviewing products on youtube.

  2. Seems that most of youtube is adverts now anyway. Paying people for positive reviews is nothing new, and I think most people can see through it when it happens.

  3. Mars.

    • *snickers*

      • No way!!…Double Deckers

      • Back on Topic!

      • It’ll be Marathon (and to a lesser extent, opal fruits) until I’m cold and in the ground!

    • Curly Wurly.

      failing that Turkish Delight.^_^

  4. I’m sure there’s a lot more that we don’t know about. Personally i take most youtube videos as being promotional but i tend to trust more those who i’ve been following for a while and when i already have an idea of where their allegiances lie.

  5. NDAs on adverts is straight fraud.

  6. If my maths is right would that mean that a video in this scheme achieving 6 million hits would make $60k from EA. That’s crazy money!

    • $60,000 buys a lot of brand loyalty… or a PS4 :)

      But in all honesty this is getting a bit much, all the trust is leaving the industry en masse.

  7. Shady. The issue isn’t that MS paid people to say nice things about their new console. If the actual product isn’t enough to sell itself, throw as much money at it as you want. The issue is that they made them sign an extensive non-discloser agreement to keep quiet about the fact they were being paid to say these things.

  8. From what I’ve read it’s illegal for them not to disclose that it’s marketing material anyway, if they were told not to disclose the arrangement then that is underhanded and against the law.

  9. EA response is shit. So many BF4 youtubers said the game was fantastic, then after all the hoohaaa of it not working, then came out and said “well we did notice the crashes but thought they would be fixed” to cover their arses.

    Pathetic. It should clearly state its a promotional video, end of. None of what I’ve seen have said any of that or made it clear.

  10. NDAs should be disclosed.

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