[UPDATE] Microsoft Paying YouTubers To Talk Nice About The Xbox One
UPDATE 3: YouTube personality boogie2988 (also known as ‘Francis’) has made a video explaining how these types of promotions work. Check it out.
UPDATE 2: A Machinima representative contacted Kotaku about the promotion, and provided the following statement:
“We execute large network wide activations routinely and, where part of a promotional campaign, typically require channel partners to include certain language in their video content relating to the promotion. That didn’t happen here and we’re evaluating why. All participants are being asked today to include our standard language going-forward. We apologize for the error and any confusion.”
At least now you’ll know who’s being paid for their content, right?
UPDATE: Microsoft and Machinima issued a joint statement in regards to the Xbox One promotion (via The Verge):
“This partnership between Machinima and Microsoft was a typical marketing partnership to promote Xbox One in December. The Xbox team does not review any specific content or provide feedback on content. Any confidentiality provisions, terms or other guidelines are standard documents provided by Machinima. For clarity, confidentiality relates to the agreements themselves, not the existence of the promotion.”
A little context makes the world go ’round, yeah? This update makes the Xbox One promotion sound a lot like the EA/Ronku promotions in 2013 (see below), which is more in line with what we expect in a YouTube-specific marketing deal.
Microsoft is paying YouTube content creators for talking about the Xbox One, and the fine print in the agreement is leaving many with questions about ethics, disclosure, and the product endorsement relationship.
Reports starting surfacing over the weekend that Microsoft was pushing a new marketing campaign on YouTube — a $3 CPM (that’s three dollars per 1,000 views) for video creators talking about the Xbox One. In order to get some of the extra cash, YouTubers would need to show 30 seconds of Xbox One gameplay, mention that they’re playing the game on an Xbox One, and use the appropriate tag on their video (XB1m13). They would also have to following the guidelines set by Microsoft and Machinima, which is where this starts to get murky.
There’s nothing wrong with promoting products on YouTube — and it’s certainly not a new practice — but a lack of disclosure on the endorser’s part (that is, whoever is making the YouTube video), shines a light on the ethics involved in such a relationship. Disclosure is strictly forbidden in this case, according to the contract that comes from Xbox and Machinima:
You agree to keep confidential at all times all matters relating to this Agreement, including, without limitation, the Promotional Requirements, and the CPM Compensation, listed above. You understand that You may not post a copy of this Agreement or any terms thereof online or share them with any third party (other than a legal or financial representative). You agree that You have read the Nondisclosure Agreement (attached hereto and marked as Exhibit “A”) and You understand and agree to all of terms of the Nondisclosure Agreement, which is incorporated as part of this Agreement.
It could also infringe on a few FTC regulations, as Ars Technica points out, specifically those regarding “…a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement.”
I don’t think video creators need to subscribe to the same ethical standards as “journalists,” unless they are referring to themselves as such, but an endorsement disclosure, particularly when there are laws on the books about such relationships, is probably a good idea, yeah?
YouTube endorsements are quickly becoming the norm, with companies like EA regularly paying YouTubers for EA-related videos. According to YouTube personalities familiar with their practices, EA also pays significantly more than Xbox and Machinima — $10-$15 per 1,000 views as opposed to the $3 CPM offered by Microsoft — and its video programs are more frequent. The Battlefield 4 videos you saw last year (before the game was released), uploaded by Battlefield and Call of Duty players and commentators? Many of those were paid for by EA. Many of these videos don’t have any sort of endorsement disclosure, but participants we’ve talked to said EA didn’t bar any sort of disclosure, either — it was completely up to the content creator to disclose if they wanted to.