We the users of YouTube are at a strategically interesting fork in the path. News has just broken that Microsoft is allegedly paying high-profile YouTube personalities for positive endorsements of the XBox One. According to a now-deleted Tweet from Machinima’s UK community manager, that MCN is particularly on board with this arrangement, which is said to pay out $3 for every thousand views. Naturally, Microsoft is now denying any involvement in such lowland tactics. And Machinima doesn’t seem to be saying much of anything yet.
According to technology site Ars Technica: “To qualify for the campaign (and the extra payments), Machinima partners had to post a video including at least 30 seconds of Xbox One game footage that mentioned the Xbox One by name and included the tag ‘XB1M13.’”
So our fork in the path is this: with the knowledge we have of this backroom agreement — this legal payola-type of chicanery (astroturfing), do we buy in? Down one path, supporting our favorite YouTubers as they gush about the awesome features of the new Xbox, whether they are genuine in their endorsements or not, allows them to get paid and grow their reach. Those are both positives, because we like our favorite YouTubers and want them to keep making videos.
But down the other path, we have what amounts to a non-endorsement. We don’t watch their videos about the Xbox and its myriad of functions because we know that said opinion is just corporate money selling to us. This results in the experiment being a failure and it perhaps stymies other companies from attempting similar ploys. Sure, our favorite YouTubers don’t make the extra cash, but this path keeps everybody honest and maintains that the integrity of our favorite channels stay intact — the creators don’t become corporate puppets.
If we can’t trust our favorite YouTubers, will they still be our favorite YouTubers? Hmm, hmm, hmm. I’ll tell you what — if Microsoft was really smart, they’d pay a certain reporter to not ask these questions.
Here’s another story about corporate gamesmanship, Tyler Oakley and the band One Direction: