The FTC says it’s okay for bloggers and YouTubers to accept money and free products in return for a review as long as those facts are clearly disclosed. So it’s legal – but is it ethical?
Gamasutra surveyed more than 100 YouTubers who specialize in video game coverage and asked them if they’ve ever been paid for coverage and here’s what they found out:
The chart is divided into two sections; YouTube channels with less than 5,000 subscribers and those with more. Under 5,000, only a tiny percentage have ever been paid to play. Clearly that’s the breaking point for video game companies. Over 5,000, the majority still say no but 21% said yes.
But this is only half the story. Those who haven’t taken money. . . was it because it wasn’t offered or because they think it’s ethically wrong?
So Gamasutra asked the question: “What is your opinion of YouTubers charging money to developers for video coverage, and is it ethical?”
64% of smaller channel owners said YouTubers should NOT take money for video coverage. When you move up to the larger channels, 60% say no to cash. Why? Mostly because they feel it undermines the integrity of the content and YouTube as a whole. How can you trust a reviewer to be honest if he’s being paid by the company that made the game?
A few YouTubers said it was okay to accept money if all you’re doing is playing the game, not actually reviewing it. Others said it’s just a part of doing business.
“Copyright holders don’t want us to monetize, no one likes ads, no one likes paid content — but we invest our free time into covering the games we love and want to share, basically giving free PR for the game itself. If a YouTuber asks for money for delivering great content, it’s not wrong — it’s compensation.”
And that’s the problem. . . most people think all YouTubers run their channels just for fun and you shouldn’t get paid to have fun. Bloggers used to suffer from this same misconception – still do to some extent . . . Tell the average person that you make a living on YouTube and they’ll look at you with this blank, confused stare. A living? As in, you make money? But it’s not a job so . . . how. . .
Even people who make their living elsewhere on the internet find it hard to comprehend.
Getting back to those video game tubers. . . they have a special problem. When Miss Crafty partners with a rubber stamp company for a series of design team projects, that’s business as usual. But when a channel that’s aimed at young viewers accepts a partnership, they often get accused of selling out. Instead of being happy for the YouTube star, a sponsored video is more likely to receive a hundred sneers and jeers.
So what’s a popular YouTuber to do? Take their chances. Take the money and put a huge disclaimer on the video: this review was bought and paid for by XYZ Games. Transparency above all else if you want to keep your audience coming back for more.