YouTube can open up new revenue streams to take advantage of as your influence grows and expands. Oftentimes, this comes in the form of sponsored content, where you craft videos specifically for companies related to a product or service.
Sponsored content will vary depending on the focus of a channel. Video game specific channels might get commissions for specific games or peripherals like headsets or third-party controllers. Filmmaking channels could highlight new equipment from a specific brand. Regardless of what it may be, sponsored videos are an excellent opportunity to make extra money off your channel.
The problem, however, is that so many YouTubers aren't open about which videos are fully original and what's paid for. Instead of telling audiences at the start of sponsored videos, they're burying the information deep within the video description, where viewers aren't likely to see it. This lack of transparency is a growing trend and unless corrected could lead to bigger problems.
What’s the problem with not disclosing promoted videos? Let’s say you're running a gaming channel and feature videos ranging from gameplay first-impressions to full reviews. Your channel is based on the premise of bringing your opinions to viewers. This is what your audience comes to expect and the entire reason they subscribe is because they value your thoughts enough to use them to form their own opinions on games.
Posting sponsored videos alongside regular content without denoting the difference is disingenuous.
Posting sponsored videos alongside regular content without denoting the difference is disingenuous. Without letting people know, audiences might misconstrue the intention; believing you’re recommending or reviewing a game.
Don’t treat sponsored videos like everything else. Sure, it's new content to flesh out your channels, but the purpose is drastically different. Regular videos are focused on ideas and information unique to the creator, while sponsored videos are to spotlight specific product or service your viewers might be interested in.
Blurring this distinction may seem beneficial at first: consistent content keeps the channel active, and you’re getting paid for them at the same time. Once viewers figure out the truth, however, the reputation you’ve developed will sour. Trust isn’t easily recovered and viewers will always wonder if they’re watching genuine opinions or something sponsored. At this point your subscriber numbers will drop dramatically. It’s a short term gain, but long term loss situation.
Be up front about sponsored content, verbally mentioning it at the beginning of a video and making a clear notation in the description. Viewers respect the straightforwardness and, in the right context, having paid content lends a level of credibility to a channel. It's the mentality of, "this person is important enough to have sponsored videos, they must be worth checking out."
If you've reached the point where companies and brands want to work with you on sponsored content, you should be proud of that accomplishment. Viewers deserve honesty and will appreciate the respect shown by doing so. The trend of YouTubers actively hiding information on paid videos will only lead to widespread audience mistrust; a detriment to all creators looking to carve out a place of their own.
Jordan Maison is an editor and VFX artist who has plied his talents in web content for Disney Studios and many movie/videogame entertainment websites.