Is Microsoft buying positive press on YouTube?

Microsoft may have gotten caught buying YouTube exposure for the Xbox One, if a report from Ars Technica turns out to be completely accurate.

Ars' Kyle Orland wrote yesterday about an advertising opportunity for Machinima's YouTube partners: include Xbox One footage in your video and earn an extra $3 CPM on that video. That means for every thousand views, the author of the content would get an extra $3.

The controversy stems from the conditions of the offering: you can't say anything negative about the Xbox One, its games, or Machinima, and you can't disclose that you're taking part in the offer. That sounded dicey to Orland who suggests the deal might go against the

FTC's guidelines on the use of endorsements
. There're a lot more details over on Ars Technical and I urge you to head over there if the topic interests you.

It all sounds a bit shady to me, but what's really surprising is that the offer was limited to paying out $3,750, which it apparently has already done. It seems like Microsoft and Machinima stuck their necks out pretty far for a pretty small promotion.

I'm purely running on speculation at this point, but I can only think the deal was so small that whomever put it together didn't bother to run it past Microsoft's lawyers. It's like they took some money out of petty cash to toss at YouTubers. (I'm being facetious; don't clobber me in the comments!)

As for YouTube channel operators who took part in this deal, well, I don't think you're doing yourselves any favors. Gamers are a prickly bunch (I say this as a gamer myself) and it doesn't take much for us to lose trust in a brand. If you get caught 'selling out' in a deal like this, you could wind up losing money in the long run, as your audience heads elsewhere.

It's going to be interesting to see if this story just fades away or if it snowballs into a big issue. My crystal ball remains foggy on this one. What do you think? Much ado about nothing, or has Microsoft pulled a major blunder?

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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