Online video content is largely unregulated, which lends itself very well to paid advertisements appearing as genuine reviews and recommendations. Last week Twitch announced a new policy related to transparency in sponsored content and promotion. For Twitch users, this new policy will help clearly identify what content and channels are sponsored. It also creates and honest environment for influencers and viewers alike as they cannot be required to share positive sentiments or suppress negative ones about sponsored content.

Twitch also believes that this new shift in policy will allow brands and advertisers to benefit by gaining viewers’ trust with genuine, transparent campaigns that reach audiences in an organic way. It took Twitch all of 3 years to realize how important a policy like this is for online video platforms, but where is YouTube, the market leader?

YouTube: No Clear Policy For Paid Product Reviews

Since YouTube was purchased by Google in 2006, it has often been unclear which influencers are carrying out paid advertisements and which are genuine opinions. The main reason for this is that there is no accepted policy or norm when conducting paid product reviews. When I’m watching a review video about the Ronco Electric Food Dehydrator that’s been sponsored by Ronco, I want to know!

Two areas where paid advertisements run unconfirmed on a regular basis are in the gaming and beauty sectors of the site. Instances are so widespread it is difficult to tell the difference between genuine content and paid advertisements. Credit certainly goes to influencers for blurring those lines but is it good for viewers? Often times gaming channels are asked to review the latest game or gadget, encouraging thousands, sometimes millions of subscribers to check out the product based on their word, when their word has been bought and paid for.

Beauty Haul Videos: How Independent are They?

The same goes for beauty gurus. They have a tremendous amount of influence with a young, impressionable audience. Their online reviews, tutorials and giveaways create additional demand for products that is changing the beauty industry. But without their credibility of their expertise, these reviews wouldn’t be nearly as effective.

Not all creators are going against FTC guidelines by not declaring their interest. Gurus like Michelle Phan make it clear when they are using, or not using sponsored content, and creators like JuicyStar07 will declare their interest, highlighted in the description for this video:

youtube product placement

YouTube Need to Create Clear Guidelines Relating to Sponsorship

As the industry leader, it is YouTube’s responsibility to follow suit with Twitch and help create a policy that fosters openness on YouTube with respect to sponsored content. Partners should be required to to identify any content that is branded and should get an overlay that says “Sponsored” similar to Twitch’s new system. One of the most valuable commodities in online video is its honesty and trustworthiness. It should be protected at all costs and it is YouTube’s duty as the industry leader to lead the way.