Some companies are willing to cut the line between hungry, opinion-based editorial sites and paid advertising. Recently uncovered information has shown a hidden promotional campaign has been going on between Microsoft and video entertainment network, Machinima. This reportedly started with a deal about Machinima's content secretly promoting the Xbox One.
According to Ars Technica, an offer was made to Machinima's video partners and users so that they would receive an additional $3 CPM if their videos featured at least 30 seconds of Xbox One footage, mentioned the system by name and included the tag "XB1M13" with the video (in other words, a video would receive an additional $3 per thousand views as long as it adhered to these rules). This may not seem like much money, but it certainly adds up when considering Machinima's large fanbase. Also, users in this promotion were not allowed to say any negative comments or any form of criticism against the Xbox One or any of the games in its library.
Given that there are more and more ways to block/combat ads throughout the more popular areas of internet, it's no surprise that companies are starting to target fan-oriented institutions of the gaming industry most people think exist on neutral, unbiased grounds. Since Machinima's app was ready to download on the Xbox One's release date (and given the relatively scarce amount of third party apps on the Xbox One), Microsoft and Machinima seem to be on good terms.
The provided picture below is a leaked image that was emailed to various partners of Machinima in order to encourage the companies' secret deal about promoting the Xbox One.
In response to Ars Technica's article, Microsoft and Machinima have released the following joint statement:
"This partnership between Machinima and Microsoft was a typical marketing partnership to promote Xbox One in December. The Xbox team does not review any specific content or provide feedback on content. Any confidentiality provisions, terms, or other guidelines are standard documents provided by Machinima. For clarity, confidentiality relates to the agreements themselves, not the existence of the promotion."
Apparently the onus was on the YouTubers to provide full disclosure based on this statement. Was the deal merely worded confusingly, or was there something more sinister at play? Perhaps this whole ordeal was merely blown out of proportion. Whatever the case, it's another blemish on YouTube, only this time it's not Google who's looking bad.