Give viewers more credit | the #spon debate

Talk about brand deals on YouTube has been going on for years, ever since YouTube got big enough for YouTubers to be classed as “famous” and for there to be a tween magazine dedicated to the life of various video creators like Zoella, Marcus Butler and Tanya Burr.

Because the internet is the internet, many people have different conflicting opinions about YouTubers using their channels to endorse and promote products. Some people argue that it increases the creator/viewer divide that has been steadily growing in the community. This idea of “they promote and we buy” seems to have brought with it a feeling of disillusionment, among both creators and viewers.

Others say it retracts from the authenticity that comes with being a YouTuber – the point of YouTube is that it’s people creating stuff that they want to create, rather than stuff they feel they need to create to please somebody higher up than them. But add in a company like Krave, which ran a long campaign with a series of YouTubers a few years ago, and is the authenticity still there? Are YouTubers still creating videos for themselves or their viewers, or for money and the brand that they are promoting?

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Arguments for YouTubers securing brand deals are much easier. You don’t like sponsored videos? Don’t watch them. Or, how are YouTubers supposed to keep making high quality videos if they can’t make money from it? If YouTube really is going to be the “new TV” for young people, then surely they need to except that people who’s career is YouTube need to make money from it?

I myself don’t have much of an opinion on the subject of #spon. I understand the arguments, but I think I still watch YouTube in exactly the same way I used to before the idea of being “YouTube famous” was a legitimate goal for some people. As in, I still just see it as a bunch of people expressing themselves in whatever way they feel fit. But if I get something promoted to me in the mean time I’m not gonna cry about it (or write a pissy comment before I’ve even bothered watching the video).

Basically, I don’t have a problem with sponsored videos. But what I do have a problem with is this “poor young people growing up on sponsored YouTube content” attitude – as if they are somehow tapped into this golden age of YouTube video content and nothing will ever compare. I highly doubt this golden age exists, especially considering people are entertained by different things. Just because you aren’t interested in a sponsored videos -it doesn’t mean it’s not fun for others.

But more so than that it’s just plain patronising. It gives off this simplistic, basic idea that “the kids don’t know what they’re doing”. And if they did they’d click off the sponsored content immediately. I personally just don’t think that’s the case. As with a lot of things, I think we need to stop with this attitude that “kids don’t know any better”. It’s as patronising as the hypodermic syringe method in sociology – that as soon as we are given information, we receive it wholly without questioning it.

The kids have been smart enough to find YouTube as an alternate medium for entertainment in the first place. The kids have subscribed to who they want to see more of. The kids are also, shockingly, smart enough to know when something is clickbait. And new laws mean that they know when a video is an ad.

So please, give “the kids” more credit.


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