YouTube has always been very clear about the separation of editorial content and sponsored ads on its site: While the site is eager to sell advertising, placements as “featured” or “promoted” videos — incredibly valuable, high-traffic spots on the homepage — are not for sale.
The “featured” and “promoted” videos on the homepage are chosen by editorial criteria, and, in theory, are not influenced by who is spending money to advertise.
Or are they? Advertisers say that “promoted” videos are routinely negotiated into advertising deals on the site. What’s more, advertisers say, YouTube uses the “promoted” video slots to help meet the ad impression guarantees it makes to advertisers who buy impressions on a cost-per-thousand views (CPM) basis.
A YouTube spokesman says the company won’t comment on agreements with advertisers, but “purchasing placement on the homepage as a ‘Promoted Video’ is not a method of advertising we now offer.”
That said, the company does say “promoted videos,” featured at the top of the page, are rotated by algorithm from a pool of videos selected from “users, partners or advertisers.” Meaning if you’re an advertiser on the site, your video probably has a better chance of getting a prized slot on the homepage.
YouTube won’t say how much of the pool is comprised of advertisers, but presumably it’s significantly more than “featured videos,” which are selected from what YouTube editors deem the “most entertaining and compelling” videos of the day, and don’t rotate.
Advertising sources say YouTube never put a specific price tag on “promoted” videos, but it became standard practice for, say, a studio advertiser to negotiate placement for a movie trailer there.
A former YouTube employee said paid placement as a “promoted video” was totally above-board, widely practiced until last spring, and even listed on YouTube’s rate card. A YouTube spokesman said he couldn’t say what the company’s advertising policies were in the past, or if or when they had changed.
The YouTube homepage is an enormous promotional platform, one reason YouTube can charge upwards of $150,000 a day to advertise there. Rotation as a “promoted” or “featured” slot puts a video in front of millions of potential viewers. ComScore doesn’t separate the homepage, but taken together, YouTube had 320 million unique visitors in July worldwide, making it the fourth-largest global Web property behind Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT), and Yahoo (YHOO).
So, if there’s a paid placement to the “promoted” videos, why not disclose it or at least explain how it works? And if there isn’t, why do so many advertisers and YouTube producers labour under the false impression that it is?
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