YouTube sensation PewDiePie has defended his association with Warner Bros' Shadow of Mordor promotion, and attacked the press for embroiling him in the controversy.
Earlier this week Warner was slammed by the FTC for not insisting that YouTubers disclosed their paid sponsorship for Shadow of Mordor coverage. Among those involved in the promotion was PewDiePie.
However, the Swede has pointed out – as did many in the press, it should be added – that his video did carry a disclaimer, albeit below the fold rendering it not immediately obvious. The video itself did not carry any verbal disclaimer.
This is two years ago. A lot of YouTubers were involved in this sponsorship but since I'm the biggest YouTuber, my name is the only one that pops up,” he argued. We weren't required to disclose. I still did it. Some other YouTubers actually didn't disclose it, but I'm getting all the shit for it.
The FTC didn't release guidelines to YouTube until 2015. And this video was in 2014. Because of this back then YouTube paid promotion was a bit of a grey area. Nevertheless, I still disclaimed it.”
He does concede, however, that: Yes, I could have disclosed it better. I could have put it above the fold."
The video then embarks on a rant directed at the press for the use of his name in the headlines, despite what he argues to be his innocence.
Basically all these news articles are using me as a clickbait, putting my name to shame when I didn't even do anything wrong,” he added. This happens time and time with the media. They take someone's who popular like me and run with whatever story is going to get them more clicks and my name gets run in the ground.”
Here's the thing, though. The press runs headlines on PewDiePie because people are interested in PewDiePie. If David Cameron and Martha the chip shop owner from Whitstable were found down an allotment clubbing kittens to death, the press would be doing the public a disservice if Martha grabbed the headlines, right? Because the public would of course be more interested in our former Prime Minister's part in the really very odd brutality.
By the same token, of course PewDiePie's involvement is of more interest than that of other YouTubers.
All online news coverage is clickbait, by that definition, as it is designed to be clicked. It is written because it is believed it will be of interest to people, and published in the hope that these people will then click it.
This event involving this person happened” is not clickbait. You'll never guess which person this thing happened to!” is. Would people really prefer the headline Games publisher paid some people for coverage of a game”?
Certain individuals didn't disclose their payment for producing videos about a game”. Sovereign country votes to leave continental political alliance”. Country loses quarter final and is eliminated from tournament”. Football club signs midfielder from different league”. Emergency service worker shoots a person in a place”. A person said a thing”.
Ultimately that is the path we go down if all detail, interest and sensationis to be stripped from headlines.
We can also not escape the fact that while the traditional games press has for many years had to endure endless accusations of corruption when no such evidence exists, YouTubers continue to be celebrated as the new dawn of virtue despite the growing catalogue of documented deceit. And yeah, that hurts.
At the same time, PewDiePie should most certainly not been accused of deliberately misleading viewers. MCV's headline referenced only the fact that he was paid by Warner to produce a Shadow of Mordor video. Our story also pointed out that there was disclosure, and that this disclosure was hidden behind the fold.
In his response PewDiePie also shows a clip at the end of his Mordor video in which he simply thanks his viewers, arguing that this does not equate to a positive endorsement. We suspect that the previous footage of him very much enjoying the game was the endorsement Warner had hoped and paid for, however.
PewDiepIe finishes by accusing press of being literally insignificant”, adding: That's why you're pulling this shit ‘cos I think you know it. If I did something wrong I should be paying the consequences. In this case I don't think I did anything wrong.”
Which if true makes you wonder why a response was required in the first place, but still…