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Paid influencers must label some posts as ads, German court rules (reuters.com)
763 points by DocFeind on Sept 9, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 173 comments

The headline in a domestic newspaper reads "There are some product placements that influencers do not need to label as ads"



it's all about framing

The ruling was actually in favor of influencers, as before almost everything had to be labeled as an ad. Now there is a ruling that makes a lot of exceptions. So the headline you cited is closer to the truth IMHO.

This is a better headline, as it clarifies the situation. The Reuters headline, that influencers must label posts as ads when money changes hands, is not really news - the law was voted on this June, and goes into effect at the beginning of next year.

Hmm - ok, I've squeezed a 'some' up there to make it less misleading. Thanks!

I just read the article and from the facts listed in it the decision seems fairly reasonable.

Hopefully this will generate a bit more legal reliability for them. The current legal situation was (and probably still is) somewhat absurd.

> it's all about framing

My pet peeve are the news snippets in Google Discover or Google News, which then lead to a paywalled article.

From my point of view these snippets are all ads for the newspaper or magazine which is promoting them by giving Google access to index them.

One could argue that they are not actively promoting their articles, that it is Google who is "stealing" the content and publishing it, but then again, they want to be monetized through the "Leistungsschutzrecht" (Ancillary copyright for press publishers), so they are well aware that having their articles indexed is beneficial to them. They might as well add a robots.txt file, which is respected by Google.

They are also formatting their articles in such a way, that the snippets are as attractive as possible, which becomes obvious when you read an article and have the feeling that you're reading 3 times the same content until you get to the real information.

These snippets are clearly ads and Google should have to label them as such, unless the content is free-to-view.

This is not new. Newspapers typically were folded so you could read the headline on the front page before deciding to buy it. And then you'd have a paperboy yelling "Extra! Extra! Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor!"

What does "übertrieben werblich" even mean?

Did those people read any Apple fanboy blogs lately? These people actually pay Apple AND write overboarding positive reviews.

That's the zeitgeist.

Whether or not these influencers should have to label ads is one thing.

But... I'll note how "little guy" regulation works relative to major players.

You don't see court, legislature decisions, or such upending the business model of a FB, Google or whatnot. Every word will be negotiated, Google and/or FB will have control over implementation. Often, the regulation will be a net positive, given that it can slow small competitors down. The process will take years, the roll out will be gradual....

"Influencers" or really anyone selling content via platforms can have rules slapped onto them by either the state or the platform without notice, lots of potential for revenue disruption... It's easy to belittle the little, and this article kind does it too: "The court said one fitness influencer should have been clear she was advertising when she was paid to promote a brand of jam."

Meanwhile.. FB, Adwords and such got decades of lead time. Extreme tolerance of various dubious practices as regulation designed to be business friendly at the cost of timeliness & effectiveness was slowly formulated. No parliament demands Fast and Furious post little notices, nor have they over decades.

This is frankly not true in a lot of European countries. Google, Facebook and every other company cannot advertise things like toys, tobacco or alcohol to children here in Denmark, and they have to clearly tell you which parts are advertising and which aren’t. This is why Facebook has an “suggested” and an “advertising tag, that you can even click on to be told what metrics decided that you should see it. As well as options to ignore advertisers or setup personal preferences.

I’m not going to defend Google or Facebook, but they didn’t add those things because they wanted to. They added them because their platforms would be banned from Europe if they didn’t.

Influencers are actually some of the only advertisers who aren’t well regulated in Europe, and it’s honestly a real issue when they have more reach than national television stations.

In Denmark alone we’ve had issues with influencers advertising plastic surgery or sugar dating to teenagers and below. Things that are extremely illegal through any other medium, but because “influencers” fall outside of traditional law, it’s been very hard to stop them with the legalisation that we have. In fact they have only been stopped by being publicly shamed in other media, causing them so much bad press that nobody wanted to pay them to advertise things.

So it’s actually quite the opposite, but I’ll be the first to agree that the platforms should also be held into account for the things they allow influencers to post. Not a very popular opinion on HN, but as far as I’m concerned Europe would lose nothing by kicking non-EU software companies where it hurts.

I did not read netcan's statement as the thesis that there is no legislation regarding "big corps" in the EU. I read it as a statement about speed and willingness regarding the establishment of new laws or law changes.

Whether the statement i interpreted is true i cannot tell, but it would be interesting to have data points on it.

The thing I think is false is your portrayal of EU legislation targeting the little person while leaving the big corps alone. Because reality is quite the opposite.

We are struggling to handle “influencers” because they are a “new” concept in terms of legislation. They fall into a loophole, and dealing with it isn’t “quick” as you suggest, but something that has been slowly grinding into gear over the last decade and will in all likelihood take at least another decade to reach any form of completion.

By contrast the big Corps you say go free have been handled by advertisements legislation that has existed since the dawn of the news paper and which regularly gets updated.

The issue influencers pose the traditional legislation is that they fall into the category of being private individuals voicing their private opinion, which used to get regulated by the media platforms they did it on, but this isn’t true with SoMe because of the other legal loophole these platforms exploit by not being forced into an editorial role for the content they host.

That’s another issue that will also take decades to see decent legislation, but as far as advertisement goes, big Corps are covered while the little guy is not.

precisely and concise.

> Influencers are actually some of the only advertisers who aren’t well regulated in Europe,

When was the last time you saw product placements being clearly labeled in TV shows/movies? For most people, the answer is "never".

Just because we are used to it doesn't mean it's fair. Tom Scott explains it much better than I can: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-x8DYTOv7w

>> they (Google & FB) didn’t add those things because they wanted to. They added them because their platforms would be banned from Europe if they didn’t.

These regulatory environments, including european countries, merge regulator and platform. One controls the literal regulation, while the other controls implementation. Both are heavily involved in each others decision making.

I'm not saying that advertising plastic surgery or sugar dating to teenagers is good, or should not be regulated. Lots of things are troublesome and need courts and legislators to do stuff. I'm just noting what happens the difference depending on who's pocket book it impacts.

No countries, certainly not EU countries, make quick turnaround decisions that could gut a major revenue stream at FB-scale.

You’re right, but it’s worth pointing out that the other party being slowed down by these rules are corporations that are paying influencers to post ads, some of which are quite large. They’re losing a source of sneaky ads hidden as genuine personal endorsement.

Advertising exists, and I have no problem talking about that as a whole.

"Paid influencing" is <1% of that near trillion dollar market. The real meat is divided between giants like Google and FB. They own the platforms, dictate terms and cut content makers in on a sliver when and if they choose. That is true for music, porno, instagram garden influencing...

The advertising buyer side has a megacorp presence, but it's mostly a lot of everything and there's not much power concentration. Platforms generally want to own the connections. Advertiser-influencer, artist-listener, youtuber-viewer, etc. Sponsorships and paid placement is a workaround. It's what TV, cinema, games and such got away with for decades. Maybe there are transparency rules or somesuch somewhere... but nowhere does regulation upend the business model or get overly handsy. When it's an instagram people instead disney, open season.

I'm not against regulating advertising. I just think picking on the smallest, ugliest kid and then running off is scapegoating.

> You don't see court, legislature decisions, or such upending the business model of a FB, Google or whatnot.

Because they usually follow the laws, and their context is always obvious. The problem with the "little guy" influencer is the not so obvious mix between personal actions and business.

Sometimes they show you their dog pooping, the next second they tell you how awesome the shit-bags of $COMPANY are. How should the viewer know whether this was now a paid placement, or just the personal opinion of that person. With Google and Facebook you will never seen such things, and when they tell you how awesome their newest Service is, everyone knows the intention behind it. Para-social effects are not the same with an anonymous company.

In the past big monopolies have been dismantled. See for example AT&T. Google, Facebook, Amazon, they exist for a relatively short period of time. Don't you think they will also be dismantled in the next 10-30 years?

AT&T just re-merged after the break-up, so it’s a bad example.

See the diagram: https://www.theverge.com/2016/10/24/13389592/att-time-warner...

Not sure why it's a bad example. 35 years later it did not "just re-merged", it still is in a few pieces. You need to think about how the present would look like if there was no breaking up. And that present likely would not have google, fb, amazon - only AT&T.

The diagram has 3 input companies and 3 output companies, so at a surface level it seems nothing has changed. Even Google Fiber couldn’t compete with the big guys because (at least partially) these utility companies are so entrenched in lobbying etc.

I don’t doubt the break-ups are effective in the short term, but the long-term behavior in this case seems to be less affected.

I wouldn't call Instagram influencers the "little guy", many are millionaires (either off the back of social media or old school Kardashian style). They milk their fans through unregulated advertising and get richer.

With the attitude that regulation disproportionately effects start-ups or small businesses no regulation would ever end up law, which seems to be the point of this style of comment.

Many is relative. The big "little guys" are making just a per mill of the whole. If you earn as much as a regular office worker, you are already part of the 0.1 top-Influencers. The millionaires are even lower, 0.01% or 0.001%. But the laws apply the same for all of them.

And from my understanding, the poor influencers are the most harmful ones, as they sell even the most awful trash. While the rich ones at least usually have some standards. An exception are the single cases of rich bitches who directly scam their followers with something illegal.

"Many"? How many? Source?

Irrelevant. The people who own the most morally corrupt and toxic companies, that are destroying the planet, have all the money in the world to advertise and influence "organically" when everything they do is as inorganic and unnatural as it gets.

Industrialists will be first to the guillotine(in Minecraft of course).

Sounds like influencers need to form a union?

Can’t wait for this legislation to be extended to legislators, “this legislation contains a paid promotion” would be a great label to apply. Perhaps traditional media outlets should be required to do the same thing with their advertisers. Maybe doctors disclosing which companies have sent them off to a “medical conference” in Las Vegas or some other holiday destination would be a good idea too. You could think up new ones all day…

Makes sense, especially when it is so difficult to tell apart Google search results from Ads.

Who cares if they're the little guy. The influencers are lying to their followers to fool them into wasting their money, so they can profit. Little guys also includes shoplifters and con-men. They're still bad for others.

Well, I think the point here is that you don't become good or evil, or do harm or not do harm, by virtue of being big or small. Yet that seems to be the primary axis on whether legislation pampers its target or not.

Maybe that's because the little guy is so easily bought and will promote anything

US law already requires influencers to disclose ads. (And the FTC says that US law includes foreigners whose audience is reasonably likely to include Americans)


It seems to be WILDLY unenforced then, no?

In the USA, it doesn't seem to be done. I was actually shocked -- and then realized how naive I was -- when i was talking to someone at a party who had a tiktok where she reviewed garden products, to find out that it wasn't just "free product", she was literally getting paid by the companies to give them good reviews, and from the tiktok you wouldn't know she wasn't just reviewing things she had bought on her own independently.

It did seem to me like this was probably a problem for the FTC, but I realized, oh, this is just how it's done now, nobody ever discloses.

Most of the statutes that can only be enforced by the federal government are like this: it's not just the FTC.

Federal law enforcement is a teensy tick on top of an enormous dog which is crime. The FTC is really small compared to its purported bailiwick. It would need more lawyers than the largest law firms in the US to accomplish anything close to its responsibilities, and it would need to duplicate the FBI to act as its enforcement/investigation arm. Most of the jobs at the FTC aren't even lawyer jobs, but are in more analytical roles.

Unfortunately, this means that there is no equal treatment under the law, which means that the rule of law is only partial.

Now you’re getting it

then the question that will never be solved: scale down/simplify the laws to what can be enforced, or exoand the bureaucracy to try to meet the demand signal...

Perhaps I'm unimaginitive, but it seems impossible to enforce anyway: how can you tell the difference between my verbose and well-thought-out positive review of a product I really liked, compared to someone paid to come up with their own positive review?

Cynically, for years I've been treating pretty much every single product review I encounter as though it's bought by the manufacturer. Ya know, since the internet is a giant steaming pile of algorithmically generated bullshit (for the most part).

>it seems impossible to enforce anyway: how can you tell the difference between my verbose and well-thought-out positive review of a product I really liked, compared to someone paid to come up with their own positive review?

Sting operations seem like a practical way to enforce this rule.

(Not that I consider the rule a good one: in fact, if as others here say, the rule is "WILDLY unenforced" in the US, then I say either start enforcing it more or get rid of it.)

> how can you tell the difference between my verbose and well-thought-out positive review of a product I really liked, compared to someone paid to come up with their own positive review?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but isn't this the problem of enforcement period? How can you tell I didn't just buy this garage full of Playstations and throw away the receipt? How can you tell he was pushed over that cliff, and he didn't just trip? In the case of paid advertisements, at least you've got a paper trail connecting the advertiser and the, ugh, influencer.

that's simple, by disclosing that it was sponsored or paid for. Then let readers be the judge.

> how can you tell the difference between...

Probably by finding the financial records that you received payment from the brand.

FWIW, most Twitch/YT streamers I see label their sponsored content as #sponsored or #ad. There are certainly more pernicious ads that go unlabeled though,

The FTC doesn't move super fast, but they have done some enforcement actions over this: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/terms/231

Yeah, the problem with laws is they need to be enforced. It is even harder when the enforcers disagree with the laws (local police vs. gun laws, vax laws, noise laws), or if there deliberately are not enough enforcers (FTC, SEC, IRS, etc., underfunding).

This is enormously surprising to me. I can't seem to find any links to official legal code or documents on that page (seems to be a guide for influencers). What I'm specifically interested in, is what happens when as an influencer you _don't_ disclose an ad? Are there fines? Is it a series of "stern warnings", akin to the Comcast emails you'd get for pirating big Hollywood studio movies from public trackers on a home connection? An n-strikes and you're out system?

Influencers (in joint union with targeted advertisements-- and even more tangentially cross-site/browser/device fingerprinting) has made me extremely embittered and disillusioned to social media in general, going so far as to delete old accounts made while I was younger and even abandoning certain platforms. (early-mid-20's here btw)

>What I'm specifically interested in, is what happens when as an influencer you _don't_ disclose an ad? Are there fines?

Of course, not everyone is caught and punished but if you're big enough to attract the scrutiny of the FTC, they do issue fines for not disclosing ad sponsorship. Example:


Thanks for link! In that case, fined the company, but not the influencers?

I mean, it makes sense, the influencers are small potatos in many cases just hustling to get by.

But... the company probably just takes the risk as a potential cost of doing business (especially when enforcement is so rare; in this case they were fined $1 million which isn't peanuts, but I wonder what % of their profits it was...), and the influencer has no incentive to worry about it at all unless the company paying them tells them to.

when an influencer is making $10k/mo or more, they probably have incorporated, or they're a sole proprietorship.

How exactly do they go about enforcing this?

Two recent possibilities:

Steve Harvey randomly changing his twitter icon to an nft: https://twitter.com/IAmSteveHarvey

-Seems somewhat likely to me somebody paid him to do this in order to pump the NFT release

Steph Curry tweeting about crypto advice and then the next day announcing he's been hired as a 'brand ambassador' for FTX: https://twitter.com/StephenCurry30/status/143504771695066726...

- Obviously was all set up as a marketing reveal

Yep exactly like US law forbids email, SMS, and phone spam...

The law is gutless. Spend like 30s on any Youtube channel.

I really wish they'd actually enforce this one.

YouTube is better than the FTC at this. There are very clear rules for any sponsored or paid content and channels can get deleted if they don't follow it.

"This phone really shows fingerprints, so I would knock it down a notch, except this easily fixed with this dope x brand skin, so it's ok!"

Just recently I was trolling through youtube looking for tool reviews and insights. One in particular that stood out to me, the first video, the presenter(rather well known) blasted a brand of tool, saying he didn't understand why they even existed, seemed underpowered, overpriced, etc. A week later he had a video showcasing their tools, and at least tagged it 'sponsoredContent', as if anyone reads those. He featured them on about 3 more videos saying how surprising they are and good value. Really gross to watch. Youtube is about as helpful as Amazon reviews anymore.

I’ve seen disclaimers in YouTube videos by just about every channel with a larger audience for years now. I don’t really browse through publications on the daily enough to tell you about those (I get linked to articles directly most often than not nowadays) but I vaguely remember news about a whistleblower outing one of the bigger video game sites about two years ago, revealing that a staggering number of their posts was paid for advertising.

German law does so too since a long time, in a way absurd enough that some people started labeling everything as ad as it's too risky for them not to do so even through they might not do any "advertisement" at all.

The curt ruling wasn't about the curt now newly forcing posts to be labeled but it was about creating a bit more clarity when it needs to be labeled and when not.

What happens when these foreigners don't?

"Fuck around and find out"

AKA Absolutely nothing until your actions affect the wrong entity

I think this will be quite similar to non-EU business that do not have an actual legal foothold in the EU: nothing happens (because what actually could?).

I am actually surprised by some US businesses (local newspapers for instance) that make the effort to use GDPR cookies instead of not giving, as you say, a fuck.

I just assume that any time any product is promoted, that the person is a potential shill. It may be a cynical view, but I find it a cleaner metric than trusting the poster to disclose whether they are getting compensated for mentioning a product.

Sure, but there are many people/followers who are new to some industry/products.

I mean Im the same way, but have recently gotten into a new hobby where I was searching a bit to figure out my "first purchase." It was hard to find genuine content/reviews/suggestions. It's easy to stay clear of the affiliate/SEO sites, but it's really hard to parse what is sponsored or not in expert/influencer content.

Its Germany. They dont make assumptions about anything unless its in the rule book, as a rule.

> They dont make assumptions about anything unless its in the rule book, as a rule.

I'm curious. Is this in any German rulebook? (I secretly want it to be).

The secret rule book was lost during WW1 which is why thinks went so out of hand afterwards.

(Sorry for the bad joke, but as a German the though that there is a secret rule book which was lost in WW1 had me rolling, I just have no idea why??)

> Is this in any German rulebook?

Idk. but I feel that:

- State organs often act as if it's the case.

- Politicians often do some many (bad/wrong) assumptions hat I feel it would be better if it would be the case.

In the aftermath of WW1 the secret rule book was accidentally allowed to become too secret.

Indeed, and it becomes very apparent when it’s a product you know is rubbish.

Why does YouTube or Instagram tolerate sponsored content?

They don't get a cut from a sponsored video or product placement, and their dominance in the advertising space means this is also cutting into their ad revenue.

Sponsored content is the main income for creators, so if a platform banned it there would be a mass exodus and they'd lose their dominance.

But they would earn more money from regular ad revenue, presumably.

You're painting a rather bleak picture -- that the majority of creators/influencers' content is advertising. If that's the case, I'm not sure why Youtube/Instagram should also tolerate that -- it's basically spam on their platform they haven't curated through their ad network.

The platform is essentially getting a cut -- their own ad revenue -- from content producers who are financially supported via sponsorship/paid content. Right now it's just economically not feasible for the platforms to force themselves into that sponsorship relationship without risking an exodus of their most profitable users. And Google doesn't really want to be in the business of individually managing influencers' relationships with brands, anyway.

Brand deals are the majority of their income, but not the majority of their content. This just means the platforms aren't paying very much, since the platforms are advertising on _all_ their content and yet creators are managing to earn ~80% of their income through brand deals on a tiny fraction of their content. 58% of creators post 16 or less sponsored posts a year, and those with more followers post even less[0], while the majority of creators post significantly more content than that.

Creators are very careful not to overwhelm their audience with ads; their audience (and their portability to new platforms/ channels) is their number one asset since they may need to jump to new platforms in the future as their channels can get demonetized/ banned for frivolous reasons.

[0] https://influencermarketinghub.com/creator-earnings-benchmar...

> _all_ their content

Except if they believe you are not advertisement friendly content.

Like any discussion or educational material about any touchy topic gets not ads (and there are a lot of such thinks).

YT accidentally mistaking a think you sayd as a black listed swear word (even if you didn't say it and are not even speaking in the language its from and it just sound similar) => No Ad Money.

Politics => No Ad Money.

Covering Covid related thinks => No Ad Money.

Covering local news including violence => No Ad Money.


> But they would earn more money from regular ad revenue, presumably.

I’m not sure why you would presume that. Also, product placement has been a standard feature of entertainment for a long time. I don’t see why you’d expect Google and Facebook to be the ones to take a stand on this, after all this time.

Youtube et al tolerate it because these influencers posts ultimately mean more eyes are fixed on the platform to watch the actual first party advertisements. Having these influencers rely on third party sponsored posts for their funding means that youtube doesn't have to pay them very much at all.

And they can eventually change terms to charge a percentage, maybe only on the biggest channels for ease of enforcement, like record labels eventually started doing with concert tickets and merch.

How would they even do that? Music artists are free to make their own endorsements without having to pay their label.

Surely just by contract when they get a 'record deal', and practically by hiring the accountant who does the artists books to make sure they don't try and earn without paying the masters?

A lot of content contains or is funded by a product placement but is otherwise not advertising.

For example, a guy is teaching me to fix a generic, unbranded toilet issue but stops to mention a particular widget or toolbelt he is being paid to use.

Next video he is teaching me to fix a sump pump and there again he mentions his sponsored plumbing gear.

This is fine by me. I learn how to fix things and some plumbing widget company pays the bill.

Spam is something nobody wants. The influencers videos quite some people want to see despite their sneaky ads. So youtube gets views, too.

Not all sponsored ads are sneaky, a number of YouTube channels I watch do hilarious skits for each one at the end of their videos which I think is a win for everyone involved.

At this point I don't think there's a single channel I watch that produces original content for YouTube (as opposed to, say, speedruns of video games or stream recordings) that is not sponsored. The last few holdouts gave in just a year or two ago. Just like podcasts, they'll do an ad read before, in the middle of, or after the video. I've gotten very used to skipping them.

> Spam is something nobody wants.

Spam is something the recipient doesn't want. What is or isn't spam is subjectively determined by each individual recipient. If spam were strictly determined by what nobody wants, requiring complete consensus, then nothing would be spam because in a world of 7 billion people there will always be one nut who welcomes the unrequested solicitation.

> that the majority of creators/influencers' content is advertising.

Advertising embedded in the content as sponsor callouts and similar (often paying way better then YT ad sense), this includes showcases of sponsored content and similar.

Which if it's properly labeled is not a problem.

But as far as I know many big YT channels can NOT live from YT ad sense/network money. Some won't even get any at all due to YouTubes (IMHO overreaching) classification of content into advertisement friendly or not.

I don't think most influencers can make a living with just ad content. Many are using sponsorships and ada and barely getting by.

And make money how? Creators are dependent on platforms to get and monetize attention. People aren't going to stop using Instagram and YouTube because a few superstars only post content on TikTok.

Content is King.

TikTok has a fund to pay people to make content to get them up off the ground.

Insta, despite it's growth, has a decay problem in that it's out of the zeitgeist of the key demos. it's growing in developing markets and maybe might have some incidental sign ups, but people are not flocking to it.

And TikTok - depsite it's popularity, has a very 'fad' feel to it. While FB has a bit of the 'e-mail' incumbency in that it's how people communicate with family and user groups, TikTok is a bit more fleeting.

These platforms would get hurt badly without a lot of those middle and upper tier content makers.

The current situation is a rational entente actually: Insta makes ads, influencers can make a buck however. The more popular YouTubers will monetize with ads anyhow.

Even moderately successful YouTubers rely on sponsorship and because there's competition for creators between platforms it would take illegal coordination to present a united front and ban it

> Even moderately successful YouTubers rely on sponsorship and because there's competition for creators between platforms

The fact that you call them "Youtubers", identifying them using the trademark of one particular platform rather than a generic descriptor like "video content creator", suggests that there is not quite as much healthy competition as you claim. Most video companies other than youtube only compete with youtube in a narrow sense; a great deal of the content on youtube does not fit on tiktok's platform, which is only good for short-form content. Netflix only hosts movies or TV shows. Twitch is for livestreaming; other kinds of content don't fit into the paradigm of twitch. Vimeo has never been a good place for off-the-cuff home movies, they too try to compete with youtube only in a narrow domain, not across the board. The few generalist video hosting companies other than youtube are all jokes that are faaar behind youtube in viewer counts.

I guess the point is that Youtube has a powerful market position but not an unassailable one. They can lose market share and pissing off a large percent of there content creators seems like a good way of doing that

Right... Like how Google and Apple and Steam and Microsoft and Playstation compete on transaction fees for their stores?

If the platforms wanted to come after the money, they could. I suspect they're still in the growing phase. But I imagine in the near future, they'll start demanding all ads go through their platforms.

Ignoring the ongoing court cases around that it's very different when you have huge barriers to entry and thus only a few companies especially when they just have to follow the existing norms vs imposing a new norm. Like starting up a video sharing site is hard, but we've seen a number of examples over the past 5 years who have gained traction where we've seen no examples of new successful app stores in that time

Only if they aren't worried about antitrust enforcement against their advertising monopolies. Probably safer for them to let it go.

Digital ad campaigns are all about advanced targeting that influencers can’t really do. Influencers are more like traditional media that can describe their general demographics, but can’t precisely deliver ad dollars.

For example say I follow a lot of architecture / interior design / construction accounts. A company that pays a construction influencer is going to waste their money on my impression — I’m never going to buy professional-grade construction equipment.

On the other side Instagram or whomever already knows I’m a white collar worker and just sends me ads for ring lights and laptop stands.

So influencers and platforms are essentially going after different sets of ad dollars.

Youtube and instagram still place their own ads on sponsored content. I see it as youtube and instagram saving on labor costs since the sponsored posts are paying the influencer who ultimately drives engagement to the actual first party advertisements that make these platforms their real money. Just look at what gets posted as a sponsored post vs a first party advertisement and you can see its an entirely different ballgame being played and orders of magnitude different levels of ad spend. Sponsored posts might have some weird energy drink you've never heard of with vague promises of virility or other typical snakeoil features. The first party ad on the other hand will be from coca cola.

> Youtube and instagram still place their own ads on sponsored content

The ‘skip advert’ button… should it skip the YouTube inserted sponsored content, or move to the end of the video entirely?

Sponsored content isn't locked in to YouTube

The second they ban it all the creators that can afford to will jump ship. YouTube knows the creators that can afford to jump ship are also the ones keeping their lights on

I have no idea the legal situation but I'd also imagine there'd be a safe harbour challenge in there somewhere too

>The second they ban it all the creators that can afford to will jump ship.

Jump to where though? No other video platform is even close to the number of visitors.

We really need a credible YT alternative :(

Probably Vimeo plus their remaining socials at first to satisfy outstanding contracts and then I'm not sure unfortunately

Depends on their access to tech knowledge whether they go distributed (peertube) or find another YouTube. Wherever they go would become the new YouTube over time

Oddly enough it seems all content creators quickly attract a tech person that they later rely on and make their first hire when successful. I doubt it'd be the issue, depends what exists at the time

because if you would only get money from youtube ads then you could not survive on it.

Maybe if you are on of the 0.1% creaters but then you would miss out on a lot of smaller channels.

Sure you have things like Patreon but its not that easy to get people to pay for your stuff.

So in the end you will take sponsorship deals because you either do that or do something else.

Their dominance in the ad space means content creators aren't able to make a living without sponsorships and other sources of revenue (merch, patreon).

Sponsorships on Youtube exploded when ad revenue cratered.

Cut sponsorships away and you're basically killing the ecosystem.

It's not really the same ad revenue. Sponsorships are completely different campaigns and budgets from typical programmatic video or companion ads run on Youtube.

As far as YT is concerned, their ads pay for the hosting and delivery of the content, but it's the creators who actually create the content and they can include whatever they want (as long as its legal, etc) with their audience deciding if they want to deal with it or not.

True, but banning it would mean a drop in engagement with the platform, which would in turn hurt YouTube/Instagram's profits.

That's my guess.

Instagram actually force themselves into the value chain. Also, if all your content creators leave then you have no content. If you see the "sponsored" field on Instagram then it's part of Facebook forcing itself into the value chain.

I also suspect it's againist anti-trust to force yourself into that value chain and to prevent others from marketing.

Because without sponsored content, they'd have to give content creators a bigger cut of their own revenue.

Why wouldn't they? It doesn't really hurt them.

When viewers see Youtube ads, they'll be annoyed with Youtube. But when viewers see sponsored content, they'd be annoyed with the content creator. So Youtube won't get the extra flak.

Because then they would have to pay content creators themselves.

Better the devil you know?

A bit unrelated, but if you want a overview of sponsorships in different media platforms across different countries (mostly Britain and US though), I suggest watching Tom Scott's excellent video: https://youtu.be/L-x8DYTOv7w.

(Note that the video is ~30 minutes long. It's unfortunately that complicated, even when only talking rules mainly in two countries.)

First thing I thought of as well. The hypocrisy is a bother to say the least

Tom Scott makes a good video on this subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-x8DYTOv7w

> Around the world there are regulations for "influencers", for people with a large audience on platforms like YouTube, or Instagram, or TikTok. Those regulations make sure that if someone is paid to endorse a product, they have to declare that payment to the people watching. But.. why does no-one on TV, or film, or anywhere else have to do that?

That's a quote from near the beginning of his video.

Tom Scott is supportive of declaring paid endorsements, he just thinks it should be declared everywhere by everyone, not just influencers. He gives some good examples of some TV/film that do declare it with a sort of watermark.

The "anywhere else" just isn't true. Ads on TV as well as in the printed press and large online platforms are labeled either by law or more or less formal agreements between these publishers.

The same is true for "native content" which tries to blend into the site with design and format, but is still clearly labeled as being "sponsored by BP" or whatever.

Journalists at quality publications aren't allowed to accept anything of actual value. So books for reviews are ok, but you aren't going to keep that Mercedes. For car reviews specifically, I remember seeing notes on them explaining that the publication paid travel expenses or that they accepted the invite to some luxurious event.

It's really only the entertainment sector, especially US movies and series, that does product placement.

> Ads on TV as well as in the printed press and large online platforms are labeled either by law or more or less formal agreements between these publishers.

Ads on TV are literally placed in news (local and national) broadcasts with no indication that they were paid for. Every morning show has a segment where they shill products, periodic "gift guides," and people being interviewed who are headlining or keynoting local trade conventions and festivals. I don't think that there is legislation of any sort governing print ads; they're labeled to distinguish them editorially from the rest of the magazine or paper for the magazine or paper's sake whenever they're labeled. If they're disguised as a story, I've never seen them labeled at all.

On the internet paid stories get labeled a lot more often these days, but the push that made that happen is part of the same push that made influencer labeling happen, because the internet, being new, is the center of a lot of moral panics.

> Ads on TV are literally placed in news

That's pretty country specific. I'd almost assume that Germany prohibits that, I know Denmark does. You CANNOT insert ads in any way into a program. Ads must specifically ONLY reside in ad blocks, between programs.

Which is why many of Denmark commercial TV stations aren't technically Danish, but they also don't produce news shows.

Watch the video. It's pretty interesting, but it also addresses your comments. I watched it from Germany, and I found that it applies to Germany just as well as the UK (where it was recorded).

In Spain influencers are regularly breaking up to 6 laws by hiding they are doing ads. This is a great video, but in Spanish ofc:


It's the same in Denmark usually the consumer ombudsmand first asks them to comply before getting the police to set up a case against them if they do not comply

They have also set up a website where they say what a influencer should https://www.forbrugerombudsmanden.dk/hvad-gaelder/markedsfoe...

There’s laws, and then there’s enforcement. Let’s see who gets in trouble, and what happens to them.

We live in an era where governments are diluting the value of their legal frameworks through selective enforcement (SEC, anyone?). I don’t get too excited anymore when I see these sorts of “protections” passed.

Shouldn't we assume that anything online is paid advertising? I mean, someone is paying for it. Same thing for newspaper and medias in general.

Who paid you to write that?

It would be sad if we have to go down that road. There's a guy who maintain a website about old local railroad in my area (and you are NOT allowed to share his content on Facebook), no one is paying him anything. Should he then be forced to label his content as: "Not sponsored", if he don't want readers to assume that he's sponsored by someone?

I'd say you where closer if you had suggested just labeling Instagram as an ad platform. Anyone with more than X number of follows, assume that their posts are sponsored.

I noticed a trend of youtube now where the entire video is some sort of setup for a product. It will start off with some emotionally charged story about some personal struggle, and you're like okay this person is being so genuine sharing, the hard time they're going through. And you're feeling empathy. But it ends with some ad for some bullshit online coaching. Its just so off putting. Reminds me off that hot waitress in Mexico that does a shot of Tequila with you because you think she likes you. Later before you leave you find out it was like $40 for that shot. And the bouncer will kick your ass if you don't pay. The betrayal is real.

Many wouldn’t be bothered by this - promoting that businesses are paying you to post just tells other businesses that they can do the same. Small time content people on Instagram would likely be excited to show that they are finally in the game.

I have traded content for product ($100-30k travel experiences usually). One thing that makes this ad scenario awkward is that the business would ordinarily pay an agency to create the content. An influencer has replaced that. They are doing work and then showing it off, and often it’s being used by the business going forward.

If she's in a swimsuit/leggings with a protein powder or some CBD oil in the forefront of the photo saying "thanks to @companyname" in the caption... it's an ad.

I would love to see something similar to commercial new stories. Have stories written by PR firms written as such. Have opinions labeled as such. Have speculation labeled as such.

Nearly all Influencers in Germany as a far as I know where doing this. It was widely known that it would be required since it's required for other advertising.

Isn't there a jurisdictional problem here? I can't imagine anyone outside of Germany paying any attention to this.

Unless you're in Germany or specifically targeting Germans, nope.

But some people are interested in these type of topics, especially when compared to (for example) America's lax policies (but it can't beat America's very lax policies on sponsorships in television and movies).

Even if you're specifically targeting Germans. I don't see how international influencers could be judged against.

I don't think this law has the same (intentional) overreaching characteristics as GDPR, i.e. it only applies to people "doing business" in Germany.

In this end the ruling just clarifies some legal details about when and when not you need to label it in certain cases where the respective law(s) "standalone" was clear enough.

The ruling also seems to be in general in favor of influencers, making it clear that in certain situations they don't have to label content as ads.

Having your own language has its advantages. Sure, Germans are very active in English-speaking communities where this is impossible to enforce, but many people prefer German-speaking communities, and there these kinds of things are very enforceable because most German speakers actually live in Germany.

I believe this is most common in the teenager-focused segment, especially young girls and cosmetics? That demographic will tend to prefer domestic content because the language still makes a difference at that age and fashion/products/culture are not completely universal.

It's typically the type of stuff that ends up becoming an EU norm.

Yet the TV industry is still far from done with shady advertising. Very Related: YouTubers have to declare ads. Why doesn't anyone else? [0]

On another note, that is like the shortest news article ever! It's literally just 102 words!

[0] https://youtu.be/L-x8DYTOv7w

On the subject, Tom Scott has a great video on the inconsistency that online influencers and youtubers have to declare ads/product-placements while traditional media does not.


With this new decision how exactly does tings work as so far as not giving the influencer money but other goods.

For example a gaming pc brand give a fully built top-of-the-line in exchange for publicity. Would a video by that person on the brand be labeled an ad or not?

For music making products (hardware and software) it’s become common for influencers to get products for free without official strings attached. Of course a bad review will most likely stop the free flow of products to that influencer.

I’m not sure who’s being scammed more, the video viewer or the video maker.

I have wondered for a while why the FTC isn't getting serious about this here.

Many [German] influencers don't even live in Germany. The German court thinks again it can rule the world with its ruling. Good luck with that.

If an influencer owns a brand, then are all their posts ads? How does that work with Instagram's algorithms, will it suppress this content?

World needs this extensively. I can't find an honest tech review anywhere anymore.

where I live this is already the norm, thankfully


Let's paint a story.

You are looking at a tool review channel. Most of the tools are items that the creator had in his shed.

Suddenly, one of the screwdrivers he reviews doesn't look as useful as the others and is clearly pristine. It is clearly an advertisement. The product is new because it was donated by a brand and the review is better than usual because of that.

Except that this is not the case.

The screwdriver was recently given to him for Christmas by their wife and the creator is emotionally attached to it, explaining why they review it more positively than previous items on the channel.

Meanwhile, he was wearing a new belt. The belt was donated by a clothing company in exchange for positive exposure. It is identical to his other belts with the brand name visible on the buckle, except that it has a magnet on the side to attach screws. No mention is made of the belt other than the fact it is used in the video.

The ads are not as easy to detect as one might think.

I follow some somewhat popular accounts who occasionally advocate for a product they enjoy even though they aren't being paid to. It would be nice to know for sure when the sentiment is legitimate or bought.

Is it still a sentiment if it is bought?

Most ads include feigned sentiment, in my experience.

The result is that those influencers will be paid under the table and won't label their posts as ads.

Just compare German and US influencer spam to see that laws like this actually have an effect.

That's literally the point of this thread, to make that illegal since the only valid meaning of under the table is illegally paying a wage.

Yes, that's the problem they're trying to address. As George Carlin said "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."

Many children can't.

Many children are "influencers", often with parental support.

It's a very weird world out there.


Children shouldn't use social networks without adult supervision.

That's not how the real world works though. I was raised by the internet because both my parents had to work nonstop just to keep a roof over our heads. We'd need to make a lot of changes to how society functions to allow for that level of parenting.

But hey I turned out okay! (Not really)

Children do a lot of things they shouldn't do, often with their parents enabling them.

Many people aren't very bright. Does that mean we should let them be abused?

if it means taking away my right to do X (where my doing X doesn't endanger others), then yes

can we stop using the euphemism "influencers"? There's several words in English to describe them.

I like "shill"

I think most influencers openly communicate that they are sponsored. A shill intentionally obscures it.

In this sense it's not a euphemism, it's just a different thing altogether.

until the influencers were forced to disclose they were sponsored (in the US), they actively obscured the fact.

shills by intent

Good. I'd love if we could go further and make requirements to disclaim if a photo's structure has been digitally altered. Combining these two would be very effective in increasing clarity of content online.

Digitally altered from what? All digital cameras and image processing tools "digitally alter" images.

Lots of industries/companies are required law to maintain records of what they do. If such requirements were imposed on media companies, it could be done by archiving source material and using nondestructive editing software that saves edit decision lists.

Laws requiring media production companies to keep these records seem implausible in America, but at least conceivable in some of countries.

That's why I specifically mentioned the structure of the image. You'd still have to differentiate lens corrections, but structural changes could be counted differently from color / sharpening corrections / standard postprocessing.

"Results not guaranteed" "Actor portrayal" "Real users compensated for appearing"

If everything would have the warning label (like "Don't try this at home" or California's "known to cause cancer" signs or arguably GMO food labels) then people ignore it.

It'd be better to know how different what's shown is from the median result, but that'd be hard to figure out, and if you could, why not just require the ads show that result instead?

Thing is tech is quick enough now we can have all this metadata and users could then filter according to their mores (ie personal preferences), it's not like it's more work for the photog to label it as edited/photoshopped they're already recording that info.

No thanks, we don't want another Prop 65 nuisance, this time for photos.

In France that's the law, you must add a label on photo / video ads that were digitally altered.

This is tough.

Phones do a lot of magic already.

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