What you see above is pretty much what appeared prominently on the upper-right corner of YouTube around 7 AM EST, November 20th. Seems like just another uploaded video, but is it? Is it advertising? We know the banner above the video is advertising, but did the actual video organically "earn" position in the upper right corner? Is it part of an advertising campaign? Shinamec, a YouTube cruiser who proudly claims to have viewed nearly 2000 videos, notes in the comment section around the video: "The only reason this got a spotlight thing is because they did it specifically for YouTube. It wasn't even worth my time to watch." By the numbers, Shimanec has a fair point? At press time, the video in question only has 43,000 views, only 1/10 of the views that the UCLA "taser" video acquired (without paid advertising) in the same three day period.
Fair criticism? Again, is this section advertising? What is a "spotlight thing?" Should we know? Should we care? More importantly, if we don't care, will the lack of clarity between "earned" and "paid" placement erode trust in these social networking platforms?
Equally important, what can social networking sites and their advertisers do to help consumers (or users) know the difference between organic and promotional content? It's not that users have issues with advertisers "testing the waters" with blatantly marketer-created content. In fact, if you carefully analyze the comments, users often "high-five" such content contributors for breakthrough creativity, as with the Dove Evolution and Nike's "I Feel Pretty" Campaign. At the same time, more than a few users got really pissed when they found out LonelyGirl15 was a fake. At the end of the day, the transparency debate isn't just about the authenticity of the video subject; it's also about the authenticity and credibility of the surrounding context around the video.
If there's a wee small label or indicator that a front-page "For Your Consideration" video is part of an advertising campaign or promotional effort, will that "kill the effect?" Or if it's not the product of advertising, but rather "Editors Choice," would a label along those lines help clarify the fuzz? That's an excellent debate we should commence as CGM2 (consumer-generated multi-media) goes mainstream.