Grow Up Already! Conflicts and Ethical Lapses Derail Creator-led Media Companies

It’s time for the Creator Economy to embrace ethics.

Start with Mr. Beast and Linus Tech Tips.

Each sit at the top of their genres. Yet each suffered last week with – as a media vet – I would call rookie mistakes due to ethical lapses.

The Mr. Beast issue was likely oversight – a producer used a copyrighted animation without getting clearance. That forced a two-day takedown while they recut their latest hypergrowth video – and presumably made nice with the IP owner. Fast and loose works for a while, but when you’re big enough to sue for $100 million, it’s time for copyright guardrails.

Bit more of a disaster at Linus Tech Tips. Inaccurate test plans, incompatible test equipment and ethical lapses are just some of the serious allegations cast at the popular tech creator.

The most egregious? Allegations of conflict of interest.

Linus gave favorable reviews to products where he had a financial interest. That’s just wrong.

It’s time to grow up. Top creator-led media companies need to adopt an ethics and conflict of interest policy now.

As top editorial exec at PC Magazine, PC week and TechTV – and as CEO at MCN Revision3 I wrote and implemented robust editorial ethics policies. Inspired by journalistic stalwarts, they laid out what was OK – and what was not.

It’s about maintaining trust, but also staying out of the limelight – and the courtroom.

My guidance to the team 20 years ago: “If it shows up on the front page of the New York Times, would you be proud of it?”

Swap NYT for Kaya, Taylor, Phil, Amanda or other top YouTubers/journalists and ask your team the same question today.

It’s not just top creators – rampant ethical lapses abound. MovieTok “critics” eschew journalistic principles and freeload on movie junkets – while ripping apart traditional critics. Shein’s ill-conceived influencer factory tour last spring was also embarrassing for the whole industry.

Want to see the editorial ethics doc I implemented for YouTube creators 10 years ago? Check it out here.

Want help developing and implementing one for your org? Drop me a DM.

Do you think it’s time for ethical standards in the creator economy? Let me know what you think – and share what you’ve done – in the comments.  Liked this post? Want to see more?  Subscribe to my LinkedIn newsletter “Inside the Creator Economy” or get it here via RSS.

This Week: It’s the third week of August  and here’s what you need to know.

  • Creators Cutting Corners: Two big creators under fire for cutting corners and breaking trust. Linus Tech Tips, one of the top tech review sites on YouTube, cut corners on recent product benchmarks tests, and then posted a cavalier reaction when outed. One of Mr. Beast’s producers snagged a short animation and reused it without permission, which led to a copyright strike and YouTube takedown for two days. Yes, compromises can sneak in when the hungry, hungry algorithm comes calling. But creator companies are now big media companies and must hold themselves accountable. It’s not just the right thing to do, but also because they are prime targets. Alas, ethical lapses are endemic in our industry. See MovieTok creators freeloading on movie junkets and then demeaning traditional critics and Shein’s ill-conceived influencer factory tour last spring. Trust is hard to get, and so easy to lose. In our maturing industry, we will either grow up or die. Time to broadly adopt ethics and conflict of interest policies – check out the policy I wrote in 2012 for Revision3 and early creator org IAWTV here. Ping me if you want help developing or implementing.
  • Full Time Creators Making More Per Post: That’s according to a survey on creator compensation from influencer marketing firm MAVRCK. That’s good, but the bulk of them still only make $2k to $4k a month. Alas, part time creator compensation is flat. Some interesting data on subscription rates too – $1-$10 a month seems ideal. Nearly 700 creators were interviewed, but no disclosure on HOW they were selected, so likely many of MAVRCK’s clients were surveyed. Very directional, not at all projectible.
  • Minecraft, Roblox and the BCG Matrix: Lots of conflicting discussions on Minecraft’s recent move to limit what creators can do with their IP. No more leading with “Minecraft” in your title, or paywalling game-play videos. Nor can Minecraft gameplay be part of a broader event – like VidCon – where you charge admission. Contrast that with Roblox, who welcomes creators with open arms on its march to 1 billion DAUs. Stark contrast for sure, but what’s really going on? I explain more in a video I posted last week, but it all comes down to your place on the classic BCG growth/share matrix. Clearly Microsoft sees Minecraft as a “Cash Cow”: Milk the franchise dry. Roblox focuses on investment and growth – It’s a “Rising Star”. The BCG matrix is a tested way to tease strategy out from your favorite companies.
  • TikTok Aims at YouTube and Twitch: Business Insider talked with seven creators who are making significant money from TikTok’s new long form program ($ paywall). It’s significant because finally the company seems to be delivering real dollars to creators, although we don’t know how many are actually in the program. It’s also interesting because only videos over 1 minute are included –one second less than the Shorts max length. I’ve also noticed more horizontal live videos on TikTok – including game streaming and this live feed from Shibuya Tokyo – which looks great on desktop and presumably TV too.

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