Google Snaps Up FameBit, Gets in on Branded Content
Google has just announced its acquisition of the tech startup FameBit, a company that essentially plays digital matchmaker between social influencers and the marketers and brands that want to connect with them. No news yet on how exactly the system will be adapted to fit the YouTube platform, and whether it will give creators and marketers the ability to swipe each other left and right to match, starting the conversation with a bland "hey," before unmatching a week later in a cloud of shame.

So what does FameBit do well enough to get bought out by Google? Their selling point is down to two main features: their extensive database of creative talent (45,922 with 3.3 billion total reach across YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Vine, according to their site), and their software for automating the connections between this talent and interesting brands.

In a post on the official YouTube blog, Google laid out the reasoning and motivation behind the deal, and the main subtext of the article is the relative importance of branded content vs. paid ads when it comes to monetising YouTube content. Revenue for the creators themselves is often split between both of these avenues, with branded content such as sponsorships making more and more of their money. Though YouTube's ad-free subscription service, YouTube Red, has not exactly set the platform alight, its emergence is a signal of the direction they're taking towards ad content, and reflects a preference for branding that is more integrated into the video itself. The acquisition of FameBit really confirms this.

Though smoothing the path between marketers and creators is no doubt a good thing, ensuring quality content and a means to make a profit for the creators, there are some concerns about the deal and its aftereffects. The official blog post claims that FameBit's creator marketplace is 'democratized', and this is true to some extent, but the barrier to entry is still pretty high, with creators requiring at least 5000 subscribers to even apply for entry. If you're lower than that, you're still going to have to work hard to enter the feedback cycle of more promotion and budget leading to more viewers.

Another issue is Google potentially stepping on the toes of already established MCNs (multi-channel networks) that look after the interests of their own stables of content creators. In the official blog post, Google was careful to maintain that it doesn't want to break up these relationships, but it also hinted that MCNs will probably end up going through the adapted FameBit network, what it calls 'a great technology solution for companies like MCNs and agencies to find matches for their creators and brand partners.' Google currently receives no revenue from paid branded content, so whilst there is no doubt they want to grow that stream, this also represents a muscling in on the profits somewhat.

A final concern, one that the deal with FameBit could actually help clear up, or at least standardise, surrounds the legality of paid brand promotion, especially if there is no reference to the sponsorship in the video. Whilst seamless integration of branded content into normal videos is a great aim, not referencing sponsorship at all may undermine the viewers' trust, and even toe the line of legality in both the US and the UK.

Despite a few potential drawbacks, generally the deal could be a win all round: for Google, MCNs, marketers, and creators. Well, except for FameBit's competitors that is, who are left out like wallflowers in the dark corners of this particular school disco love-in, and will probably end up going home empty-handed.

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