An exposé of viral content farms and the tricks they use to get you to click

Originally published at:


so interesting. i think the point would be driven home more strongly if there was some idea of how much money the content farms are actually making by doing this. the videos are annoying and pervasive enough as it is, but if i knew how much they made from my clicks, i’d probably be able to resist them that much better.


Good thing the people who own Youtube also own a website where you can search for answers to questions like this :smile:

I found this site that claims

On average you can expect to earn $300-$2000 from ad revenue for a YouTube video with about 1 million views.

Maybe you can resist them better when you consider what you could achieve with all the time you save? Who knows, you might even become president. President Franko sounds nice, doesn’t it?


She talks for almost 20 minutes and never mentions why content farms exist and why the numbers are so inflated.
I was waiting for the fraud part, and it never happened. She only brings up minor rules violations, that YouTube finds easy to ignore.
She ALMOST got there when she noticed most of the comments within the videos are made by the same company.
But she didn’t speculate that the content farms employ thousands of people watching and rewatching their videos, commenting and cross linking and subscribing, etc.
And then the big finish where she reveals that X amount of investment is turned into 1000X reward, culminating in the conclusion that YumUp is robbing YouTube.
With YouTube’s tacit consent.

So basically, she went down the rabbit hole, and then went home without seeing the rabbit.


So, by your description, it sounds like her video ultimately is also clickbait.


Robbing YouTube with YouTube’s tacit consent.

Er. Nice that they’re not making creepy cartoons reenacting Blue Velvet then.
Clearly we need* to take 5 minutes and 30 piping bags in the evening and have variously everted national discussions with heated knives and foods styled to Mappelthorpe’s catalog in attempt to make decency miasma or at least a dessert course among the courses?

  • Cash! W00t! Dopamine in’t. Also more piping bags nya! I’m not even always cleaning the bag after I take the Times out!

  • Also dialogue without some of the conflicted feelings about The Atlantic. Like YouTube is the arsenic with which proper plumbum, gallium and argentum of public opinions are refined…er…


I really like her.

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I clicked…

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Sorta seems like the whole video were being encouraged to watch consists of her providing info for people too lazy to Google it themselves.

Wait, I think I just described a whole genre of YouTube content…


50 amazing pyjamas that are guaranteed to literally put you to sleep!

Click here!





That is a great offer. Everyone is going to go bananas!

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I love her videos. Nothing like watching her husband try all the weird recipes she debunks…


This grooming hack will save you hours

I think she may have stopped at what she could prove, which was responsible.

There’s no question these content farms are astroturfing the algorithm, but that’s a very difficult thing for someone like her to investigate and show real evidence for (aside from cross-pollinating comments, which is a tiny influence).

She also didn’t cover where the farms get the content. It’s all stolen, of course (YumUp LTD isn’t actually baking cakes) but the nature of video makes that very difficult for her to prove as well.

She didn’t need to do any of that, though. The point she’s making is that these channels are already doing more than enough rule breaking to get any other channel deleted. Fake thumbnails and repeated content would get my small channel deleted within the hour. But I don’t make millions for YouTube. Funny how that works.


That’s in her followup video: 9 Viral Video Tricks That Will Blow Your Mind.

But yeah are the 22M legit, or is there a Hanoi server farm of 100s (1000s?) that is programmed to do nothing but race around different VPNs and pretend to watch videos to boost their numbers and drive actual audiences to them?

A friend of mine was complaining about how he falls for clickbait all the time. I suggested the next time he sees something he wants to click on, instead he should copy/paste part of the headline or part of the apparent story (“lumberjacks find dead dog in tree”) and google it-- for clickbait that is really just a news story turned into 20 pages of photos you have to click through one by one, you can often just find the original news story and get the gist of what the lumberjacks found in the tree, or the urban explorers found in the bomb shelter, etc.


It’s probably both. The talk in YouTuber circles is that YT is actually quite good at detecting bot traffic, but I have no hard evidence for that either way. However it doesn’t take very much to juice you in the algorithm. All you really need is a few thousand views in the first few seconds and the algorithm will surface you very widely. The most important metrics are not views, but click-through and early retention in a video. A few bots could bootstrap that, but the rest of the views could well be legit.

Remember that these videos aren’t just hacking the algorithm. They are hacking us. The brain science of the thumbnails and how they are edited is real. A typical real creator video might have retention somewhere in the 50-60% range (people who watch the majority of the video). Content farm videos are more like 90% because people are waiting for the toothpaste on the cellphone. 90s retention will skyrocket you in the algorithm and billions of people will be surfaced your video. This is why YT has a strict policy against misleading and clickbait thumbnails (which they don’t enforce even a little fairly).


“waiting for the toothpaste on the cell phone.”

This is a neat idiom I’ve never heard before.

Could this be picked up as a new “jump the shark”-type phrase? "Will Trump ever become Presidential? Or are we waiting for the toothpaste?"

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