Content Farms Vs YouTube Algorithms
YouTube is an incredible resource whether you want to learn or simply explore your hobbies. There are thousands of stellar content creators and speaking personally, YouTube has become my go-to visual entertainment resource, replacing TV and streaming services. However, there are many problems with Google’s video platform and one of the dark sides of YouTube is the ever-growing number of content farm channels.
These are channels with the sole purpose of attracting viewers to drive advertising revenue. Make no mistake, these content farms pose a serious risk to independent content creators on YouTube. Recently, Ann Reardon from the channel How To Cook That published a stunning expose on this problem, with a focus on the hugely popular Mr. Cakes channel.
I am going to discuss Reardon’s findings because they are so interesting. However, instead of just parroting what Ann says (really, you should check out the video), I want to delve deeper into the world of YouTube content farms.
Let’s start with the smackdown Reardon put on Mr. Cakes. If you are unfamiliar with Mr. Cakes, it is a hugely popular “cooking” channel that shows cakes being made. Nothing wrong with that you may be thinking, but scratch below the surface and there’s a lot to be concerned about.
Mr. Cakes videos attract millions of viewers even though the channel has only been live since January 2020. In fact, hundreds of millions watch these videos each month. As mindless entertainment that’s ok, but the problem is Mr. Cakes seems to be one big content scam.
It is created by a Vietnamese content creator (YumUp) that claims to have hundreds of channels. YumUp is hugely successful and has over one hundred gold buttons from YouTube, which the website gives to content creators who achieve 100,000 subscribers. One little known fact is YouTube does not hand out these buttons to all users, but only to those it investigates and believes are creating legitimate content.
So, here’s the thing about Mr. Cakes, the channel is not creating legitimate content. Firstly, it uses severe clickbait and fake thumbnails to attract viewers. Almost always the images on the thumbnails do not represent something in the video. Furthermore, the channel claims to provide recipes for the baked items it shows with titles such as “So Easy Chocolate Cake Tutorials,” “Best Chocolate Cake Hacks,” and “10+ Indulgent Chocolate Cake Recipes.”
The problem is none of Mr. Cakes’ videos show recipes, tutorials, or hacks. Furthermore, YumUp shares thumbnails and video ideas across many of its channels, essentially creating a content farm that is purely designed to grab viewers and subscribers. That means the channel is brazenly abusing YouTube’s rule, but the company keeps rewarding it with gold buttons. This suggests YouTube knows exactly what Mr. Cakes is.
Content Farms Are A Problem
You may be wondering what all the fuss is about. There’s a channel kind of fooling viewers but ultimately offering mildly entertaining videos even if they don’t do as promised. What harm can a bakery channel do, trickery or not?
Well, on its own Mr. Cakes is not a problem but this is just one example of a growing trend of YouTube content farms. These types of channels represent a massive problem because at best they have YouTube fooled and at worst YouTube is actively working to promote these channels.
Google likes to boast about YouTube algorithms that are amazing at finding the best content to present to users. That algorithm watches what you enjoy on the platform and surfaces recommendations based on your viewing habits. A separate algorithm is there to weed out fake content creators and others who abuse YouTube’s policies.
The problem is neither algorithm is working with content farms. Instead, YouTube allows these empty creators to flourish and expand. They flood the website with videos that offer fake promises with clickbait titles… multiple videos per day that drown out real content creators who may be offering something truly useful.
It’s something of an irony that YouTube sits back and lets this happen considering how strict the company has become against individual creators. But here’s the thing, YouTube is in on the scam! Individual creators are not a big business for the company, but content farms with many channels and a load of videos each day are.
The more videos watched on YouTube the more advertising revenue is generated, for YouTube and the creator. Even a successful independent cooking channel with 5 million subscribers cannot compete with a Mr. Cakes that gets hundreds of millions of views each month.
The individual must craft their content because they care about it. Mr. Cakes can spew out videos with the express purpose of getting viewers and advertising revenue. YouTube gives zero shits if the content is a waste of time or not if it makes them money!
This makes content farms a genuine risk to content creators, even those who have great success already. Basically, these fake content publishing companies are eating YouTube and pushing individual content creators to the side.
Perhaps the dedicated viewer is willing to push past the noise of YouTube’s broken recommendations and search for real content, but many casual viewers will be drawn in and may never find the incredibly useful content on the site.