Our culture has shifted over the last decade to one where, now more than ever, we are constantly distracted by forms of media. This large scale craving for media has created what marketers like to call the “attention economy” – that is, that the attention span of people, the time they spend looking at a screen, has become a commodity unto itself. People buy YouTube views, commit crazy stunts, and stir up controversy all to justify grabbing more of the viewer’s attention and time.
In particular ways this makes sense. The more time someone spends watching your video or reading your blog, directly correlate with them acting upon your call to action i.e. purchasing your product or joining a mailing list. This has led to an arms race for the most eye catching and compelling content. An example of this in progress, and the type of competition it has become, is clickbait headlines. A natural continuation of the yellow journalism of the last century (and it seems as if many parallels can be made to today).
One of the many fronts for this war of attention is YouTube. YouTube algorithms do their best to present the most compelling content to people. YouTube sells ad space, and shares the profit with the creators, so it has a reason to try and maximize the amount of time spent by viewers on the site.
Many creators try and play off the algorithm, and natural human penchant for social proofing, by buying YouTube views. The higher view count will give a video a boost on the site, and will make other people more likely to click on it, naturally think that if so many people watched it, it must have something worth noting.
Celebrities, music companies, social marketers, they have all been shown to buy YouTube views in order to promote their content in one form or another. While it in the case of celebrities and musicians it can be harmful to their brand image if it is found out, for many businesses and marketing teams people rarely bat an eye as it has become such a commonplace marketing tactic.
One last note on the reason more views will inherently boost a video, is shareability. If you have ever taken a blogging course of some sort, one of the main things they teach you is to look for videos with a high amount of views and thumbs up, figuring that this means the content of the video has been deemed worthy to present to the public and is enjoyed. This means that videos with more views will more easily be pushed into a viral state by the increase desirability blogs and other social influencers will assume it to have.
YouTube is just one example though of where the battlegrounds for attention have led us. As the competition continues to grow, it is likely we will see more and more methods for playing with those systems and snatching up just that much more viewer time.