We see these clickbait articles all over social media and we all know where they’ll take you; to websites full of ads. Some uses them for like farming others to run ads and make money off the traffic. We hate them and they’re frowned upon by the blogging community but yet we click on them because we just have to feed our curiosity and they make time on the bus much more enjoyable when our friends are taking their time to respond to us on Whatsapp. We love them but we also hate them and today I am pleased to present you an interview with one of those much hated clickbait farmers who’s making wheelbarrows loads of money, and what’s even more shocking is that he’s getting a lot of Americans out to vote for the 2016 election and he’s not even an American! (He’s a Canadian) Due to his explicit request, we cannot reveal his identity.
The Interview With A Clickbait Farmer
YVR Startups: Thank you for joining us for this interview, it is such a rare occasion that we get to interview someone who has been behind the scenes of one of these controversial internet clickbait farms. A lot of people loathe people like you and accus you of deceiving the internet, how does it feel to be doing something that infamous?
Clickbait Farmer: I wouldn’t fully consider it as deceiving people. We are simply adding to the life of the internet. People come to us for entertainment, kill time and watch cat videos.
YVR: But you are using misleading headlines with clickbaits to get people to click and visit your website and monetize off their visit.
C: Not all the time and it’s not misleading, we’re offering them stories the same way gossip magazines are doing. They use catchy headlines and often false rumours to get people to buy their magazines. Besides, it’s 2016, everyone tolerates click baits as a part of the internet life and we all click on them for entertainment, kill time and watch cat videos.
YVR: So what kind of clickbait farm blogs do you manage?
C: I started off with a few viral websites similar to Viralnova and IFLscience but they weren’t doing so well cus people are used to going to the big ones already. I started trying other communities that I’m interested in like the US election and I currently manage two blogs on opposite sides of the political spectrum with hundreds of thousands of readers
YVR: What got you into politics? And are you a US citizen?
C: No I am not. But I follow their politics from Canada and it fascinates me how you can get a couple thousand people coming to your blog every day by putting up a few pictures and sharing articles. It started off as a social experiment and it’s now like a full time job for me.
YVR: Wait, you’re a Canadian running US political blogs with millions of hits a month and you’re basically playing one camp against the other… with clickbait articles.
C: You can say that… partially… but I would see myself more as a curator of news… and I wouldn’t say all of our articles are clickbaits. We do put a political spin to personalize the news to our readers.
Clickbait blogging in the US Politics Niche?
YVR: So what are you doing this? Why US politics?
C: Because politics is a BILLION dollars business, that’s billion with a B. You have these politicians liars and spindoctors who are making money from this, I’m just going for my own small slice of the action.
YVR: What qualifications do you have to meddle around an election as a foreigner stirring up hatred and anger on both sides without them knowing about it.
C: It happens in real life already, the Illumnati controls both parties, whoever you vote for isn’t gonna make a difference, the real heroes and change makers are often neglected, shushed or murdered throughout history.
YVR: So if you know that it’s corrupted then why do you do this kind of thing?
C: Cus it’s like a job to me. I am feeding a team of writers, providing jobs for them with their little Bachelors of Arts degree and getting young people on both sides of the political spectrums out to vote. This is what I am proud of.
YVR: But you’re still misleading them at the end of the day by representing both sides of the coin
C: I don’t consider myself misleading them. I’m empowering young writers and aspiring journalists on both sides by giving them a chance to get started in their journalism career. I am more of a community builder.
YVR: What about the anger and emotions that came about with the clickbaiting and exaggeration? I’m sure someone could accuse you of condoning the hate rhetorics on one of the sides.
C: I’m not deceiving them, I’m giving them something to believe in, something to fight for. Everybody has a right to say what they believe in and I’m just giving them a platform to speak freely. This is what democracy is founded on.
YVR: But you’re playing both sides of the table! One hour you post on a liberals blog and the next moment you’re posting on a conservatives blog. Where’s your loyalty?
C: My loyalty is in the spirit of democracy and I am proud of helping hundreds of thousands, mostly young people to get out and vote. Never before has there been so many young people committing to voting, existing institutions have never succeed in what I am delivering and this is something worth celebrating.
YVR: You have a point there, social media and blogging is getting more people out to vote but I’m sure many do not agree with your tactics. So how much are you making form all of these, I’m sure you’re not spending all day long doing this for free, who’s paying you?
C: Sponsors and advertisers.
YVR: How much?
C: I prefer not to say
YVR: Can you at least give us a range? 6 figures?
C: Around there
YVR: Wow, that’s unbelievable and that’s all from donations from your readers?
C: No. We got most of our money from advertising and sponsorships, we refer donors to actual political parties to keep the spirit of democracy. There are instances where people believe in the journalism work we do and insisted on donating to us and we had to receive it.
YVR: Just like Donald Trump receiving money from old grannies who donated to him… so what happens with the money?
C: Running a blog isn’t free; you have server costs in the hundreds, the cost of writers, the cost of administration, operation, overhead and supporting grassroots groups. We try to keep the money within the camp it came from, so for a liberals blog, we put the money to hiring bloggers for the liberal site and sponsor grassroot movements.
Social Impact Made Via Blogging
YVR: Grassroot movements, so you’re like funding protestors along the way.
C: Yes groups that established non profits and superpacs would never support but they make the biggest news and impact. And we get exclusive footages from some of them which help us grow even more.
YVR: Riots usually make breaking news…
C: I wouldn’t call those riots, these are just people who are exercising their rights to demonstrate under a democratic country.
YVR: A rather innovative approach to empower people to express themselves. How would you respond to those who are accusing you of not being any different from the secret services who are funding extremist groups abroad?
C: I want to let those people know that we only support milder groups, usually by footing the bill for pizza and coffee in return for a few local students offers to get exclusive footages. We believe in democracy and demonstrations are one of the most expressive forms of it but when someone gets hurt, that’s going too far. These people should be interrogating the Illuminati and the giant media networks like NBC to see if they do that cus I wouldn’t be surprised if they fund extremist groups and people get hurt. News like that sells for them and they make millions selling their newsreel of a major event.
YVR: Understood. I do hope that donors from one camp stays within that camp and not to the other side cus I would be really angry if any of my donations or my advertising money goes over to the other side.
C: The only things that cross over are the bi-partisan mentors and the management team and they get paid based on how much time they spent each camp. We do want to keep it fair.
YVR: Sounds fair. So how would you answer to people who may be accusing you of “robbing” money that could have gone into the non profits that needed them? And aren’t you misleading people by calling yourself a non profit?
C: To start off, we present ourselves as a B-Corporation or a news agency. Is Facebook a non profit? Is Times magazine a non profit? Are Upworthy, Buzzfeed or Huffington Post non profits? NO NO NO! They’re all for profits and they earned their way there by producing GOOD contents, the latter two started with clickbaits and cat videos. People come to us day after day because we are providing GOOD contents to our readers. I don’t see anyone getting upset at Upworty for its overly liberal agenda along with their excessive clickbait usage.
Second of all I am not robbing any nonprofits, in fact our B-Corp is actually creating more voters, particularly younger voters that the non profits have FAILED in doing year after year. And also, I am not taking money from the voters, I am accepting money from sponsors and advertisers. Let me tell you, the money you donate to superPACs and political groups, most of the money are going to end up in the pockets of some campaign manager who’s making six to seven figures and playing golf with senators and politicians, at least what I am doing is causing REAL impact and I am more efficient that those non profits, I am working 60 hours a week covering stories and managing writers to provide value to our audience. That deserves a mic drop.
YVR: What you said has some true merits to it, when you are free from any form of bureaucracy, you can produce more. I know a there will be some traditionalists who would find that hard to swallow but you are making results and that all that matters.Using clickbait like article is a rather innovative approach, this will be a topic of huge debate for many people. Can you tell us the names of the two blogs you’re running?
C: I can’t tell you cus those few traditionalists who are used to seeing things done by non profits are gonna stir up shit and ruin the livelihood of our whole team of staff does this for a living. Through the power of the internet, we’ve rallied out thousands of young voters of both sides to vote. How many have these traditionalists brought out with their traditional methods? Probably less than what they can count with their fingers.
YVR: We understand that. A few more questions, so if you are so good at getting people on fire in the political world using clickbait like articles, why aren’t you working for a superPAC, partisan non profit or maybe for you a non partisan non profit?
C: I tried applying for one right after college, they rejected me and I’m pretty glad they did cus I would have been making minimum wage and barely surviving in one of them. Now, I am running my own news network and making a decent income and supporting a team of Bachelor of Arts, we all know that they wouldn’t be able to survive out here.
YVR: Rather entrepreneurial spirit you have there. Do you think you would have been able to deliver that kind of results if they did hire you when you got out of college?
C: Definitely not… because I worked my butt off to get the blog started, spent thousands of my own money up front running ads on the internet to build up my audience and pulled a few all nighters writing and publishing. As I mentioned, in a non profit setting, they would’ve turned down my proposal for a budget to run ads and I probably would be doing some door to door knocking shit that nobody wants.
YVR: You have a point there, you took a risk and it’s only possible if its for yourself in a self employed/entrepreneurial setting… and you motivated thousands of young people to make a commitment and vote at the 2016 election. So what’s next for you?
C: I think I am going to grow it as big as I can and sell it off to the highest bidder, probably to a non profit or a media network, maybe even to the one that rejected me. They’ll pay for the list for sure and the fact that I’m able to make it profitable means it’s an extra source of donation money for them in the long run. I do have to figure out the legal implications. Afterwards I may consider going overseas and doing some humanitarian work for a few months without worrying about breaking the bank and starting up the cycle with another election in another country. There’s always an election at some English speaking country every year.
YVR: It’s good to hear that you have a heart for humanitarian work and helping is a lot easier when you have much to give and don’t have to worry about your income. We appreciate you for your time.
Post interview thoughts and discussion topics:
There you have it, a political activist that managed to make some impact by going entrepreneurial and writing clickbait articles for both camps. Are you shocked that your favourite political blogs may be clickbait farms owned by someone apathetic to your political ideal? At one moment they’re writing for one side and right after they write for the opposite camp. Our guest has also opened up a rather interesting debate topic, the rise of for profit political organizations that are making more impact than conventional non-profits WITHOUT soliciting donations. Also there’s the issue of inefficiency in governments and big non profits, and the rise of clickbaits in political journalism. This is a rather unique case of using internet marketing techniques to get people out to vote.
Share with us in the comments your thoughts about this.