Dubious digital sellers have made a business of selling fake views to boost YouTube views.
And that leads to a more traditional metric question: Ever try to buy a Nielsen TV rating point to improve a show's image? It can't be done.
There is no TV ratings seller on your neighborhood corner whispering: “Need some TV ratings points? Got some right here. Cheap.” It's hard to buy TV ratings points based on a closed Nielsen system of a panel of respondents.
But in the easy-going, wild west of digital media -- especially on YouTube -- content owners can be swayed in a big way by the sale of user digital data.
The New York Times talked to one English professor who was looking to sell a book of poetry. She hired a publisher to traditionally market and publicize her book.
Instead, the company went out and spent $270 for 55,000 YouTube “views” from a company that sells that kind of stuff. Since those views were just numbers, not people, results were nonexistent. No increase in sales.
It isn’t only “fake views.” One can also buy “likes,” “friends” and other data to make you look good. But not much else. Musicians on YouTube are the major buyers of “views,” according to reports.
Google’s YouTube has been trying to deal with this for years -- and claims that fake views now comprise just 1% of its total.
There have been complaints and lawsuits for decades directed at Nielsen about TV ratings mishaps by TV networks, TV stations and other media sellers. No, this doesn’t constitute “buying” of TV ratings points.
But for many, much of this has led to a dangerous next step in the digital media world: Ongoing fraud when it comes to finding ways to show off how big you are in media and entertainment.