Willy Paul

Musician Willy Paul who was last year accused of buying YouTube views. He denied the allegations. 

| Pool

Fake YouTube views trade thrives in Kenya

What you need to know:

  • While the practice is frowned upon by many, some claim it’s a legitimate business.
  • YouTube has created a system to differentiate between bots and real views.

In 2018, the world was hit with a scandal; that celebrities in western countries were buying fake YouTube views.

An interview with fake-view purveyor from Canada, Martin Vassilev, who runs a website called 500view.com, lifted the lid on the business. 

That year, through the website, Vassilev sold about 15 million YouTube views and made a staggering US$200,000 (Sh23 million).

Now, this phenomenon has also found its way home. Currently, there are several websites in Kenya, which offer almost similar services as to those of 500Views.com. With a click of a button, one can easily amass hundreds of fake views or likes from thousands of miles away from home.

Such sites, popularly known as Click Farms, are very popular in countries like India and the Philippines and offer these services worldwide irrespective of the clients’ country of origin.

Click Farms are basically a cohort of a large tech-savvy network who create web crawlers and bots through software applications generating automated views, likes, subscribers and directed towards a client’s channel.

Pataviews is one such platform which charges Sh90 for 50 YouTube Likes, Sh590 for 1,000 YouTubes views or Sh1,990 for 5,000 views. The more the views or likes the higher the price. The website also offers some sort of ‘special’ packages. For instance, if you pay Sh16,900, you get 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours watch time. 4,000 hours is the least watch time a YouTube channel needs to start earning money.

SMMShop.com is another such website that offers these kinds of services in the country by connecting customers with platforms that generate the views, likes and comments. Efforts to contact these sites were fruitless as none responded. 

However, YouTube has created a system to differentiate between bots and real views. When bots are detected, they are struck out and sometimes the account is suspended.

“YouTube does not allow anything that artificially increases the number of views, likes, comments, or other metrics either through the use of automatic systems or by serving up videos to unsuspecting viewers.

Additionally, content that solely exists to incentivize viewers for engagement (views, likes comments etc) is prohibited. Content and channels that don’t follow this policy may be terminated and removed from YouTube,” indicates YouTube’s fake engagement policy.

In August 2020, rapper Octoppizo became the talk of town when he was blasted by a number of bloggers and social media users for allegedly buying views to his then new video song release ‘Nikupate’.

The video premiered on 11th of that month and garnered 925,000 views the same day only for the numbers to decline to 901,000 views a day later. Seven days later, the views had dropped to 857,000.

Currently, the video has only managed to gain slightly over 1.2 million views. But this wasn’t the first time Octoppizo had been put on the spot for allegedly buying views.

The other incident happened in August 2018 when he released his ‘Oliel’ jam, which gained over 1.4 million views in one day.

Peculiarly on the day of the song’s release, the number one trending video in Kenya was Gengetone hit song Position by Ethics and Kansoul which had just over 275,000 at the time.

Oliel was trending at number 22 the same day with over a million views.

Buying YouTube views

Willy Paul, alias Pozze, has in the past also been accused by fellow musicians of buying YouTube views. 

In 2017, Pozee was blasted for allegedly buying views to his ‘I Do’ song, a collaboration with Jamaican songbird Alaine, which currently has over 28 million views.

Last year, gospel singer Master Piece, in an interview, claimed Pozze always buys views to his songs. He never offered any evidence to support his claims.

However, Pozze denied the allegations. When Google announced last year that he was the most searched entertainer on the search engine in Kenya for the past 15 years, Pozze railed at his competitors.

“I am the number one most searched musician in Kenya according to Google. When I say I don’t support the idea of our musicians buying views just to fool the fans and make themselves look bigger, they never get it. Now look at the list, where are those that buy views?” Pozze posted.

Even though the issue of buying YouTube views in Kenya, particularly in the music industry, remains a controversial subject, with many holding strong reservations about it, music marketer Bilha Ngaruiya says such narratives are misplaced.

According to Ngaruiya, buying of views helps artistes to promote their works for different reasons.

For instance, it could be a new artiste seeking some early traction to kick-start their career.

“I find this buying views stigma out of place. I mean, it is a legitimate business that helps an artiste, but only if you are buying legitimate views. YouTube itself sells views in form of pre-roll ads, which you can purchase via Google Adsense. You buy Google targeting ads that leverage people’s interest in certain topics. If, for example, you like Drake you could like Khaligraph Jones. Many record labels do that around the world and some here in Kenya. We recently got 300,000 views from YouTube for an upcoming Kenya artiste,” Ngaruiya said.

In addition, an established artiste looking for exposure in markets he or she is not well known could opt to buy views to try and enter the new markets.

“Or you can also target geographically, and buy views in the West African market instead of the East Africa market where you already have an audience. For instance, when Tarus Riley and Shenseea released ‘Lighter’ last year, they bought so many Google ads targeting the Kenyan market” Ngaruiya said.

However, the music marketer says buying views from Google, especially in the Kenyan market, is quite expensive, forcing many artistes to explore other avenues.

She says this is due to the varying cost per mile (CPM) in Kenya as compared to other markets .

CPM is a commonly used measurement in advertising. It is the cost an advertiser pays for one thousand views or impressions of an advertisement.

“If you are buying Google ads in Kenya, for one cent you get two views. In countries like India where their CPM is lower, one cent fetches you 30 views. The difference is because the market there is quite big. There are many advertisers in India as compared to Kenya. I mean with Sh50,000 you can easily get 300,000 views in India but that amount in Kenya hardly gets you 10,000 views.”

Unfortunately, not so many Kenyan content creators and artistes are aware of this information and even those who know, only a few can afford.

“That is why most end up opting for third-party services which are basically the Click Farms that are more about scamming the game using crawlers and bots,” Ngaruiya said.

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