You should probably sit down for this. Get composed, and ready yourself for really unexpected, bad news: The kid that asked for a million dollars on YouTube and then got it? Yeah, total hoax, exactly like I said it was. After staging a check-awarding ceremony and then burning the check, comedian Craig Rowin then posted a new video explaining that the whole thing was just for fun, and none of it was ever real. Gee… who could have guessed?
You might remember my initial skepticism, which initially came from the fact that this guy was a comedian by trade. I was also doubtful of the million dollar gift being real due to the terribly low view-counts of his original videos where he began asking for the money.
Do I feel vindicated? Yes, but not much, because I am surprised so many took this guy seriously.
The Double-Edged Sword Of Hoax Videos
Hoax videos are a dangerous breed to mess with. They can bring a huge number of views and go viral very quickly, but you never know how the audience is going to feel about you after the hoax is exposed. Sometimes, like with Kobe Bryant's car video or Microsoft's waterslide clip, the hoax is all for fun. Viewers don't get too upset when you're just having a good time–or when the hoax is rather obvious.
But if you invest them in a story, and then rip the carpet out from under their feet, they're much more prone to being upset. Remember the Balloon Boy? How popular is that guy's dad right about now?
The public doesn't like hoax videos when the entire trick hinges on a bald-faced lie. It's one of the reasons that most April Fools Day jokes are dumb in my opinion, because anyone can just lie over and over again, only to then suddenly say, "Just kidding!" It takes no talent, no originality, and it's probably the cheapest way there is to get attention.
Of course, we have to blame all the media outlets that ran with his story and published pageview-grabbing headlines like, "Guy Asks For Million Dollars On YouTube–Actually Gets It!!" I mean, the tech news world nearly went into seizure praising this guy's moxy–including AOL's new $300 Million acquisition of journalistic integrity, The Huffington Post, who printed the entire story as though it were verified fact.
I predict a pretty solid backlash for Rowin, which will last for a while and then fade sooner than it should. He duped us (and by "us" I mean "not me") by straight-up lying to us, and he did it all for what?
"Because I thought it would be pretty funny."
Well, Craig… was it? It certainly appears to have been quite a jolly good time to you, judging by the smug smile on your face in the reveal video:
Shame on Rowin for pulling the stunt. Shame on the media for believing it so quickly. This is the age we live in now–where pageviews matter more than accuracy in reporting or actual journalism.
Here's video of the actual fake check presentation (and fake-check-burning):
How To Actually Make Money On YouTube?
Thankfully, it is definitely possible to make money on YouTube. You just have to do it the old-fashioned way–upload videos that people enjoy, grow a following,then monetize that following. You know… hard work, the way most people do it. There is no indication that you can become a millionaire by asking people to give you money. But it has been proven that great, entertaining video content can, indeed, make you money on YouTube.
Be very careful with employing the hoax video as a viral marketing method–it can be a launch pad, or an albatross. Don't take short-cuts by deceiving your audience, because they won't stick around long after the reveal.
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