Who says no one wants to watch paint dry?
In an effort to find out how easy it is to buy YouTube views, The Times posted two identical videos of a wet streak of blue children's paint. The 1-minute 47-second videos were given similar titles with deliberately misspelled words to lower the chances they'd be found in regular searches by Web users. One was uploaded to reporter Jack Leonard's YouTube account and the other to reporter David Sarno's.
The Times randomly chose a pair of websites touting quick and cheap views for any video and purchased 40,000 views for Leonard's clip. WorkingYouTubeViews.com charged $46 for 20,000 views; IncreaseYouTubeViews.com was paid $57 for another 20,000.
After eight days, the views on Leonard's video had hit 60,000 — far more than had been paid for. Sarno's video had only 13 views.
Emails sent to the two sites seeking explanations were unreturned. Information embedded in Leonard's video showed that thousands of the views originated on Facebook, suggesting the view boosters might have bought cheap ads on the social network to shotgun the view out to users, a small percentage of whom might have clicked.
Google searches showed that the video had been embedded on a yoga website in the United Kingdom and on a separate video-sharing site registered in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. It was not clear how much traffic those sites generated.