How producers exploit teenage girls in order to make viral videos

Lucas Friedman, Staff Writer

In hallways, classrooms, and lunchrooms all across the nation, students are showing their friends hot new YouTube videos. Most of these consist of someone (or some cat) doing something embarrassing, and people of all ages find humor in others’ humiliation. These videos quickly get old, and are almost immediately replaced with new videos.

These infamous YouTube videos have become a trademark of American pop culture since the social media website’s breakthrough in the early 2000’s with videos like “Numa Numa,” “Chocolate Rain,” and “The Evolution of Dance.”

YouTube allows for originality, and as the Internet grows, the website has become one of the most successful social platforms in the world. YouTube became so successful that creator Chad Hurley sold the website to Google for $1.65 billion in Oct. 2006. Google soon transformed YouTube into a money-making machine, and popular YouTubers such as Smosh and Ray William Johnson capitalized on the opportunity and turned their original content into thousands of dollars.

While thousands of YouTubers have made fortunes on the site, YouTube is still most notably known for its viral video. It retains this power, despite the success of new video sharing apps such as Vine and Instagram. Because the website offers the chance to make money, it attracts some especially unique people. Thus, the videos of the new age of YouTube have something in common: they are weird.

The most recognizable viral video of this decade is Rebecca Black’s music video for her song “Friday.” Due to the song’s mixture of an annoying beat, overly auto-tuned voices, and the absurd content, Rebecca Black instantly earned negative attention. Even so, people continued to click on the video, and as the views increased, so did the chance to make money. Rebecca Black continued to gain national attention, and whether or not a person actually liked her song, everyone was watching her video, helping it grow even further. Rebecca took her fame and went on to appear on many TV shows, and her song appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 once it hit iTunes, despite it being dubbed by critics as “the worst song ever.”

When investigating deeper into “Friday,” it is discovered that the song was written and produced by ARK Music Factory. This raises questions: was the company deliberately exploiting Rebecca Black in order to make money? Did they create a viral video intended to gain negative attention?

“Friday” pumped out millions of views and reposts on other websites, and resulted in boat loads of cash for both Rebecca and ARK. Since the viral video, many music companies have tried to emulate the video in order to make money, and in most cases, the YouTube community falls right into the trap. This can be seen by Jenna Rose’s “My Jeans,” among others.

It is clear: since YouTube became the business it is today, many companies have taken advantage of the viral video landscape to earn fortunes at the expense of the  kids and teenagers, who essentially created YouTube by posting impressive and funny original videos just for fun, and not for money.