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Summary:

Is the latest breakout series on YouTube the beneficiary of view scamming? An unexpectedly successful, non-studio affiliated show starring All My Children actress Eden Reigel as a lonely-slash-possibly schizo girl who conjures imaginary friends, Imaginary Bitches has been racking up the views lately: At least one […]

Is the latest breakout series on YouTube the beneficiary of view scamming?

An unexpectedly successful, non-studio affiliated show starring All My Children actress Eden Reigel as a lonely-slash-possibly schizo girl who conjures imaginary friends, Imaginary Bitches has been racking up the views lately: At least one episode has been viewed over 1 million times, and several other episodes have view counts in the high six figures.

Ostensibly, the show’s popularity is derived from Reigel’s star power, plus cameos from other soap actors such as Jessalyn Gilsig, Greg Rikaart and Elisabeth Hendrickson. The boldface names have prompted coverage in pubs including NYPost.com, US Weekly and TVGuide.com, and the series was recently featured on YouTube’s home page.

But despite these bona fides, at least one anonymous IB detractor — a tipster who wrote a detailed account of his suspicions to NTV — accused IB of using fake MySpace profiles, MySpace spamming and YouTube’s autoplay embeds to generates tens of thousands of fake views.

Pointing to the inbound links on each IB vid on YouTube, our tipster noted the high number of views coming from suspicious MySpace profiles. For example, Episode 1 links include 4,463 views from Pam/Jenna (a fake Office profile). Episode 7 links include 18,938 views from Leona Lewis (a UK pop artist). There are several more examples, with each MySpace profile showing the video in the comments field, never embedded by the actual profile owner. Sometimes the videos appear in comments far removed from the profile’s front page.

Andrew Miller, the series creator and writer, denies any wrongdoing.

“We stopped doing that,” he said, referring to the practice of distributing embedded videos in comments. “There are sites out there that say they guarantee a certain number of views or plays or whatever, but honestly, I can’t afford that. And when you do it that way, I don’t think it even counts.”

A YouTube spokesperson said that autoplaybacks are not counted toward the visible “views” numbers displayed on YouTube because those playbacks are not viewer initiated.

Miller said that he and Reigel spent hours promoting the show to MySpace bloggers, and asked Reigel’s enthusiastic fan base to help out. Every time a show premieres, he said, they send the video to their MySpace contacts. “It’s our fans who have done the bulk of the work. They pass the episodes along, they blog about them, they comment, they message board, create avatars and write to other bloggers…Without an Eisner-type marketing budget, episode sharing is the best way we know to find an audience.”

Miller is currently finishing post-production work on IB’s first season. “We haven’t made any money, and this is all out of pocket expenses,” he said, adding that he’s been shopping around the series to several sites. He attributes the show’s success to his wife’s fans, the show’s content and help from friends. “We’ve gotten by on favors from friends, really.”

In fact, he added, “We’re about to start work on season two, and I’m just about out of favors.”

  1. Hey Andrew,

    If you are out of money and out of favors don’t start season two until you have a revenue stream.

    If you stand on a corner and give away free lemon-aid until you run out of lemons, water and sugar you are never going to make any money.

    Fame without fortune makes you Joey Buttafuoco.

    Take your numbers, go to industry events, parties, conventions and seminars and make new friends that will become your sponsors.

    It’s worked for me.

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  2. That show is amazing! Thanks for posting! I’m hooked.

    But I don’t get what the big deal with this story is…

    “A YouTube spokesperson said that autoplaybacks are not counted toward the visible “views” numbers displayed on YouTube”

    The show is great… and any non- ‘bona fides’ don’t count anyway… so who cares!

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  3. i’d say it looks like the early videos on the channel were gamed, and then they stopped. the video that has over 1 million was featured by youtube at some point, so that explains its extra bump.

    another piece of evidence pointing toward “cheating” is the comment to view ratio on the videos with the most views. e.g., ep 4 has 576K views and only 258 comments. ep 8, which is not gamed, has 33K views and 292 comments. compare that to the # of comments on the most viewed this week list.

    the high view videos i checked on this channel have disabled the functionality to show sites linking to it. that is one way of masking coordinated efforts to get up view counts.

    “gaming” things like to this to help jumpstart a new channel is not uncommon on youtube. a serial is hard to get noticed on youtbe. whether a real audience results from the gaming is the real test.

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  4. [...] post on NTV that goes back to the essential question for web video: what is a [...]

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  5. i can’t wait for season 2! i love this! i just watched all of them on YouTube!
    my friend got me into them, well first she got me to watch clips of Bianca and Maggie off of YouTube from All My Children (love them by the way!) anyway then i was convinced i’d seen Elizabeth Hendrickson before and looked (she was on an ep of Criminal Minds i’d watched before) anyway not the point and probably not interesting to you! so i found out they were on the mini series and figured what the hell may as well watch it!
    so i did and i loved it and i can’t wait for season 2!
    please make more quickly!

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  6. “A YouTube spokesperson said that autoplaybacks are not counted toward the visible “views” numbers displayed on YouTube because those playbacks are not viewer initiated.”

    Name the spokesperson or stop quoting him (i.e. stop spreading his dis-information for him, its getting annoying, especially when other people quote your article).

    What YouTube did was stop counting links to pages that hosted autoplaying videos in the links section of the video statistics. This only hid the source of the view fraud. The fraudulent views are still counted.

    Try it, you can rack up 200 views and be able to write an evidence based article in less time than it takes to make a cup of coffee.

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  7. [...] (scoring over a million views on the first episode, along with, as Steve Bryant reported last year, some viewcount-related controversy). This in theory makes Bitches a bit of a rerun for Strike, but you can hardly blame them for [...]

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  8. [...] (scoring over a million views on the first episode, along with, as Steve Bryant reported last year, some viewcount-related controversy). This in theory makes Bitches a bit of a rerun for Strike, but you can hardly blame them for [...]

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