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YouTube’s Secret Dark Pattern Tries to Trick You Into Watching Ads

The existence of so many free resources that you can use to ostensibly watch anything you desire and connect with your friends through social media is not exactly free because of the fact that this is the sort of thing that could potentially end up requiring you to hand over your personal and private information to the corporations behind these services. YouTube is no different, since its massive platform relies on the ad revenue that their videos can bring in.

With all of that having been said and now out of the way, it is important to note that this creates a bit of a unique problem for YouTube, namely that the platform needs to balance multiple needs. It has to make sure that advertisers pay them, and the longer the ads are, the higher these rates would be with all things having been considered and taken into account. In spite of the fact that this is the case, consumers might not be willing to watch videos if they are forced to see too many ads, which is why the skip button exists.

However, if YouTube allows viewers to skip too frequently, they might be forced to charge less for their ads. Also, if users can skip ads so easily they might not be willing to pay for the ad free subscription which needs to be paid for, so YouTube has to figure out how to incentivize paid subscriptions, keep advertisers happy and give consumers the impression that they can skip ads whenever they like as well.

This is why the video streaming platform has been using a very subtle dark pattern. The pattern in question involves using a variety of different ad implementations. The skip button can consist of a countdown or some other call to action, or it can simply be a countdown without any call to action associated with it. There are around five ways in which skippable ads are displayed on YouTube, and this makes it so that users would have a harder time recognizing patterns that would allow them to zone the ad out and skip it as soon as they can.

Hence, users might forget to skip and watch a few seconds of ad time which would enable YouTube to charge advertisers and brands for their ad space instead of being forced to forego payment due to an earlier than expected skip. Mixing things up like this can have a very strong psychological impact on people, and the few seconds of extra ad watching time that YouTube might get from each individual user can add up to massive amounts of revenue over time.

Another thing that YouTube does is add multiple counters to their ads. One counter will count down the duration of the ad whereas the other would be counting down the seconds until you can skip the ad. This is a somewhat underhanded technique whose sole purpose is to confuse viewers, and while it is not exactly illegal it might be something that YouTube subscribers would get frustrated by. Being forced to watch ads is never pleasant, but companies like YouTube need to turn a profit so they would obviously do things like this.


H/T: Prototypr

Read next: TikTok’s Main Audience is Young Users, Here’s Why That Might Not Be Sustainable

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