December 4, 2022

Why Finance Gurus Switched Their Bait From Millions to Thousands of Dollars

In Paffrath’s case, stimulus-check updates began doubling his other videos in view counts; one update became the most popular video on his channel, with 1.1 million views. For other finance gurus, these updates took over their output entirely. Their audiences grew dramatically, but the shift required a tacit admission: that the people they had been teasing with paths to affluence had ended up sitting around with everyone else, hoping for a check.

Viewer demand didn’t come from upward-bound entrepreneurs after all, it seemed, but rather from those enduring the kind of precarity where the precise timing of a $2,000 deposit could mean keeping the lights on or the difference between housing and eviction. These audiences didn’t want yesterday’s news, or even this morning’s; the slightest budge toward progress was meaningful and welcome. So the output of YouTube updates was relentless: Every hour, a glut of new videos provided the latest on whether relief was coming and how many dollars of it were likely to arrive.

The audiences they had been teasing with paths to affluence had ended up sitting around with everyone else, hoping for a check.

Paffrath typically uploaded two videos each day. Some content makers uploaded three or more. There was, often, simply not much to say. The key to collecting views was simply to serve as foil to what the audience saw as an infuriating lack of urgency from Congress and the president. The YouTubers tended to mimic the calm, authoritative style of cable-news anchors, but other than reading other peoples’ reporting off printer paper, there was little to do beyond trying to match their viewers’ exasperation. The visuals, comically, featured the same techniques used to press investment schemes: stock images of fanned-out $100 bills and tantalizing click bait like “$4,200 STIMULUS!”

Paffrath has a charisma that cuts through all this. He’s exceptionally talented at talking to a camera, a natural salesman. But when he turns to a flowchart breaking down the Biden stimulus proposal, what might even be sincerity leaks out. Judging by the ad hoc community formed in his comments sections, his viewers appreciate it.

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