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How algorithms (and Tik Tok) influence content creation

Algorithms have been accused of locking us in a filter bubble. But I feel furious that they also cause a bubble in content creation. By highlighting certain content and making it popular, they encourage some people to imitate that content in the hope of being successful. A mechanism that moves away from “old school” creation mechanisms. In this article, I share 3 content formats that have an annoying tendency to multiply.

We quickly find ourselves in a bubble of filters fed by imitating original content.

I like to get lost on YouTube and discover new content according to the recommendations proposed by the algorithm. The competition from Tik Tok and the emergence of “Shorts” on YouTube (often copies of Tik Tok content, by the way) have changed the data. These short formats are easily carried out, and we see the emergence of “series” where the creator reproduces the same recipe endlessly. When this format pleases Internet users, the algorithm promotes them and makes them discover other creators eager for the same success. We can then see pure and simple imitations, identical reproductions of the same “formula.”

Here are 3 examples.

If you only have 30 seconds

  • Tik Tok has popularized a very short and addictive content format
  • Tik Tok and YouTube algorithms (Shorts) are spreading this type of content on a large scale
  • The most popular content is imitated. Recommendations are therefore cluttered with similar content.
  • The dynamics of content creation are therefore influenced by algorithms and the expected success of this type of content. This is a manifestation of Goodhart’s law.

Daniel Mac and his “Your car’s awesome, what do you do for a living?”

Daniel Mac (real name Daniel MacDonald) made a name for himself on Tik Tok with his videos in which he asks luxury car drivers what they do for a living (“What do you do for a living?”). He became a millionaire himself thanks to his success. He is now followed on Tik Tok by 13.7 million people and has accumulated 295.8 million Likes on this network.

The video’s concept is brilliant because it satisfies our natural curiosity. How do Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Rolls-Royce drivers earn their money? This captivating question can be asked endlessly. Since luxury cars intrigue many people and are part of the collective imagination, the audience for these videos is very large.

Other YouTubers then started to apply the same recipe and ask people with external signs of wealth what they do for a living. The algorithm recommended me @Aviyah Tamir’s channel, where people wearing luxury watches are subjected to the same interrogation. It’s quite embarrassing to watch because you can see that some people just wanted to go unnoticed.

Credits: @Aviyah Tamir via YouTube

Street photography by David Guerrero

The other type of content that has gained traction is the one popularized by David Guerrero, a young photographer from Austin, Texas, who found a very original way to showcase his talents. He films himself asking to take pictures of people he meets on the street. The pattern of his videos is always the same:

  • he approaches a stranger in the street and asks him if he can take a portrait
  • he films himself carrying out the photo
  • he retouches the photos and shows the final result (always very worked and bluffing)

This gives very short (40-50 seconds on average) and addictive videos.

His gallery of portraits on Tik Tok gives a good overview of his talent, followed by more than 1.1 million people on YouTube and 1.4 million on Instagram. This success is now being emulated by other content creators who apply the same script.

Tiko Tok Dgphotoholic

David Guerrero’s Tik Tok page. Credits: Dgphotoholic via Tik Tok

street photography Tik Tok

@dannydamianphoto is replicating the same recipe as David Guerrero (@dgphotoholic) for his videos on Tik Tok. @chinesedriver8536 varied the script slightly for his, but the principle remains the same.

Visiting an apartment

The third content format is the apartment tour. As in the 2 previous cases, the content creator approaches a stranger in the street and asks them the amount of their rent. Once the rent is known, the person asks to visit the apartment.

Caleb Simpson was the first to popularize this format and boldly enter the privacy of New Yorkers. As with other creators, his content idea was born out of confinement. As in the other examples we gave, the videos are always very short and follow the same pattern:

  • Meeting a stranger on the street
  • Caleb asks him to visit his apartment
  • Visit the apartment

Some “Shorts” have even become videos in their own right (see below).

Caleb’s success has been dazzling since nearly 2 million YouTube users follow him. This has made people envious, and similar formats have started to appear here and there. @lecureuilmusic reproduced the scheme in Paris (see screenshots below).

video shorts lecureuilmusic

Lecureuilmusic replicates Caleb Simpson’s recipe exactly. Credits: @lecureuilmusic via YouTube


To conclude

Social networks are extraordinary in that they simplify the creation and distribution of content. It has never been so easy to test your ideas and get them known. However, the recommendation algorithms of the different platforms are uncontrollable, and success depends on luck.

Keeping the recipe of successful content has become as fleeting as the success itself.

Exposure of these contents to the greatest number of people creates a vocation. Algorithms indirectly inspire the creation and appearance of clones. Keeping the paternity of the recipe of successful content has become as fleeting as the success itself. On the one hand, we have the impression that the pace of creation is getting faster and faster, but on the other hand, we are also witnessing a certain “formatting” of ideas. If innovation always results from a “mix” of previous ideas, what I find worrying is this tendency to use recipes to the limit without reinventing them. We are literally copying and pasting. And the worst thing is that the algorithm also recommends you copies. You quickly find yourself in a bubble of filters fed by imitating original content.

So, of course, on the number of contents created each year, the diversity remains huge, and I’m not worried about the creation. In the same way, that filter bubbles don’t exist, I don’t believe in the emergence of a content bubble. I’m much more worried that algorithms will influence the recipes of content creation and that we’ll see more and more short, sensational content, … designed to capture attention that is only decreasing. All this can only lead to drifts and misfortunes, as we have seen many times when influencers try to make the buzz at any cost.



Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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