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Striking it rich on YouTube is not as easy as some make it sound

Aug. 3, 2022 Updated Wed., Aug. 3, 2022 at 10:09 p.m.

Dave Nick, a Serbian creator whose real name is Dejan Nikolic, is shown in Belgrade, Serbia, on July 4. Nikolic has promoted YouTube automation since 2019.  (New York Times )
Dave Nick, a Serbian creator whose real name is Dejan Nikolic, is shown in Belgrade, Serbia, on July 4. Nikolic has promoted YouTube automation since 2019. (New York Times )
By Nico Grant New York TImes

Scott Mitchell became convinced YouTube would make him rich.

Mitchell, 33, got the idea last year from videos that promoted courses on how to build so-called cash cow channels, which are often created through a process called YouTube automation.

So he bought one course, then another and another. He also paid for mentorship services.

Mitchell spent around $15,000 on his YouTube venture, encountering stumbling blocks at every stage – courses that taught him little, freelancers who stole content and audience-growth tactics that got him into trouble with YouTube.

“I’ve tried three courses and one expert on the side, and the only thing I got out of it was an empty wallet,” Mitchell said.

YouTube automation has led to a cottage industry with online influencers offering tutorials and opportunities for fast money.

But, as is often the case with promises of quickly made fortunes in online businesses, the YouTube automation process can be a money pit for aspiring internet entrepreneurs and a magnet for poseurs selling unhelpful services.

It is not difficult to find a video that fits the YouTube automation model, though it is hard to say for certain how many of them have been made.

They usually have an unseen narrator and a catchy headline.

They share news, explain a topic or offer a Top 10 list about celebrities or athletes.

They often aggregate material like video clips and photos from other sources. Sometimes, they run into trouble with copyright rules.

The term “YouTube automation” is a bit of a misnomer.

It usually means farming out work to freelancers rather than relying on an automated process. It is hardly a new idea and yet one that has recently become more popular.

Farming out work lets people

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