'Beer Money' Apps Are Drying Up During Quarantine

While being locked inside, some people are moving to money-making apps that pay you for watching ads. But the ad industry isn’t paying out.
April 14, 2020, 12:45pm
Phone farms
Image: Cathryn Virginia

With millions of people losing their jobs, and everyone stuck at home during quarantine, some people are trying to make money by turning to smartphone apps that promise you small amounts of money in exchange for watching ads or performing other menial tasks. But the hollowing out of the ad market is causing many of these apps to shut down.

The news shows how the pandemic is impacting even niche economies and communities, including ones that some people have tried to rely on in the past for extra income. Motherboard previously reported how people in America have built phone farms to monetize these apps at scale, setting up rigs of dozens or hundreds of phones to simultaneously run the apps.

"I would have probably tested a couple of them, but not as many as I'm testing now," one app user, who goes by the Reddit username Spike8605, told Motherboard, referring to using more apps during quarantine.

In the r/beermoney subreddit, where people regularly exchange ideas on how to find different methods for generating extra cash, several users said they are turning to money-making apps during the pandemic.

"Heya, quarantined and in need of a quick buck," the user T3TR4K1LL3R wrote in a post on the subreddit last week. "I need about 20 euros and I was wondering how I could make them myself, considering I am stuck at home. I'm 17 and live in Italy (if that changes anything)," they added. T3TR4K1LL3R told Motherboard they had tried some apps and websites before the quarantine but with limited success; the apps often require a high amount of engagement or use before they pay out any sort of notable amount of money.

Do you run or work in a phone farm? Or know someone who does? We'd love to hear from you. You can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, OTR chat on jfcox@jabber.ccc.de, or email joseph.cox@vice.com.

"Hi, new subredditer for beermoney here! (thanks coronavirus :p )," Spike8605 said in their own post.

Spike8605 told Motherboard they hope to use the income from money-making apps to buy a gift for their spouse, buy downloadable content for video games, or to give to charity. Motherboard's earlier report found how some people using the apps at scale spent the money to cover food or diapers.

But some apps are closing-up shop.

"We understand that times have been tough lately. This virus is impacting almost everything that we do daily, including earning points at Hideout TV," a post on the Facebook page for money-making app Hideout TV reads. Hideout TV lets users watch videos in exchange for points, which can be used to buy swag from video creators.

"The unprecedented COVID-19 crisis has caused many advertisers to temporarily pause budgets at HideoutTV (and everywhere else too). Some of these reasons include shelter-in place restrictions, lower incoming revenue, and fewer staff. Essentially, most customers are staying home and not spending, causing a huge strain on the advertising industry," Hideout TV's CEO Fehzan Ali wrote in a company post. "Thus, given that rewards are based on our ability to generate advertising revenue, there is a direct impact on the amount of points that can be earned daily. Note: The entire advertising industry is dealing with this exact same issue," he added.

Slidejoy is an app which lets users "rent" their phone's screen, meaning their device will display advertisements when locked in exchange for payment. The company said in a recent email sent to users that it will soon be stopping all services.

"Unfortunately, it has come to our attention that our service quality could not meet our users' demands due to the lack of digital advertisements and offers in your country," the email, shared by multiple users on Reddit, reads. As much as we would love to continue our product and service, it is impossible to do so if we cannot find high quality advertisements and offers." However, the email did not specifically mention the coronavirus pandemic, and Slidejoy did not respond to a request for comment.

T3TR4K1LL3R added, "The apps tend to give out very small amounts of cash, but as long as it's free and simple, everything goes."

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This article originally appeared on VICE US.

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