Tech by VICE

A Content Farm’s Guide to Winning April Fools' Day

Pranks are perfect content.

by Carles Buzz
Apr 1 2016, 1:30pm

It's not easy to be a content creator, a content farm, or even a prankster on on April Fools' Day. Like most days, content farms feel the pull of demand for content. However, there's the added pressure of curating a viral moment that attracts the attention of the entire internet. But today, 'trying too hard' or even 'pranking too hard' could mean that your content farm has betrayed the trust of your audience. Content farms must know their audience and choose whether or not they feel the need to post low-end sponsored content that promotes brands that are desperate to inject themselves into 'the conversation' on this massive internet holiday.

April Fools' Day was started before there was a YouTube upon which to upload a video in order to earn ad dollars. Back then, the tale of a prankster fooling a person or a crowd was transmitted by word of mouth. The audience was smaller, and the prank was confined to a smaller network. Now that the internet has created the alleged opportunity for an instantaneous global audience, which is basically the point of a content farm. If you really think about it, a prank is an early form of highly engaging content—which explains the pressure on the media to participate in yet another pseudo-holiday.

What is even the upside for a media outlet to participate in a prank? There are a few strategies that content farms take when covering April Fools' Day.

Create branded content that puts a spotlight on your brand/farm.

Content exists to be paid for inventing content, even on April Fools' Day. Virgin got out ahead of the field with its 'edgy' logo rebranding parody. In many ways, this is a perfect example of contemporary internet content. It exists to engage #Millennials, promote shareability, and promote brand awareness. It is supposed to be 'funny' and meant to generate positive and negative reactions that can be quantified into nothing but positive 'buzz.' The video can 'get coverage' from the April Fools' Day content demand and every one will be happy that the content exists. This is uninspired content, and uninspired content farms will #reblog many memes like it on April Fools' Day. This type of lifeless charade is why people are over April Fools' Day AND gimmicky content.

Publish a historical exploration about April Fools' Day.

Writing about April Fools' Day as a historical landmark gives your content farm an elevated, #longform brand. You are digging deep, finally exposing the roots on something sacred, long forgotten. Instead of just recapping HUGE #viral pranks or having your ad team help a brand launch a prank, you are educating your audience with the backstory of the holiday. In a way, you are reaffirming to your audience that the day actually matters. It's not as inconsequential as Little Red Wagon Day, but potentially as historically significant as Christmas.

Just pander to the contemporary language of your Millennial audience.

If you have a content farm that reaches Millennials, you might as well get #lit with your #baes, because your ride or dies literally can't when it comes to April Fools' Day. Lean on the voice to slip this prank-based content into the daily stream of self-affirming language. Today's content farm is VERY Millennial and aware of social issues. Finding a few pranks that could be angled as 'in poor taste' and applying a backlash-driven narrative to them could be huge. The upside is that all pranks can be spun as 'in poor taste.' At the same time, most Millennials DO have a sense of humor. Use the language of today to get a huge reaction from social media, letting your Snapchat followers know that your brand is #onfleek, sort of like an edgy corporate Twitter account in 2014.

Just let the pranking professionals do their thing and recap.

We can count on Jimmy Fallon, Ellen DeGeneres, YouTube-famous families, and John Oliver to generate the April Fools' Day content that readers are familiar with. It doesn't matter if they are executing an expensive prank or ranting against the pointlessness of April Fools' Day. What matters is that you just got free content. This is the brilliance of the video embed—you get to let other people take a stronger stance while you just embed the content with a passive recap.

Be 'above' April Fools' Day, but still cover it.

When you live on the content farm, you have to get to work. The audience reads your page because they identify with the point of view. Even if you are a high-end content farm, find a way to 'be above it all' with your voice. You can use April Fools' Day to reflect on 'the times,' how technology has made things so different, and how our culture doesn't even stop and smell the roses any more. Of course, your farm would never try to orchestrate a prank, because you are a self-aware website. Instead, allow outsiders to label your content as disinterested and pretentious when you are actually genuinely trying to make sense of world events everyday, whether or not they are content-inducing holidays.

Truthfully, the prank niche of the internet is alive and well, and it doesn't need your annual April Fool's interest bubble . The following prank uploaded by famous YouTube pranker Roman Atwood in November of 2014 has 43 million views. It wasn't uploaded on April Fools' Day. The prank space on the internet has already been won, and it doesn't need any of your sponsored content, overthought angles, and trendhopping recaps.

Life on the Content Farm is a weekly column about internet media written by the last relevant blogger.