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We Watched 1,000 TikToks; Nearly a Third Were Ads



We Watched 1,000 TikToks; Nearly a Third Were Ads

  • TikTok has introduced affiliate content and direct links to TikTok Shop all over the app. 
  • We watched 1,000 TikToks to see if we could observe any advertising patterns in our For You Pages.
  • The results? On TikTok, about a third of the content we watched were ads — but it didn’t always feel that way.

People are consuming TikTok like no other social media platform.

The most addicted generation — the typical American Gen Z watcher — spends 79 minutes on the app a day. In the US, the number of minutes the typical adult over 18 spends on the social media app also continues to rise from nearly 39 minutes a day in 2020 to 56 minutes by the end of this year, Insider Intelligence forecasted.

In between the mindless scrolling through silly dog clips, aesthetic get ready with me videos, and the occasional mind-altering or absurdist Gen Z posts are a whole lot of products.

TikTok didn’t respond to a request for data on how frequently ads are supposed to appear on the site and how these ads are dispersed on the For You Page (FYP). However, a TikTok spokesperson told Insider ads are supposed to represent a small portion of the content people should see on their FYP.

TikTok drops the hottest shopping trend of 2023

Earlier this year, TikTok rolled out an affiliate commission program to allow creators to promote products on the recently unveiled TikTok shop.

Creators who participate link to products on their videos or slideshows. The links show up at the bottom left corner of the screen next to a shopping cart icon, and users can click on the link to be directed to that item on the TikTok shop.

Users who get people to purchase the product through their link make a cut, incentivizing users to post more affiliate links and speak highly of the products they’re linking out to.

Although it is unclear if this led to increased promotional content on the site, some people have definitely been complaining.

In one TikTok Insider found, a user complained that their FYP was all ads, displaying four videos in a row that were either regular advertisements or videos about products.

Other users have complained on the site that they are receiving ads “all over their FYP” or ads “every 6 videos.” Some users complain that TikTok Shop content has dominated their FYP.

Many users who did complain did not provide evidence of said ads on their FYP.

But even if something isn’t flagged as an ad on TikTok, either with an “eligible for commission” or a “sponsored” tag at the bottom left corner of the screen, users can still be inundated with content encouraging them to buy something. For example, creators can show us items for product reviews or promote their businesses through their pages.

Here at Insider, two Gen Z colleagues decided to take on the laborious task of watching 500 TikToks each to determine how much advertising we consume on the platform and what that means for our consumer-centric culture (and our sanity).

Our methodology

This experiment was conducted over a nearly three-hour timespan on a Saturday night. It involved two reporters: Hannah, who lives in Southern California, and Sebastian, who lives in Northern California.

This was a rigorous science experiment, so of course, we tracked our results on a Google spreadsheet that we put together in 20 minutes.

We focused solely on TikTok videos and slideshows and excluded TikTok stories and TikTok livestreams — even streams that were explicitly there to sell products, like QVC.

The five categories of content that we tracked were:

  • Regular Content: This is your average TikTok cooking tutorial or Get Ready With Me. No one is explicitly showing you a product.

  • Affiliate Content: This is content that creators make to receive a commission on TikTok.

  • Sponsored Content: Also called a paid partnership on TikTok. A company pays a creator to talk about their product.

  • Traditional Ads: These are regular ads that businesses pay TikTok to display.

  • Self-promoting of a business or product: A company or individual using their platform to promote products or services, but it isn’t marked as an ad.

  • Product Reviews: These aren’t intended to advertise, but the creators still display products and speak positively or negatively about them.

Because there isn’t much data on the TikTok algorithm (the company is notoriously secretive about how it works exactly), precisely how our actions influenced the algorithm — or if there was any effect in real time — was a complete mystery.

However, we did know some general factors about how the FYP decides to feed us content.

Following certain accounts, liking posts, and even hovering over videos that pertain to a topic of interest aid the algorithm in deciding what to show you next — this includes videos with TikTok shop links, according to a TikTok spokesperson. The more you interact with shoppable content, the more the algorithm gives you said content.

We were also aware that our content suggestions would be different based on our individual interests, watch times, locations, and interactions with the app.

With all this in mind, we grabbed our water bottles, silenced our Slack notifications, and leaped into the TikTok abyss.

Hannah’s observations

My name is Hannah, and I indulge in many different subgenres on TikTok — travel content, hair and beauty content, home lifestyle content, and social justice content — but broadly speaking, I’m on the Black side of TikTok.

And my FYP knows me well… maybe too well.

Throughout this tiresome experiment (my thumbs are still recovering), I became hyper-aware that TikTok at least vaguely understood that I would be interested in the same advertising content.

For example, I received so many advertisements for wigs. Although I don’t wear wigs, it was clear that the algorithm believed that I was a Black woman or knew that I was interested in content that involved Black women.

It took me two hours to finish watching 500 TikToks; just over 64% of the content I saw was regular content, meaning the remaining 36% was related to a product of some kind — whether it was an explicit ad or a review.

I often seek out advice for products on TikTok, so I wasn’t surprised that 5% of the content I saw was from people who reviewed products, often “CleanTok” products — items popularized by content creators who feature themselves cleaning and sanitizing their homes.

That means 31% of the content I saw was some sort of explicit advertisement. Only one ad I saw was not intended to sell a product — it was a promotion for the Trevor Project.

A pie chart with Hannah's results

Hannah’s results


Sometimes, these videos were stacked, meaning I would see an affiliate ad on top of a traditional ad, or a traditional ad on top of a business promoting itself.

The longest break I had between product-related content was nine videos, although that wasn’t common.

However, the percentage of ads appeared typical of a network TV program, which can consist of up to 17 minutes of ads an hour — or about 28% of programming. The key difference is that you scroll past a TikTok ad.

Sebastian’s Experience

My name is Sebastian, and I’m a queer 22-year-old living in the Bay Area. I like watching horror movies, reading, overelaborate skincare routines, and spending too much time trying out advanced crafts that I’ve never attempted, with often poor results.

I lay all these things about myself out so that you, too, can be horrified about how well my TikTok page seems to know me despite my pride in maintaining a mysterious online front.

Even as a Gen Z, my content-consuming capabilities were truly tested by watching 500 TikToks in a row. It was the modern-day equivalent of when my ancestors had to spend all day outside hunting for food or whatever.

Predictably, my content was a well-tailored mix of niche movie suggestions, queer theory discourse, and lots and lots of crocheting advice. Nothing out of the ordinary for a jaunt onto my For You Page.

Once I started noticing the ads, though, I couldn’t stop. Before starting my “research,” I was annoyed with how many ads I saw, but I wouldn’t say I considered them truly obstructive to my content-viewing experience. Once I started paying attention, though, I realized I saw an ad after every two or three regular TikToks.

Pie chart showing Sebastian's results — the smallest sliver is for "product reviews."

Pie chart showing Sebastian’s results — the smallest sliver is for “product reviews.”


Some ads seemed random, but lots weren’t — I saw a lot of advertisements for skincare and self-care products, and some sites advertising used books and literary merchandise.

I did see ads for things I’m uninterested in, too, like an incredible number of ads for Macy’s, which is apparently still kicking. I also saw at least 10 ads for the new Disney movie “Wish,” which has a script that seems like it was produced in the middle of a writer’s strike.

After several Sisyphean hours, during which I questioned my commitment to my craft, I saw 360 regular TikToks and 140 ads, most of which were traditional-style or influencer-sponsored content.

That breaks down to 71.8% regular TikToks and 29.2% advertisements in the content I consumed.

‘It’s helping people find things that they need’

The main thing we took out of our experiment is the astounding amount of products advertised to us daily, often without us fully comprehending their influence. Even the most conscientious of us have probably bought something they would have had no idea about if they weren’t on social media.

Kristen Schiele, a USC Marshall School of Business professor, told Insider we could see an increased ad volume since advertisers push more ad content around the holiday season.

According to Schiele, some 200 million hours of video are streamed daily using TikTok, making its impact enormous.

“People are spending more time on TikTok. You’re going to see more ads because people are spending more time there,” Schiele said. “Advertisers are willing to pay more because that’s where their audience is.”

It’s unclear whether or not there are more product promotions on TikTok than there used to be (although it sure feels like it), but one thing is clear — there is no escaping advertising in this world.

Streaming services are introducing more ads in their movies and shows this year. Previous reports say cable networks insert more advertising into their programming. And on other social media sites like Instagram, users have also complained about increased advertisements.

Depending on how long we spend plugged into our devices, we could absorb more “influence” than we think. According to data cited by TikTok, about 37% of users have purchased something they discovered on the platform. And, with the platform’s lofty aspirations to beat out Amazon as an e-commerce behemoth, users might not even have to leave the app to make those purchases.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Beyond the crushing doom of AI taking over our society, we suppose it depends on your point of view.

TikTok and other social media platforms can, in some instances, democratize viral moments and allow small businesses to thrive. So far, over 200,000 businesses use TikTok Shop to sell their products, per a TikTok spokesperson.

The platform has resulted in a fair share of success stories, a TikTok spokesperson told Insider. One example is Soo Slick, a shapewear brand founded by Nigerian immigrant Elizabeth Adeoye.

Adeoye told Insider that she’s been able to generate $1 million in monthly sales through the platform and affiliate program since she began posting her products earlier this year.

Adeoye said before joining the platform, she spent thousands on buying ads, conducting market research, and paying influencers to promote products. All of those costs disappeared once she joined TikTok shop.

She also said that the platform has helped her better serve her customers. For example, her followers help her decide what designs to sell next.

“TikTok has all around supporting Black small businesses,” Adeoye said. “They’ve been really, really, really supportive when it comes to my exposure, brand exposure, and giving us credit for advertisements and stuff like that. They’ve just definitely been a huge part of my success so far.”

And it seems like more and more, the platform is becoming a place where people want to find products. Last year, Google data showed that Gen Z is increasingly turning to the app to search for what they want online.

Schiele added that some people may even like the ads, especially if it helps them solve a “problem.”

“Whatever it is that I’m searching for, if it’s able to tailor ads, it could help me solve my problem,” Schiele said. “In a way, it’s helping people find things that they need.”

But, if we’re trying to combat over-consumerism, more buying drives us further from reaching climate goals and creates a ton of waste — which, perhaps, isn’t good.

Either way, this experiment should give you something to consider. And potentially something to blame for your new reliance on Temu.

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12 Proven Methods to Make Money Blogging in 2024



Make money blogging


Make money bloggingThis is a contributed article.

The world of blogging continues to thrive in 2024, offering a compelling avenue for creative minds to share their knowledge, build an audience, and even turn their passion into profit. Whether you’re a seasoned blogger or just starting, there are numerous effective strategies to monetize your blog and achieve financial success. Here, we delve into 12 proven methods to make money blogging in 2024:

1. Embrace Niche Expertise:

Standing out in the vast blogosphere requires focus. Carving a niche allows you to cater to a specific audience with targeted content. This not only builds a loyal following but also positions you as an authority in your chosen field. Whether it’s gardening techniques, travel hacking tips, or the intricacies of cryptocurrency, delve deep into a subject you’re passionate and knowledgeable about. Targeted audiences are more receptive to monetization efforts, making them ideal for success.

2. Content is King (and Queen):

High-quality content remains the cornerstone of any successful blog. In 2024, readers crave informative, engaging, and well-written content that solves their problems, answers their questions, or entertains them. Invest time in crafting valuable blog posts, articles, or videos that resonate with your target audience.

  • Focus on evergreen content: Create content that remains relevant for a long time, attracting consistent traffic and boosting your earning potential.
  • Incorporate multimedia: Spice up your content with captivating images, infographics, or even videos to enhance reader engagement and improve SEO.
  • Maintain consistency: Develop a regular publishing schedule to build anticipation and keep your audience coming back for more.

3. The Power of SEO:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ensures your blog ranks high in search engine results for relevant keywords. This increases organic traffic, the lifeblood of any monetization strategy.

  • Keyword research: Use keyword research tools to identify terms your target audience searches for. Strategically incorporate these keywords into your content naturally.
  • Technical SEO: Optimize your blog’s loading speed, mobile responsiveness, and overall technical aspects to improve search engine ranking.
  • Backlink building: Encourage other websites to link back to your content, boosting your blog’s authority in the eyes of search engines.

4. Monetization Magic: Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing allows you to earn commissions by promoting other companies’ products or services. When a reader clicks on your affiliate link and makes a purchase, you get a commission.

  • Choose relevant affiliates: Promote products or services that align with your niche and resonate with your audience.
  • Transparency is key: Disclose your affiliate relationships clearly to your readers and build trust.
  • Integrate strategically: Don’t just bombard readers with links. Weave affiliate promotions naturally into your content, highlighting the value proposition.

5. Display Advertising: A Classic Approach

Display advertising involves placing banner ads, text ads, or other visual elements on your blog. When a reader clicks on an ad, you earn revenue.

  • Choose reputable ad networks: Partner with established ad networks that offer competitive rates and relevant ads for your audience.
  • Strategic ad placement: Place ads thoughtfully, avoiding an overwhelming experience for readers.
  • Track your performance: Monitor ad clicks and conversions to measure the effectiveness of your ad placements and optimize for better results.

6. Offer Premium Content:

Providing exclusive, in-depth content behind a paywall can generate additional income. This could be premium blog posts, ebooks, online courses, or webinars.

  • Deliver exceptional value: Ensure your premium content offers significant value that justifies the price tag.
  • Multiple pricing options: Consider offering tiered subscription plans to cater to different audience needs and budgets.
  • Promote effectively: Highlight the benefits of your premium content and encourage readers to subscribe.

7. Coaching and Consulting:

Leverage your expertise by offering coaching or consulting services related to your niche. Readers who find your content valuable may be interested in personalized guidance.

  • Position yourself as an expert: Showcase your qualifications, experience, and client testimonials to build trust and establish your credibility.
  • Offer free consultations: Provide a limited free consultation to potential clients, allowing them to experience your expertise firsthand.
  • Develop clear packages: Outline different coaching or consulting packages with varying time commitments and pricing structures.

8. The Power of Community: Online Events and Webinars

Host online events or webinars related to your niche. These events offer valuable content while also providing an opportunity to promote other monetization avenues.

  • Interactive and engaging: Structure your online events to be interactive with polls, Q&A sessions, or live chats. Click here to learn more about image marketing with Q&A sessions and live chats.

9. Embrace the Power of Email Marketing:

Building an email list allows you to foster stronger relationships with your audience and promote your content and offerings directly.

  • Offer valuable incentives: Encourage readers to subscribe by offering exclusive content, discounts, or early access to new products.
  • Segmentation is key: Segment your email list based on reader interests to send targeted campaigns that resonate more effectively.
  • Regular communication: Maintain consistent communication with your subscribers through engaging newsletters or updates.

10. Sell Your Own Products:

Take your expertise to the next level by creating and selling your own products. This could be physical merchandise, digital downloads, or even printables related to your niche.

  • Identify audience needs: Develop products that address the specific needs and desires of your target audience.
  • High-quality offerings: Invest in creating high-quality products that offer exceptional value and user experience.
  • Utilize multiple platforms: Sell your products through your blog, online marketplaces, or even social media platforms.

11. Sponsorships and Brand Collaborations:

Partner with brands or businesses relevant to your niche for sponsored content or collaborations. This can be a lucrative way to leverage your audience and generate income.

  • Maintain editorial control: While working with sponsors, ensure you retain editorial control to maintain your blog’s authenticity and audience trust.
  • Disclosures are essential: Clearly disclose sponsored content to readers, upholding transparency and ethical practices.
  • Align with your niche: Partner with brands that complement your content and resonate with your audience.

12. Freelancing and Paid Writing Opportunities:

Your blog can serve as a springboard for freelance writing opportunities. Showcase your writing skills and expertise through your blog content, attracting potential clients.

  • Target relevant publications: Identify online publications, websites, or magazines related to your niche and pitch your writing services.
  • High-quality samples: Include high-quality blog posts from your site as writing samples when pitching to potential clients.
  • Develop strong writing skills: Continuously hone your writing skills and stay updated on current trends in your niche to deliver exceptional work.


Building a successful blog that generates income requires dedication, strategic planning, and high-quality content. In today’s digital age, there are numerous opportunities to make money online through blogging. By utilizing a combination of methods such as affiliate marketing, sponsored content, and selling digital products or services, you can leverage your blog’s potential and achieve financial success.

Remember, consistency in posting, engaging with your audience, and staying adaptable to trends are key to thriving in the ever-evolving blogosphere. Embrace new strategies, refine your approaches, and always keep your readers at the forefront of your content creation journey. With dedication and the right approach, your blog has the potential to become a valuable source of income and a platform for sharing your knowledge and passion with the world, making money online while doing what you love.

Image Credit: DepositPhotos

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Snapchat Explores New Messaging Retention Feature: A Game-Changer or Risky Move?




Snapchat Explores New Messaging Retention Feature: A Game-Changer or Risky Move?

In a recent announcement, Snapchat revealed a groundbreaking update that challenges its traditional design ethos. The platform is experimenting with an option that allows users to defy the 24-hour auto-delete rule, a feature synonymous with Snapchat’s ephemeral messaging model.

The proposed change aims to introduce a “Never delete” option in messaging retention settings, aligning Snapchat more closely with conventional messaging apps. While this move may blur Snapchat’s distinctive selling point, Snap appears convinced of its necessity.

According to Snap, the decision stems from user feedback and a commitment to innovation based on user needs. The company aims to provide greater flexibility and control over conversations, catering to the preferences of its community.

Currently undergoing trials in select markets, the new feature empowers users to adjust retention settings on a conversation-by-conversation basis. Flexibility remains paramount, with participants able to modify settings within chats and receive in-chat notifications to ensure transparency.

Snapchat underscores that the default auto-delete feature will persist, reinforcing its design philosophy centered on ephemerality. However, with the app gaining traction as a primary messaging platform, the option offers users a means to preserve longer chat histories.

The update marks a pivotal moment for Snapchat, renowned for its disappearing message premise, especially popular among younger demographics. Retaining this focus has been pivotal to Snapchat’s identity, but the shift suggests a broader strategy aimed at diversifying its user base.

This strategy may appeal particularly to older demographics, potentially extending Snapchat’s relevance as users age. By emulating features of conventional messaging platforms, Snapchat seeks to enhance its appeal and broaden its reach.

Yet, the introduction of message retention poses questions about Snapchat’s uniqueness. While addressing user demands, the risk of diluting Snapchat’s distinctiveness looms large.

As Snapchat ventures into uncharted territory, the outcome of this experiment remains uncertain. Will message retention propel Snapchat to new heights, or will it compromise the platform’s uniqueness?

Only time will tell.

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Catering to specific audience boosts your business, says accountant turned coach



Catering to specific audience boosts your business, says accountant turned coach

While it is tempting to try to appeal to a broad audience, the founder of alcohol-free coaching service Just the Tonic, Sandra Parker, believes the best thing you can do for your business is focus on your niche. Here’s how she did just that.

When running a business, reaching out to as many clients as possible can be tempting. But it also risks making your marketing “too generic,” warns Sandra Parker, the founder of Just The Tonic Coaching.

“From the very start of my business, I knew exactly who I could help and who I couldn’t,” Parker told My Biggest Lessons.

Parker struggled with alcohol dependence as a young professional. Today, her business targets high-achieving individuals who face challenges similar to those she had early in her career.

“I understand their frustrations, I understand their fears, and I understand their coping mechanisms and the stories they’re telling themselves,” Parker said. “Because of that, I’m able to market very effectively, to speak in a language that they understand, and am able to reach them.” 

“I believe that it’s really important that you know exactly who your customer or your client is, and you target them, and you resist the temptation to make your marketing too generic to try and reach everyone,” she explained.

“If you speak specifically to your target clients, you will reach them, and I believe that’s the way that you’re going to be more successful.

Watch the video for more of Sandra Parker’s biggest lessons.

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