Please Pay Attention: Using YouTube’s Ad Algorithm to Analyze the Presentation of Unwanted Information, Justin Curl, UG '22 (2304305)
How do you get people to pay attention to or process unwanted information? Our research studies the effect of user behavior -- how often a user skips ads -- on the amount, length, and type of ads a user sees on YouTube. In our experiment, we hoped to reverse engineer aspects of YouTube’s ad algorithm using bots built with Selenium in Python to simulate three types of user behavior: positive towards ads, in which users never skip ads; neutral towards, in which users skip ads 50% of the time; and negative towards ads, in which users always skip ads. Overall, we found that while there does not seem to be a meaningful relationship between how often users skip ads and the number of ads users see, we did find that the users who skip ads more often are shown shorter ads that are less frequently skippable. These findings may have interesting policy implications for organizations trying to convey important, though unwanted information: make viewing your messages mandatory and keep them short.