Sometimes, when I’m lying awake late at night in a coked-up haze in my extravagant penthouse apartment in Cyprus, I reflect on the steps that have led me – the world’s leading creator of stupid viral videos – to this point. Not with any judgment of myself, of course, such is my fantastical ego and exceptional levels of wealth. Not even with any remorse – just a simple objective distance from the situation.
I think back to how I co-founded TheSoul Publishing back in 2016 with a fellow Russian entrepreneur, based in Limassol, Cyprus for
tax avoidance reasons, probably the beautiful Mediterranean climate. I reflect on how we organically grew our traffic to be a titan of the digital space, with an audience of over two billion subscribers on all of the world’s largest social media platforms. With something like pride, I think about our team of 2,000 content producers in 70 countries – a “diverse group of talent [leveraging] today’s ‘attention economy’”, that’s what our website says – churning out videos in 21 different languages.
I nod knowingly at the smart words of our VP of Platform Partnerships, whatever he does: “we’re firmly focused on producing crave-worthy original content”, he says, because of how we are “continually building universally positive and light-hearted brands.” Then I laugh a big light-heartedly evil laugh when I think of how brands that you’ve actually heard of – like Disney, and Warner Brothers Discovery – have fewer views than TheSoul Publishing, which you haven’t.
And then, just before I drift off to sleep between silk sheets with a thread count in the thousands, I think back on this one cycling hacks video that typifies our success.
Maybe you’ve seen it when mindlessly scrolling through your socials. Perhaps you’ve been tagged in the comments by a well-meaning older relative, or a riding buddy with a comment like ‘hey _____ have you seen this shit 😂😂😂’. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the 300 million people that subscribe on YouTube, or in the huge cohort of Facebook followers that push 5-Minute Crafts to its rightful place as the fifth largest page on the entire platform.
This video – 10 minutes long, which is extremely good value seeing as it’s on our globally recognised 5-Minute Crafts channel – hits most of our key beats. Some small portion of it: informational. Precisely none of it: inspirational. The remaining balance: deeply, deeply confusing.
You might think that this suggests we don’t know what we are doing. You are wrong. We are playing three-dimensional chess with your attention, producing stupid and/or dangerous videos for the rage clicks.
The format is this: little snippets filmed by our team in Limassol and Latvia and probably some other places that I couldn’t figure out from Google Maps clues, set to a peppy but generic soundtrack. These are apparently the “Best bicycle hacks for everyone! ”, although that is a direct lie from the first word and stretches the definition for most of the rest of them.
What kind of best bicycle hacks do we, the sinister masterminds behind 5-Minute Crafts, think are worthy of your attention, 2.1 million views on Facebook and counting? Let me, overlord of this empire of clicks, run you through some of my favourite beats.
Find yourself caught short on a bike ride? Why not take a roadside shit in a bag attached to a toilet seat resting on a mudguard strut, then zip-tie the whole contraption to your bike with the shit pouch swaying ponderously next to your spokes?
Have a rear fender but want it to be slightly longer, while also wanting to have some equipment accessible if you stumble across an impromptu sandcastle competition?
Do you have spare change and keys that you want to immediately scatter to the gutter? Would you also like to desanitise your female sanitary product with roadgrime? Pockets are for losers – what you really need to do is loosely wedge a sequence of DivaCups about your frame:
Are you the owner of a hot glue gun looking for a pointless way to burn through some electricity? Why not haphazardly squirt some glue on the outside of the tyre because some YouTuber thinks it would deliver extra grip on a modest incline (it won’t)?
Do you really, really hate Dave Rome and want to send him spiralling into the deepest pits of despair? Introducing the latest low-friction chain lubricant lipstick from Nivea:
And the same, but in the manly scent of sandalwood and disappointment:
I think by this point we were just clutching at straws, to be quite honest …
Now you’re on a sugar high (and haven’t managed to poke your eyes out, somehow) it’s time for some manual labour. Picture this: you’ve carefully stashed your bike in floodwater and notice it’s all feeling a bit sloshy. Could you take the seatpost out and flip it over to drain it? I mean, sure, you could probably do something like that. But that’s not a crafternoon. Buy a tool you probably don’t have, ignore the fact that you probably have no clue how to get the crankset off, and let the good times flow:
For the purposes of argument let’s assume that you have a perfectly functional bike pump. Instead of using that, take some of the perfectly fine working parts from it, use a soldering iron to stab some holes in a plastic syringe, attach an annoyingly short length of hose, and voilà, a non-functioning bike pump:
Look, we were really starting to run out of good ideas by this point, but while we’ve got the soldering iron out … why not show the technical knowhow and skillset that you’re all bound to have by making a bike light inside a child’s container of bubble mix:
Now, all of the above might strike you as a waste of time at best, borderline negligent at worst, but that’s actually the crux of our genius, because – plot twist – not all of our bicycle hacks are batshit crazy, dangerous, or pointless. Some of them are good! That’s how we keep you guessing! Sometimes the hacks are even good and bad in the same video, like using water to locate a puncture in a tube, and then using a piece of tape to seal it. We give with one hand and we take with the other and you, the dumb viral-video-watching audience of the world, just lap it up like little piggies!
Some of the other great ideas that have been circulating through the cycling world for years but which we, a global leader in annoying CoNtEnT, will take credit for:
- Using hairspray to stop grips sliding around.
- Using a piece of electrical tape to mark seat height.
- Using an air compressor to get stubborn grips off.
- Using an old tube as a chainstay protector.
- Harnessing the mystical power of refrigeration to make a drink cooler before you go for a bike ride.
Is this, the frosty thrill of a cold beverage for our audience, what we’re in it for? Hard to say. She looks pleased with her drink, and maybe some of the people watching this video will experience a slightly better quality of life as a result, too, provided they are in the Venn diagram of people that own a freezer but are simultaneously thick enough to have never realised what it does.
To be honest, at this point I don’t really care. I am a content farm svengali and I have made untold millions from videos so inane they make even me, a person with no discernible moral compass about what I will shovel into your eyeballs, want to scream into my silken pillow. From my benevolent creation studio of thousands of hustling digital natives, I have furnished you – the world – with the “Best bicycle hacks for everyone! ”.
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