By Ben Elgin, Michael Riley, David Kocieniewski, and Joshua Brustein
You’ve probably never visited MyTopFace.com. It’s a cosmetics advice site that sells ad slots for anywhere from 73¢ to $10 per 1,000 views, with video ads fetching far more money than display ads, according to SiteScout. As of early September, the top story on MyTopFace, an article with an accompanying video called “Smokey Eye Makeup—Kim Kardashian Look,” was at least 5 months old. Stale content seems like the worst way to attract readers, but if the readers are bots, it doesn’t matter. So MyTopFace could have made as much as $9 for every 1,000 visitors, assuming it kept costs close to zero and was able to acquire traffic at a rate of $1 per 1,000. MyTopFace ran ads from companies and brands such as American Express and Hebrew National hot dogs.
After more than a dozen e-mails and phone calls, the operator of MyTopFace agreed to meet with Bloomberg Businessweek. He’s 28, lives in Brooklyn, and introduces himself as Boris Boris (although a number of his network’s sites are registered under other names). On a warm September afternoon, he shows up at a trendy Flatbush Avenue cafe with his wife and their 1-month-old son in tow. He’s wearing a pair of brown, tortoiseshell glasses and sports a goatee with a waxed, handlebar mustache.