In early days, when there were a large number of online writing sites, the owner would actually hire and pay people to run from site to site, extolling his site and inviting users to join.
Given a ‘referral’ code, the persons hired and paid to tout the site, ‘Shills’ as they are known, would be paid by how many people they brought in.
In the early days, the Shill would get an upfront payment plus piece of every one of his dupes earnings. This ‘tribute’ was taken from the user’s account every single month.
On some sites, which paid 1c for every 6 views, the actual earnings to the site was 1c for every three views. The extra 1c would be divided between the owner and the Shill. The calculations were done by computer, so that every day a user could see the earnings and the site appeared rock solid.
On some sites there would be a ‘penny pinch’. Where there were a large number of users, (Hubpages once had over a million) 1c would be taken from each account then the remainder paid to the writer. Those pennies would be divided between the Owner and the Shill.
When the rare user complained his/her account would often be removed for ‘plagiarism’. The terms used was; “Too Like…(name of another article)”.
As time passed and writing sites became much rarer, the users felt to ‘defend’ the site. They would attack one of their own who dared suggest the site was robbing them.
Owners realised that they no longer needed to pay anyone to perform this task. They could get one user to attack another user without blinking an eye or paying a cent.