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What is Lurking and is it Beneficial for Twitch Streamers?

Last Updated on February 8, 2024 by Michael Brockbank

In the past, lurking on Twitch is when someone opened the stream in a browser window and set the tab to mute. This way, it gives the appearance someone is watching when in reality they are not.

Many teams and communities on Twitch promote this kind of behavior. But is it really beneficial for streamers?

That really depends on your goals. In the long run, it does very little to help a streamer outside of appearing higher in the list of game broadcasters. And as of October 2019, it may not even help in that regard.

In fact, Twitch has been pretty adamant about removing lurkers and against artificially inflating numbers.

What Does Lurking Do for Broadcasters?

Before, lurking was a way to help small streamers get more exposure in Twitch. In the past, Twitch would show the most popular streamers first according to the number of viewers. So, lurking in Twitch would inflate those numbers so new streamers can appear higher in the ranks.

It also contributed to helping streamers reach the illustrious monetization requirements as lurkers were also recorded as “watchers.” This meant the broadcaster would appear to have more than the average three viewers per hour.

So in a nutshell, lurking helped streamers appear higher on game lists and get enough watch time to become an affiliate.

Lurking is No Longer a Good Practice

Twitch decided in 2019 that it would do more to prevent lurking for artificially inflating the numbers to appear more popular or to become affiliated. In fact, the platform has gone to great lengths to eliminate this process.

To help offset the first purpose of lurking (to appear higher on game categories), Twitch has changed the way the streamers are displayed. Instead of the most popular according to views first, it’s now sortable to an extent.

The default view is based on “Recommended For You.” Which, I’m not really sure how they figure Spanish and Russian channels into that equation. I don’t think I’ve ever watched anyone in either of these languages.

Plus, you’re now able to organize and sort according to the number of viewers, and even streams that “Just Started.” But, I don’t really know how many people actually use that feature.

Though, you still won’t see people with fewer than a couple hundred viewers in the top 20 in any particular popular game.

Unfortunately, the lurk-for-lurk plea is no longer a valid element in Twitch. In fact, I’ve seen up to 20 lurkers in our channel only to see Twitch recorded just three active viewers.

Why Lurking is Bad for Broadcasters

Now, in the past, many streamers were on board with lurking. After all, it helped them appear more popular which often resulted in building a larger audience. Plus, it helped them reach affiliate status so they could monetize the video.

Gotta love social proof.

However, it doesn’t really help much in terms of engagement.

Most lurkers would only appear and then mute the stream in the background. So, he or she wasn’t watching nor listening to the live broadcast. Which means there was absolutely no engagement.

Without the engagement of viewers, you’re not really building an audience. It’s the interactive people who will donate, buy goods, click on ads, and support you as a Twitch streamer.

It’s the same issue when your stream is frequented by bots. Sure, it may look cool to see how many “people” are in the chat room. But, how many of them are actually going to support you?

Bots are not going to buy goods from your stream nor engage you in conversation. And that’s why a lot of people watch certain streamers.

Because of the interaction.

It Doesn’t Help You Improve

Lurking in Twitch does nothing for you in terms of development. You don’t know if you’re creating “good” content for people to enjoy if your audience isn’t interactive. And without good content, you won’t succeed on any platform.

It’s the organic audience you need to impress, not some bot or lurker who is simply going to mute you in the background.

You could have 10,000 lurkers and only one person interacting. While it may look impressive, how much do you think that one person is going to buy or donate?

Focus on your audience and deliver what they want to watch. Build a fan base of actual viewers and you can go pretty far. This is true whether you’re on Twitch, YouTube, or God forbid, Facebook Gaming.

My point is that you need a human audience engaging your videos if you want to make money…it’s that simple.

Being a Twitch Affiliate After Lurkers Help You

Perhaps the biggest impact of these changes is how many people make money. As a Twitch affiliate, you rely on actual recorded viewers. If lurkers are no longer counting in this pool, you could make less than before.

So, if lurkers help you get to affiliate status in the past, they’re not going to help you today. This is because they are no longer counting as viewers in Twitch. Which means any ads that play in a muted, minimized browser are kind of a waste.

The best way to combat this is to develop yourself as a streamer, do a bit of marketing for your channel, and continue to improve your reach.

How this Impacts ColoradoPlays

It doesn’t, really. I started noticing a huge gap in lurkers and recorded watchers near the beginning of 2020. I never really liked lurking to begin with because of the reasons I stated above.

Interaction is one of the biggest reasons why we stream. It’s not the money we’re focused on, but the engagement of the audience. We have far more fun if people chat and have fun with us.

From a personal perspective, I could care less about lurking on Twitch.

And because I completely revamped this blog post, I bet it will sink like a stone in Google. But, it’s better than handing outdated information to our readers.

Do You Find Lurking to Still Benefit Your Channel?

It’s getting more difficult to game the system, but I’m sure there are people out there coming up with new plans for lurking. Just remember, a lurker is less likely to help you make any money outside of artificially inflating your viewer count.

At which point, you might as well be streaming for your cat. You’ll get a better engagement rate.

Michael Brockbank
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Michael Brockbank

Michael developed ColoradoPlays to help various charities through his favorite pastime. Since then, the blog and Twitch channels have donated several hundred dollars to Extra Life, Geeks of Grandeur and Operation Supply Drop, to name a few.