Success & Prosperity Blog

Clickbait, Sleazy Marketing, and Fake News

By Randy Gage in Critical Thinking.

Marketing is continually changing. (I couldn’t bring myself to use the word “evolving,” because I’m not sure if that is really true.)  And certainly websites and mobile are driving a lot of those changes.  But where are they really taking us?

If you read Risky Is the New Safe, or Mad Genius, you know I warned about the ethical issues and dilemmas that disruptive developments in technology would create for us.

As I said in the books, mobile changes everything about everything.  The Internet and social media destroy all you thought you knew about marketing and branding.  And the increase in accessing content online eviscerates the traditional advertising revenue model.

I believe one of the spaces to watch closely is the media – its migration online, and how that affects the revenue model.

Certainly the model of which screens programming gets accessed on, and how it is paid for, is undergoing great disruption.  (As it should.)  It also raises some intriguing ethical issues.  And one place where the ethics are looking very sketchy is the online media platforms.

The issue of clickbait is well known.  But now we’ve gone from the “black hat” bad guys doing it, to almost everyone.  The pressure to drive traffic to online properties is intensifying, and is now impacting even news organizations.

Forbes magazine has held an esteemed reputation for their 99-year history in which they have “managed to remain true to our brand’s long-standing mission of championing entrepreneurial capitalism.”

Now of course, they’re moving online and want to retain their advertising revenue.  So they engage a lot of people to produce online content and create traffic for their site.  But what kind of stories are they promoting?

Here are three recent articles:

I didn’t even realize Thor was an entrepreneur.  This begets the question: Is Forbes really delivering the type of site visitors their advertisers are paying for?

WIRED has built a great rep as a magazine that allows you to keep up with tech and innovation in the business space.  If you’re interested in advertising there, their website promises that they are, “the ultimate authority on the people and ideas changing our world. We don’t just write about the future – we ignite it.”

But what kind of stories are they promoting?  Here are three recent ones in the social media feed:

·      The Perfect Comic to Honor Jack Kirby’s 100th Birthday

·      Stunt Coordinator Breaks Down ‘Atomic Blonde’ Fight Scene

·      Game of Thrones Recap Season 7, Episode 2: Nothing Is Certain

It’s true that these articles are ideas about changing the world.  Just not our world.

Are these magazines (and so many others) delivering on their marketing promises when so much content is devoted to fan boy and pop culture clickbait?  Is this content relevant in any way with the subjects they are supposed to be covering, and delivering the type of visitors advertisers think they’re buying?

And what about actual news and journalism platforms?

CNN offers “Paid Content” on their site, with articles promoting credit cards, SUVs, and Mack Weldon underwear.  Fox News has “Sponsored Stories” promoting ExxonMobil, Kelley Blue Book, and BioHiTech Global, which the article states, “could possibly be one of the best investment opportunities we have come across in years.”

So it turns out that “fake news” isn’t just stories unfavorable to the president.  Because these are all presented as pseudo stories, or advertorials, which is a nice way to say fake news.

And once again, we’re faced with some perplexing questions…

Is it ethical for news sites to participate in practices like this? Does marking them as sponsored make it all right?   Should we chalk it up to “buyer beware,” or is this practice a slippery slope that destroys journalistic credibility and/or even threatens the public good?

There are a lot of questions coming up, not so many answers.  What do you think?

– RG

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8 thoughts on “Clickbait, Sleazy Marketing, and Fake News

  1. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose 🙂

  2. Stefan Josef says:

    I wonder in which way promotion really will be going, it’s so much selling fantasy instead of telling the people what true life is about. It some kind of a dreamworld.

  3. Mia-Louise Connor says:

    It’s great programs like ‘Game of Thrones’ is doing so well, but personally I get so fed up with seeing it everywhere. Believe it or not, there’s also a market of people out there who don’t follow all the sci-fi and fictional stuff. Clickbait has it’s place and if i knew how to use it, I would. It’s interesting to see the market leaders succumbing to doing whatever gets revenue and ignoring their own company values and integrity. Is there a lesson for us in there? Peace, love amd living rich!

  4. Jorge Melendez says:

    I think the journalist and advertising world collapsed long time ago. In the print world we couldn’t be in the board and editors Meetings to hear “what is news and should be on the front page or page 47”. Now we just see how these sites confirm how blind we can be or just subtly undermine their credibility.

  5. Do you know why it’s called “marketing”? Because if they called it by its real name, “pure bullshit”, no one would buy into it.

  6. Jose says:

    I’m getting really tired…like iPhone connecting to hear that damm song they don’t want to hear:.: tired….the story about 2 grads shaking up any commercial sector

  7. Gini Mirro says:

    This is a time when we are challenged every day to evaluate everything through a lens of maturity, and scepticism. Then making an informed decision about how things fit into our overall goals and beliefs. Then going with it and making it right and living with it.


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