Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 5th Dec 2017 20:07 UTC
In the News

People involved with the payoffs are extremely reluctant to discuss them, but four contributing writers to prominent publications including Mashable, Inc, Business Insider, and Entrepreneur told me they have personally accepted payments in exchange for weaving promotional references to brands into their work on those sites. Two of the writers acknowledged they have taken part in the scheme for years, on behalf of many brands.

One of them, a contributor to Fast Company and other outlets who asked not to be identified by name, described how he had inserted references to a well-known startup that offers email marketing software into multiple online articles, in Fast Company and elsewhere, on behalf of a marketing agency he declined to name. To make the references seem natural, he said, he often links to case studies and how-to guides published by the startup on its own site. Other times, he’ll just praise a certain aspect of the company’s business to support a point in an otherwise unrelated story. (As of press time, Fast Company had not responded to a request for comment.)

This is hardly surprising to anyone who has spent a decent amount of time on the web. I can confirm, however, that I've never partaken in anything like this, and the occasional request of this nature goes straight into my spam folder.

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v Well, maaaaaybe
by Jesuspower on Tue 5th Dec 2017 23:56 UTC
Not particularly surprising
by StephenBeDoper on Wed 6th Dec 2017 02:03 UTC
StephenBeDoper
Member since:
2005-07-06

The whole advertorial/"native advertising" scheme has been going on for a while now. And while there's been a fair amount of coverage (E.g. Jim Sterling's "Casinos and SEO Juice" a few months back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bARSNVobUk), the cynic in me suspects those examples are only the tip of the iceberg. "Native advertising" seems to be similar to things like CGI, usability, in that it's only noticeable when it's done badly.

By way of personal anecdote, I used to get fairly regular inquiries from potential hosting customers in the US, who were specifically looking for hosting on servers physically located in Canada. For a while, I couldn't figure out why (it's almost always more expensive than US-based options, even without with the exchange rate)... until finally, I was contacted by someone who was shameless enough to admit that it solely because Canada doesn't have any equivalent to the US "endorsement disclosure" laws for bloggers.

Reply Score: 5

happened yesterday
by unclefester on Wed 6th Dec 2017 02:51 UTC
unclefester
Member since:
2007-01-13

Amazon Australia had a dismal launch yesterday. A couple of later there there was an avalanche of "news" extolling the virtues of Amazon and all the bargains there.

Reply Score: 4

Comment by Moonbuzz
by Moonbuzz on Wed 6th Dec 2017 08:07 UTC
Moonbuzz
Member since:
2005-07-09

"[TechCrunch editor-at-large John Biggs] estimates that he receives two or three similar [bribe] offers each month, and he doesn’t take them seriously."

Which is as far as I got in reading this article. TechCrunch is in bed with so many companies and startups it doesn't need any off-the-street marketer to bribe their way into their articles.

"Organic press is far more effective"

Organic garbage, more like it. Next.

Reply Score: 3

Some examples
by avgalen on Wed 6th Dec 2017 17:25 UTC
avgalen
Member since:
2010-09-23

These kinds of articles raise my suspicion level the most:

* "What I use". It often sounds like these are the personal devices of the writer, but often they are "loaners/give-away/demo-models" supplied by the manufacturers. As long as there is a disclaimer at the top of the article and with every product as a reminder I am okay with this
* "Best in category". Often the devices came first and the category is created around them. Other models are, often intentionally, left out
* Product placement
* How to do "AI", where "AI" then becomes synonymous with 1 specific product or where it is linked to a conference to learn more
* Product X is horrible (written by somebody that works on a competing product)
* Company Y is horrible (written by somebody that works for a competing manufacturer)
* Or product X/Company Y is great (written by an employee or by a sponsored researcher)

In general it is good for a consumer to apply this 1 journalistic principle: What is the reason that the writer of this piece wrote the piece?

Reply Score: 3

On Network TV News
by Pro-Competition on Wed 6th Dec 2017 20:28 UTC
Pro-Competition
Member since:
2007-08-20

I have no evidence to back this up, but I suspect that the same thing is happening on network TV news in the US (NBC, ABC, CBS).

I started getting suspicious when they would have a story about a drug study (needless to say, teased with exaggerated headline) with only marginally interesting results. It was jarring, especially considering the many important stories in the world that get no coverage at all.

It only makes sense if they are paid "infomercial" pieces. And the crass way the network executives admit to their greediness does nothing to argue otherwise. (The hand-wringing of books like "Who Killed CBS?" in the 1980s seems quaint now.)

Reply Score: 3

Who tried it with OSNews?
by zima on Wed 6th Dec 2017 23:50 UTC
zima
Member since:
2005-07-06

So Thom, are you willing to share with us which brands/companies tried to get into bed with you? ;) (assuming the soliticors reveal that in their first emails...)

Reply Score: 2

RE: Who tried it with OSNews?
by Moonbuzz on Thu 7th Dec 2017 07:45 UTC in reply to "Who tried it with OSNews?"
Moonbuzz Member since:
2005-07-09

Turn off your adblocker and you'll see. Its usually at the top of the page.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Who tried it with OSNews?
by zima on Fri 8th Dec 2017 23:56 UTC in reply to "RE: Who tried it with OSNews?"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

I have OSNews whitelisted ...but I doubt welovecycling.com by Skoda auto (to name one ad that has shown up often this Autumn; though lately largely replaced by car ads) tried with OSNews the discussed practice ;) (hm, OTOH a maker of industrial controller based on Arduino... or a Tchibo Star Wars / Darth Vader alarm clock ;) )

Reply Score: 2

RE: Who tried it with OSNews?
by Thom_Holwerda on Thu 7th Dec 2017 12:58 UTC in reply to "Who tried it with OSNews?"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

It's usually start-ups and such that try to get you to write about them. They're usually unknown, and every once in a while, I'll read about them on some other site months after the fact.

I get these maybe a few times a month, but not all of them are literally in the form of "i gib u monies, u write about us". Often they're a bit sneakier, and I suspect that were I to engage them, they'd offer that later.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Who tried it with OSNews?
by Alfman on Thu 7th Dec 2017 19:39 UTC in reply to "RE: Who tried it with OSNews?"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

Thom Holwerda,

It's usually start-ups and such that try to get you to write about them. They're usually unknown, and every once in a while, I'll read about them on some other site months after the fact.

I get these maybe a few times a month, but not all of them are literally in the form of "i gib u monies, u write about us". Often they're a bit sneakier, and I suspect that were I to engage them, they'd offer that later.



Whether they pay you or not, your article coverage often still end up amplifying the echo chamber of big brands. I'm not sure if you realize it or not but as a reader I sure do. There's an old adage: there's no such thing as bad news. It means whether the articles or positive or negative is less important than the fact that they have a captive audience. Osnews is secretly being manipulated too, even if not by money.

I think Moonbuzz makes a very fair point, the fact is you are already hosting paid content. Just because you outsource it to google doesn't mean you get to wash your hands of it and claim moral superiority.

As long as the content being posted is genuinely something interesting that your audience wants to read (and not merely a mass spamvertisement) then I don't personally think you should necessarily ban it. Most of us regulars here will recognize that the quality of original content has declined. If you could convince these small startups to create or sponsor great content for osnews, it might actually benefit both osnews and the small startups too. Giving the little guys more visibility in a world dominated by huge conglomerates is not such a bad thing IMHO.

I know this could be controversial, but assuming these startups are able to provide good publishworthy content, I wouldn't be opposed to that and it would be nice to give some coverage to the little guys for a change. Just my two sense.

Edited 2017-12-07 19:41 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Who tried it with OSNews?
by Alfman on Thu 7th Dec 2017 20:40 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Who tried it with OSNews?"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

Dear Alfman,

Whether they pay you or not, your article coverage often still end up amplifying the echo chamber of big brands. I'm not sure if you realize it or not but as a reader I sure do.


Get off your high horse and submit your own articles if you have a problem with the coverage.

As long as the content being posted is genuinely something interesting that your audience wants to read (and not merely a mass spamvertisement) then I don't personally think you should necessarily ban it. Most of us regulars here will recognize that the quality of original content has declined.


Sponsored content sucks, period.


Just my two sense.


The expression is "my two cents".

/alter ego

Reply Score: 3

Nothing new under the sun
by crimperman on Thu 7th Dec 2017 16:13 UTC
crimperman
Member since:
2006-11-09

This is not new and possibly not news either.

People who have an audience (bloggers, actors, sports stars) have long been used to promote products. How many times do we see a sports competitor "drinking" out of a Lucozade Sport bottle at the end of a competition which probably contains just water? The "What I use/drink/eat..." phenomenon (as someone else put it) has been going long before people blogged it.

Reply Score: 2