Journalism Marketing (Part 2.): Church and State

I've crafted a career on persuasive messaging to tap into want, desire, fear, love, or any other points of note that hold importance to you. However, there have been very few instances that I've done it for companies that have puritanically lied, and in all cases, I don't think I knew it with any certainty.

I think the time is now; we need to separate journalism/content creation from marketing/native advertising. We need to construct the following:

  • Fact-check content through online browsers, tools, email and all mobile devices as part of the operating systems (a user can choose to manually turn off this feature).
  • All content must meet certain criteria for marketing articles, as well, articles that might not be considered as marketing.
  • All monitoring algorithms must be progressively optimized by both the content creator as well as the readership's ability to flag content for review from both the creator and an independent party must be progressively optimized by both the content creator as well as the readership's ability to flag content for review from both the creator and an independent party.
  • Content creators, bloggers, videographers, photographers and others must all meet various criteria in an effort to seek compensation from viewership or advertorial partners.
  • Ongoing tools, metrics, and transparencies of ALL content (streaming, hosted, archived or otherwise) that is deemed "public" will be required to index it in a fashion to inform users as to the nature of the content.
  • Lastly, the onus needs to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the social channels themselves. As we're ONLY NOW seeing with Facebook in a step towards minimizing this trend with the ability to "flag" content as false or misleading. Is it enough, probably not yet, but that remains to be seen.

A tall order? Yes. But so was the idea of the Internet 20 years ago.

False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources

False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources

The Following post is by Melissa Zimdars . © 2016

Some of contents of this educational resource/google document, specifically the list of potential false, misleading, clickbait-y, and/or satirical news sources, have been removed in order for it to be transferred to and expanded on in a more permanent, dynamic, and collaborative home.  This page will reflect updates as they become available.

Tips for analyzing news sources:

  • Avoid websites that end in “lo” ex: Newslo. These sites take pieces of accurate information and then packaging that information with other false or misleading “facts” (sometimes for the purposes of satire or comedy).

  • Watch out for websites that end in “” as they are often fake versions of real news sources  

  • Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.

  • Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.

  • Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification.

  • Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs).

  • Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source.

  • Bad web design and use of ALL CAPS can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources.

  • If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.

  • If the website you’re reading encourages you to DOX individuals, it’s unlikely to be a legitimate source of news.

  • It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames. Some sources not yet included in this list (although their practices at times may qualify them for addition), such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News, vacillate between providing important, legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources.

For more tips on analyzing the credibility and reliability of sources, please check out School Library Journal (they also provide an extensive list of media literacy resources) and the Digital Resource Center.

Here's the link to the complete document.

Journalism Marketing (Part 1.): It Ain't the Same As Free Speech

Content marketing. Brand journalism. Journalist Marketing.

Call it what you will, but the fact is that more and more businesses are cranking out editorial content to spread their messages and reach the ever-growing online audience.

With all this advertising framed as “real articles,” maybe the time has come to we govern these practices with real laws.

Here’s a scenario:

You read an article online talking about a revolutionary alarm clock that promises that it will help you sleep, monitor your REM time, stop snoring, fix sleep apnea, and create efficiencies in your sleeping habits. Sounds awesome, right? But of course there is no such thing. Therefore it's a lie and it's bound by certain legal parameters that make it illegal for you to market fraudulent information. This protects you, the consumer. It also protects (and holds harmless) many products that cover themselves head-to-toe with legalese. Nevertheless, at its core it was still a lie.

I'm a (self-proclaimed) marketing subject-matter expert with the bulk of my professional experience in the "inbound"marketing spectrum. I have pretty solid working knowledge understanding of the mediums, channels, tactics, and various strategies required to maximize results. The type of "branded articles" we’re talking about here is often referred to as "native advertising." Fundamentally, I don't have a problem with this style of content and use it frequently in my marketing initiatives. Properly deployed it looks foundationally like the following:

Interesting Title About a Like-Minded Topic

Notification: [the following article is an advertisement]

  1. Set up the problem, or define the situation.
  2. Talk about the various aspects of the situation — the educational “meat,” one might say.
  3. Answer the problem, or justify the situation in a light that is even further to the reader's benefit — here's often where you might plug a brand, product, or education to support your point.
  4. Summarize, and in some cases, apply transparency such as "while there are many types and styles, we suggest you do your own research to get the best results."
  5. Advocate sharing the article to your network or forwarding to a friend.

Boom. It’s an ideal scenario where you've not only constructed original content, but you've further given your opinion on a brand and direction for best results. So what's wrong with that? Not all that much, actually. Some argue that placing the article into a pool of content that's not backed by a brand, product, or education could be subversive. But I disagree IF the content is formatted in a way that if you REMOVED the marketing language it could still stand on its own as an article.

Where the wheels have come off is when content, disguising itself as journalism, takes on the role of swaying opinion with lies.

"Well Justice that's called ‘propaganda,’ and it's been used for thousands of years."

I won’t debate that. The issue is that the medium, culture, and accessibility of this misinformation is specifically to manipulate a directive without any transparency. The even bigger problem is that these delivery vehicles are being created to look, act, and deliver to you in a fashion that feels both natural and trusted.

Let’s pretend for a minute that a man comes to your front door with a DHEL uniform on. He has a package and waves, indicating you need to sign for it. You open the door, he hits you in the head with a hammer, buries you in the back yard and begins to live (as you) in your home.

Seem farfetched? That model in a digital world is called "Identity Theft" and the DHEL wasn't a misspelling.

In the real world, we saw subversive tactics during this year’s presidential election. Many of us were floundering between two candidates that you're not quite comfortable with, and we were being pounded with articles titles, and memes, and friends we thought were normal. Suddenly you're debating demonic possession. When there it is the “brass ring” of lies jumping on your fight or flight mechanism:

  • Security
  • Rape
  • Misogyny
  • Healthcare
  • Terrorism

All wrapped in a legitimate-looking wrapper of your favorite news website or blog — thereby providing the trust and security you've come to embrace in your decision-making process. This drives to the core of your psychological makeup as you unknowingly take the bait back to your home. In many cases, as with the marketing techniques that were used in the election, you may still not truly understand that the core of your passion for one candidate or another may very well be predicated on a lie.

... in part two I'm going to cover some additional suggestions that in all likelihood will never happen. What do you think we should do?

Posted on November 30, 2016 and filed under Advertising, Brand, Social Media.