it is anything but simple.

it is anything but simple.

“fake news,” isn’t the fault of “ad-driven companies,” it’s the price we pay for a free and open internet.

I’m going to highlight a few places where I think there are serious problems with this over simplification. some may be more pertinent than others. there’s likely a world full that I’m forgetting. this debate needs more voices in it. trouble is, those voices deserve to be well-informed about what’s going on.

when we undertake to reframe an issue of public concern in a way that’s advantageous to our own objectives (say promoting a content recommendation engine,) we obfusciate that debate.

in part, I think this is happening at an accelerated clip because the public has grown accustom to a standard of production that a number of “legacy” publishers have resisted adopting.

when the public wants something they can’t find from one source, they’ll find it somewhere else. it’s worked that way since long before “The Warship Maine was Split in Two by an Enemy’s Infernal Machine.”

you have only to take a tour of the cable news networks to be overwhelmed with clunky visuals and poorly conceived copy.

why should any publisher with the size or footprint of the examples you’ve highlighted rely on a network like Outbrain or Taboola for serving their impressions?

they’re racing to keep up and cover up a mistake they made decades ago. MSNBC started as a data driven channel, they couldn’t make it work: they pivoted.

TV news breaks hours after the story, and is increasingly scooped from web sources that reach larger audiences than the follow-on coverage does.

CBS, for example, takes brand integrity so seriously, they’re known throughout the industry for refusing to fill inventory if the only options for placements are “bad fits.”

Publishers should be doing this too: they aren’t. They’re looking for the ‘easy’ path that ‘makes sense,’ and ‘doesn’t take too much work.’

why should they fare any differently than the retail giants who resisted and then begrudgingly came around to e-commerce?

if Facebook were really “ad-driven,” don’t you think they’d have been acquired years ago by one of the holding companies?

Why weren’t they?

I can’t speak for every advertiser, but the complexities here are far richer than this simple paragraph suggests.

here’s one case worth considering.

there’s a growing segment of the population looking for “truth,” likely more than there’s been at any point in recent history.

it’s also easier than ever to organize large segments of the user population across the world and to serve those users content.

but it’s important to remember we aren’t talking about some abstraction of the public here: we’re talking about real people. real people with real consumption patterns.

“they don’t like the fact based narratives I like” just isn’t the same thing as “they don’t like facts.”

what do you think is driving the explosion of independent media producers in relatively emergent genres like podcasts?

You drew a distinction a little later on between “the internet and quality media.”

it’s in part that condescension that the public, focus grouped or otherwise is reacting so strongly to.

“I don’t like it when businesses talk down to me,” is the polite way of saying “this sucks.”

there’s one other complexity, I want to highlight here.

Differing norms across the global landscape make it hard to have a “one sized fits all,” conversation about what is and isn’t ok.

An Example Of Bibblio “Fake News.”

Admittedly, I’m not very well versed in the peculiarities of the UK’s truth in advertising standards.

In the United States however, this would be considered an endorsement.

Reasoning varies, but the example I’ve always liked suggests that this implies that bibblio’s tech is the engine that powers the recommendation engines used by tech giants like Netflix, Spotify and Quora.

It isn’t. It doesn’t.

It sure looks like it though, doesn’t it?

A fake endorsement, well that’s awfully similar to fake news, isn’t it?

Now I doubt that your intention was to promote a fake endorsement.

I’ll bet this happened because someone wanted to highlight the impact of the problem in the marketplace.

Perhaps to make the argument that “If big players are using this kind of technology, why isn’t your team?”

There are other ways of doing that — ways that don’t cross that ethical line, but you didn’t do that, why?

There are other ways of running ads on traffic networks like Outbrain, too. There’s nothing stopping businesses from abandoning the scammy “Widget, 5$” ads that are mainstays of so many direct response marketers just beginning to transition into the digital arena.

But they don’t do those things because “fake news,” they do it for the same reasons your team was willing to cross the ethical line around endorsements: they think the juice is worth the squeeze.

as long as people want to live in a world where anyone can get online and say anything, then we have to accept a measure of responsibility for the consequences of those decisions.

why are “feel good” “fluff” pieces so popular?

the public is signaling it’s tired of “if it bleeds it leads.”

Why are extreme political conspiracies so profligate?

Because the public writ large finds these accounts more honest portrayals of what they observe to be happening.

joining in the struggle of the day here, isn’t good enough. if we want to change the world: we have the courage to be different and to put in the work to get there.

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