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Off the Media

Off the Media

A History of Media Manipulation: This Holiday Book List Will Protect You from Lying Liars

Last week we found out the media had again fallen for a complete hoax when it was revealed that a now-famous waitress who had been the victim of a homophobic no-tip-because-of-your-lifestyle attack in New Jersey had in fact made the whole thing up.

The original story had made the front pages of CNN, ABC, Fox News and countless others. On the Huffington Post, the story received close to 8,000 comments and 16,000 Facebook shares (with follow-ups receiving more). One Gawker story alone did something like 200,000 pageviews. Read More

Off the Media

The New Digital Divide: Privilege, Misinformation and Outright B.S. in Modern Media

Tech folks have long beat the same drum. Yes, the internet is often embarrassingly, comically and dangerously wrong, they say, but if you know how to separate the good from the bad, it all works out. There may be individual weak spots, from Wikipedia pages to Twitter rumors to (incorrect) breaking news on Reddit, but as a whole (the thinking goes), it’s a strong system.

And to a certain degree, they’re right. If you know how to work it, online media is awesome. By nature of reading a column about media, you’re probably one of those people. You are proficient in skepticism, cross-checking stories against each other, and gravitating toward the signal within the noise.

What I think we forget–or worse, never even realized—is the extreme privilege often inherent in “digital literacy.” Read More

Off the Media

How to Respond (And Not Respond) to Bad PR

Being criticized in the media is a good problem to have–most of the time. It means you’re doing something that is at least interesting or cool or crazy enough to be noticed. It might not always feel good, but it’s usually better than the alternative of obscurity.

Unfortunately, most people have no idea how to handle this when it happens.

As someone who has represented many controversial clients, been the subject of media scrutiny myself and more recently, written my own criticism, I thought we could talk about some simple lessons of what to do, and more importantly, what not do. Read More

Off the Media

Dishing Out Insulin: How Feel-Good Viral Machines like Upworthy and BuzzFeed Filter Reality

In 2011, Eli Pariser’s excellent book The Filter Bubble complained that the increasingly personalized web was giving people facts that confirmed their pre-existing viewpoints while hiding the information that didn’t. (His partial responsibility for creating this phenomenon with Moveon.org went mostly unsaid, but whatever, it was a good book).

The problem is that Mr. Pariser moved on to create another filter bubble. This time not a political or ideological filter, but a filter on reality itself. Read More

Off the Media

It’s War: Scale and Intimacy Duke it Out in the Comments Section

One of the ironies of American “high societies” is that some of its most prestigious institutions were founded by members of what was, at the time, one of the lowliest professions: journalism.

Take the Bohemian Club, the private refuge of many future and ex-presidents, billionaires and captains of industry. It was started by a bunch of dirty staff writers at the San Francisco Chronicle in the 1870s. Read More

Off the Media

Virgin Territory: Why Some Advertisers Are Finally Embracing Online Porn

Smart marketers look for opportunities that other marketers have missed. They try to take advantage of taboos or assumptions that may have hamstrung their competitors. When done right, this impulse can create something powerful or unexpected and usually yield a massive ROI.

We’ve seen it a bunch of times. Someone will use social media in some new way (Old Spice). Someone will take advantage of late night television ads in some new way (Snuggie). Someone will take advantage of celebrities or quirky news stories. (Remember GoldenPalace.com?) Read More

Off the Media

Don Draper Is Dead: Why Growth Hack Marketing Is Advertising’s Last Hope

We have a certain image of what great marketers should look like. David Ogilvy with his pipe, Don Draper with his whiskey, Alex Bogusky on the cover of Fast Company.

Of course, each of these embodied their own era in their own way. But look at the last crop of billion-dollar brands, which in the last half-decade rose from nothing to ubiquity: Facebook, Zappos, Airbnb, Square, Uber, Evernote, Spotify, Twitter, Dropbox.

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Off the Media

The Real Story Behind ‘These Links From Our Partners’

A few years ago, I got an unusual request from Google. The search giant was working on an experimental program that encouraged retailers to feature links to products from other retailers on their websites. I forget the exact economics of the deal, whether Google treated it as an advertising unit or more an affiliate program — all I remember was my reaction.

It seemed insane to send customers away from your website and toward the websites of competitors. After spending countless dollars and energies pulling users onto your page, why would you open up an exit door? Even if the ad unit was lucrative, it still seemed like advertising suicide–or at least, like stupidly shooting yourself in the foot.

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Off the Media

Exposing the Racket: A Simple Stunt Reveals How Blogs Will Print Anything for Pageviews

It doesn’t take Noam Chomsky to see that the state of media is bad.

But in 2011, I had the sense that most people didn’t fully grasp the absurd lows the system was spiraling toward. So I set out to illustrate it.

And in the process surprised even myself.

When I sold my first book of media criticism to Portfolio/Penguin, I decided to use the launch itself as an experiment. I even wrote some of the experiment into my book proposal and subsequent deal.

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Off the Media

Facebook Is Almost a Decade Old and Still Doesn’t Get the Advertising Game

Advertising is a simple business.

A publisher creates inventory, whether it’s in a newspaper, over the airwaves, by the side of the road or online. They sell part of that inventory to companies who want to get their products and brand names in front of an audience.

Though it seems like a simple equation, there are a lot of ways it could go wrong, especially in the dizzying world of online ads.

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