Although I have been advocating for traditional media organizations to adopt performance marketing into their online ad space, I’d like to add this caveat: know what ads are running on your sites, and steer clear of ads that don’t belong there. Ad managers use discretion when placing ads on TV, radio and in print. So why do they give carte blanche to affiliate managers to run questionable ads on their websites?
Case in point: What’s with USA Today, MSNBC and even my local daily, the Salt Lake Tribune, doing running blatantly bogus ads touting people in my area working from home and making lots of money? I expect to see offers like that scrawled on poster paper and stapled to telephone poles, but on legitimate news sites? Do those news organizations realize how much that cheapens their content?
Check out the landing page of one of the banner ads from these sites, which was placed by the Pulse 360 network. The banner ad itself is dubious, but the landing page is downright sleazy.
Notice how the whole website is set up like it is a legitimate news organization. They’ve copied the format that newspapers use in reporting stories. They try to make the content look local by entering the name of city where your IP address originates from (in my case, Roy, Utah). Your page might look different, but mine says that Mike Richardson from Roy, Utah, went from his lost job as a “boring account rep for a manufacturing company” to making “$5,000 a month at home” in four weeks. Unlike real news stories that mention a person’s full name the first time, then subsequently refer to the person by just the last name, this “story” refers to Mike by his full name in each reference. That’s another sign that some non-human is populating elements into this story.
This site tries to look like other news sites by having icons you can click if you like it, dislike it, or want to share it on reddit, digg, facebook, etc. Only they are just for show. You can’t actually click any of them. And all those favorable comments by readers at the bottom of the “story” that rave how similar their experiences were making loads of money doing nothing? All bogus. Yes, it looks like you can add a comment, but of course you can’t.
Two other things I thought were frustratingly brilliant in their deception was that 1) in the “story” it discounts get-rich-quick schemes (inferring that we all know those don’t work, so this must somehow not be one of those) and 2) how it has advertising links along the side. The ads seem to lend credibility to the “story,” all while linking to other bogus offers.
If you actually read the disclaimer (yes, the small print nobody reads) at the bottom of the page, you’ll learn what those warning bells in your head were telling you: that Mike Richardson is not a real person, and you’re more likely to end up in the hole instead of making money.
One can argue that if people are dumb enough to fall for these types of gimmicks, that’s their fault, not the fault of the website that drove those people there. But when I see those types of ads next to real news content of legitimate news organizations, I can’t help but question the integrity of the story.
There are plenty of legitimate networks pushing legitimate offers to web publishers. So my advice to traditional news organizations is this: steer clear of the bottom feeders and make sure your affiliate ads don’t drag you into the muck. Your readers will appreciate you for it.