Straw Man Marketing & Information Pollution

One of the easiest ways to get your message across is to be different and denounce a currently popular meme. Dan Thies recently referenced a person who is launching their marketing brand by calling the long tail crap. Even if they know what they are talking about with some forms of marketing it undermines their credibility to talk about search marketing with no appreciation for the tail.
This is a growing trend with information in general online. Marketers with a for profit agenda, a reason to create spin, or no knowledge of a field create ratings, reviews, or half compiled resource list at a market and get people to talk about them

  • for being useful (to those naive and new to the market, or those featured in the compilation) and

  • for being inaccurate (for those who know the market and realize that the lists are marketing garbage)

As marketers like you and I fill industries with information pollution it gets harder and harder for the novice web user to know truth from fiction.

The net effect is that we all buy more lies and garbage, become less trusting and more cynical, and small businesses end up having more similar externalities to large businesses, where the profiting company does not take into account any of the downsides to the pollution they created to generate profit.

Some publishers feel absolved of any wrongdoing when they rely on a third party ad network for ad targeting, but profit driven ad network are amoral. Why would someone pay $3 a click for free ringtones if there wasn't some sort of reverse billing fraud on the backend?

Published: August 6, 2007 by Aaron Wall in publishing & media


August 7, 2007 - 8:32pm

Aaron, thanks for the comments and link.

This kind of noise has always been there, unfortunately, and it always will be. I usually let it go, but when people start asking me about something I kinda feel like I should answer.

Rich Schefren makes some interesting points about this and other types of noise in "The Attention Age Doctrine," which is a good read in between the sales pitches.

Rich was a lot better at hiding the pitch in his "Internet Business Manifesto" series, but this one is still worth every minute you spend reading it, and you can't beat the price (free).

As far as ad networks being amoral... yeah, I'm with you. They are. I think they'd call that a "feature" actually. The market mechanism itself lacks a moral dimension. It's a real shame that there's no known replacement for it. :D

Personally, I happily pay $3-4 per subscriber (via contextual and search advertising) to give away my book, so paying to give stuff away is hardly evil.

If I really stretch my mind, I could probably even imagine "non-evil" ways to monetize a mailing list that was built by giving away ringtones. If I really stretch.

Anyway... thanks for being you, Aaron. We need more honest and thoughtful people in this world.

August 8, 2007 - 3:05pm

"harder for the novice web user to know truth from fiction"

Gee, it sounds like online marketing is becoming more and more like offline marketing.

When I was a kid I saw Wonder Bread commercials that told me their bread builds bodies in 12 different ways; very healthy. I saw milk commercials that told me I needed three tall glasses of milk every day according to the American Dairy Association. I didn't realize as a youngster that the American Dairy Association was just a group of dairy owners paying to air their sales message on national TV.

So, web users need to mature, and they will, but that takes time.

One last point, if I may Aaron. Your post mixes up 'real information' and 'marketing'. Obviously not the same.


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