What is “fake news”?
Fake news: we’ve all heard about it and have probably (at some point) fell victim to it. Whether it oozes from TV, print, or social media, controversy sells. Fake news, although difficult to encapsulate, can be summed up as the purposeful spread of fake or sensationalized stories presented as fact. This isn’t a new phenomena (surprisingly!) but digital media has definitely added a new twist. Consequently, with its enormous commercial access, social media has taken the brunt of this criticism.
Fake news has been disseminated by special interests groups, backed through political or financial gains. Sensationalized stories garner massive amounts of attention and clicks, yielding amazing results in the short term. An article drenched in “alternative facts” can mislead audiences into a sharing frenzy, spreading that content throughout the web.
Fake news is also kept afloat through advertising (knowingly or unknowingly) since advertisers focus too much on page clicks. Some advertisers choose fringe sites (as opposed to mainstream sites) on purpose because that’s where their audience visits frequently. Other times, advertisers can very well be completely ignorant as to where their advertisements are landing. As Josh Zeitz, VP-communications at AppNexus, points out, automated buying “lets you follow users based on what you know about them, rather than relying on the sites you hope they’ll visit“.
There are other ways your advertisement can end up on flagged “fake news” sites:
- Ad Auctions
- Automated Bots
- Wide Audience Criteria
- Ad Agencies
Programmatic platforms and sweeping generalizations of a target audience can automatically send an ad to an unwanted place. Although the products are placed there accidentally, companies still pay for the placement of their ads.
What’s being done about it?
Facebook announced an algorithm earlier this year to counteract fake news, where “signals” can help better identify and rank authentic content and predict more relevant content. Facebook isn’t outright labeling fake news but instead is searching for authenticity and ways to promote relevant topics that are trending in real time. In addition to signals,Facebook is offering an “educational tool” to help counter misinformation.
On the other hand Google is deciding to target ad revenue. To put it simply, Google’s algorithm affects a website’s page rank which makes a website harder to find on Google. The further a website is from the first page in a search result, the less lucrative they are to advertisers. But that’s not all, Google is also adding an update to their search engine feature that allows users to label fake news, hateful speech, and sensationalism. Google hopes that their algorithms and their users will effectively flag sites that purposefully produce fake news. Their intent is that affecting a site’s page rank will deter ad placements. Consequently making these pages less desirable and profitable
Advice for marketers on how to combat fake news
Well, that’s simple: verify, verify, verify! Fake news is sweeping the nation and digital media is responding. Here’s a pro-tip: don’t get caught up in the crossfire. Make sure your content is factual, not misleading or inflammatory. Make sure the pages you are marketing on are also factual, not misleading or inflammatory. Sarah Mueller from Spinutech is a little more specific: “Avoid disseminating false or misleading information. Never post anything on your business (or personal) page that you haven’t fact-checked. Sharing fake news can impact your credibility in a very real way”. Here are some other ways to avoid fake news:
- Sort and rank all source domains, such as websites, top-level domains or networks – whatever is available at the most granular level – by the amount of spending from your ad program.
- Hire an agency or specialist in ad fraud to manage your campaigns
- Blacklist fake news statements
- Seek transparency in Ad Agencies
Misery loves company and a collaboration with these sites can get your site flagged as well. However, brands do not have to fall victim to these landing pages. If you find your ad is on a site your brand doesn’t agree with; you can always leave.
Contact us today for a free review of your online ad placements so we can help your business stay off of fake news sites.