Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Shit Blogs - Click Harvesters

What is a shit blog?  It is a fake blog or website with a lot of text designed to get hits from Google and do nothing else.

The other day, I was looking for a posting I had written.  We are closing in on 3,000 posts here, and I have trouble finding posts I remember, and I remember posts that seem to have disappeared.   For example, I am sure I wrote one on coffin corner but cannot find it.   I am struck down by the Mandela Effect!

Anyway, I googled something like "Living Stingy IKEA" and found my own blog post and a number of shit blog posts copying just the title of my article.   Warning:  Clicking on the previous link will take you to a shit blog with lots of pop-ups that seem to evade both pop-up blocker and ad blocker plus!  You can click on the image above for a screen-shot though.

I have seen outright ripoffs of some of my posts - cut-and-pasted (badly) onto some Indian website, hoping for some click-bait money.   But this is something different - they just use the keywords of the title and blog name, then have a bunch of really, really badly formatted text (with a lot of misspellings - more than I normally do!).

Again, this is another side effect of our online advertising medium.   It is an unprecedented form of advertising to be sure.  In the old days of "Mad Men" a company would come to an ad agency which would prepare the text and graphics and theme of an ad campaign, and then do a "media buy" while consulting with the client.  So many pages in Look and Life magazines, and maybe ads on Mannix or something - right?  Kellogg's sponsored The Beverly Hillbillies, not Breitbart.

The point is, the company knew where its ad dollars were going.  Not so with today's Adsense and other online advertising companies.  They put ads on things either willy-nilly or by using context of the content of the site.  The advertiser then pays based on number of page views and how many people clicked on the ads.

So you have no idea whether you are advertising on a KKK site, a Nazi site, or on Breitbart.  Whoops!  I'm being redundant again.

It also means we are all incentivized to create content that generates page views, and only page views, without any regard to content or quality of content.   You can generate page views by creating controversial materials or by using "click-bait" titles.   Or you can just set up hundreds of shit blogs and hope to make a little money from each one.   And in some parts of the world, making even a few bucks a day means you are rich.

It also means you can program bots to scour the net and look for content, mangle it enough to avoid copyright bots, and then re-post it and profit.

And I suppose someone will create a bot that pretends to read these pages and generate fake page views.  Eventually we can all get off the Internet and let the robots do our jobs for us!

But I digress....

I think the solution is pretty simple:  Internet advertisers have to be more selective about where they place their ads.  And I say this knowing full well it might mean the end of my ad revenue (all two months of it).   Rather than just shot-gun ads or place them based on word content, someone somewhere should review these sites and grade them on quality - both in terms of content and controversy.

Hey that sounds like a good business model for someone with computer skills who is unemployed.  Feel free to use it.  Prosper.

Content quality would mean no shit blogs with random text pasted together by a bot.   No one is going to click on that except by accident - and most folks who do quickly back out before clicking on a single ad.

Controversy quality means the blog isn't spewing hate or vitriol.  No Nazis, KKK, ISIS, or fake news.  In other words, sites that "legitimate" advertisers would not want to sully their good name by advertising on.

The era of Fake News and odious websites did not occur by accident.  It happened because companies pay for clicks blindly, without stopping to figure out what sites are worthwhile advertising on, and what are just crap that might generate an accidental page view and what sites are odious and could damage the advertiser's revenue.

Until that changes, shitblogs will always be with us!