by andre briggs

Misdirection & Trolling for Ad Dollars

Abagond on a recent headline grabbing Forbes magazine “Tech” article:

Since Marks wrote this for Forbes it is meant to help not poor blacks but rich whites – to help them feel good about their position in society by presenting poor blacks as failing to take advantage of opportunities, as not valuing education, as lacking brains and hard work.

I don’t necessarily agree, but the spirit of the article is business as usual for many digital publications these days. There’s a follow up article from Kashmir Hill that address the trolling aspects of the original piece.

The fact that both articles are in the “Tech” category makes one scratch their head. I don’t really see Kashmir Hill as any better in this situation. In fact I have a theory that Gene Marks and Kashmir Hill are simply playing good cop/bad cop with readers.

The Tabloid Magazine Posing as a Business Magazine Cycle

  • Publish an inflammatory article.
  • Wait two days and produce an op-ed condemning the original article on the same site.
  • Both authors get exposure.
  • The opposing views of “good” and “bad” even themselves out.
  • Forbes Magazine appears fair and balanced.
  • The publishers and advertisers are happy.
  • Wash.
  • Rinse.
  • Repeat.

If Ms. Hill truly disagreed with Gene Marks article she could have taken a much more drastic steps. For instance recommend that Mark isn’t invited to contribute to Forbes. That would never happen. Their mutual trolling is too valuable to Forbes.

Online publications like Forbes and the Huffington Post don’t really care about the quality of content as long as they are getting an audience in numbers. Take a look at the amount of self-promotion occurring. Let’s deconstruct the canvas:

Forbes really really wants you to know how Gene Marks would be operate “As A Poor Black Kid”(2)(6). They want want you to share it (1). They want you to know the real Gene Marks (5). They want you to see how others feel about Marks as a poor black kid (3)(4).

When I disabled AdBlock most of the ad placements on Forbes were rich media Flash creatives with a few text ads to fill out the screen real estate. The left side of the canvas is dripping with social media links.

Not pictured in the above screenshot is an in-stream article block directing a reader to the Hill response:

Highlighted is yet another in-stream block to the original Gene Marks piece. This great way for the publisher to be able to tell an end to end story based on collected user information. If you inspect the javascript link closely they clearly indicate that user tracking and targeting is occurring. Lovely.

So this is what it’s truly all about. There’s no gain in getting upset at the content of Gene Mark or even Kashmir Hill’s occurrences of link-bait for clicks and self-promotion.

Forbes knows that nobody is going to willingly pay for the content of these attention-whores. Let’s be real. What Forbes knows is that there is an audience out there that secretly agrees with Marks or gets a chuckle out of the supposed Hill/Marks spat to donate an ad impression and some form of targeting metadata.

This is the financial transaction that takes place.