A Deep Dive into the Plundering of the American Media

The media business is in the toilet.

That’s the opinion of Ryan Cooper in The Week, as he relates the current state of the news media.

“Despite the relatively strong economy, thousands of journalists are being laid off every year — and the alternative press has been especially devastated, as Alex Pareene writes in a brilliant article for The New Republic,” Cooper asserts. “The ‘rude media’ — alt-weeklies, blogs, and websites like the late Gawker and Deadspin, who directed acidic skepticism towards wealthy, powerful people like Jeffrey Epstein and Bill Cosby when stuffy traditional press would not — is all but dead.”

He points to familiar reasons we can now recite by heart: The internet itself, which quickly destroyed the classified ad market and took the local papers down with it; Facebook and Google, the digital duopoly that ate the online ad market; and the massive amount of digital ad fraud that is sucking up billions in ad budgets and leaving traditional news media in the cold.

We’ve been talking about ad fraud for years, warning marketers they were getting mugged every time they purchased online ads. Instead of abating, ad fraud continued to rise, to around $7 billion in 2016Fraud detection technology became the hot new thing, but the crooks always seem to be one – or several – steps ahead of the rest of us, and massive fraud sources like 2018’s Android app leak get little press.

Cooper goes on to share links to several in-depth articles about this issue – it’s worth a deep dive when you’ve got a chance. He’s also quick to point out that Facebook is a big part of this ad fraud.

“A few months ago the company sued two Asian app developers for allegedly infecting phones with malware that created fake ad clicks in the Facebook app,” he writes. “In yet another story, Silverman reported that “black hat marketers” took advantage of lax Facebook enforcement to use the platform to trick people into buying subscriptions to scam products with deceptive ads.”

“The lesson here is that not only have Facebook and Google monopolized the online ad market, they have also corrupted it,” he continues. “Their platforms are so massive that it is nearly impossible to properly police them, and in any case neither company evinces much interest in doing so, since it would require hiring tens of thousands of actual people to look carefully at millions of websites. It is much cheaper to get programmers to write some anti-fraud script, claim to advertisers that they are doing all they can to stop scams, and rake in tens of billions in profit.”

Now, publishers have a choice to make. Do they continue to support the same system that broke journalism? Or do they say enough and stand up to the digital duopoly like Meredith, Bauer and others are doing?