Huff post pretends that ads are articles

I hate HuffPo with the blazing heat of a million white-hot suns. Well, maybe not that much, but I really do despise its predictable Authoritarian Leftism, ascribable to a new editor and a new editorial position. It’s become the left-wing Breitbart, but in one respect perhaps even worse: it has “articles” that are really ads, for, while purporting to tell you what to eat, what to buy, and what to visit, HuffPo is getting a cut from whatever recommendations they give that you spend money on. And you don’t know it if you don’t read the fine print.

For example, here’s an article that I, as a foodie, would have clicked on (click on all article screenshots to go to article):

One of those “best food cities” is Venice, and, like the rest of them, they recommend food tours, as in the following bit.

In Venice, there’s something tasty for everyone. Wine lovers might want to chow down on the spectacular wine and unique seafood dishes at al Covo, while pasta enthusiasts might prefer tucking into a dish of hearty bolognese at Ristorante Trattoria Cherubino. TripAdvisor’s most-booked food tour in the city is the Venice food tour: cicchetti and wine.

But if you click on the food tours, you go to one that TripAdvisor recommends. Well, okay, they’re using TripAdvisor as a source. But HuffPo also gets a cut if you book using the link, for this appears—at the very bottom of the page.

Here’s the direct link to the Venice food tour via Tripadvisor: https://www.tripadvisor.com/AttractionProductReview-g187870-d11453217-Venice_Food_Tour_Cicchetti_and_Wine-Venice_Veneto.html

And the link via HuffPo, clearly identifying their cut, presumably in bold:  https://www.tripadvisor.com/AttractionProductReview-g187870-d11453217-Venice_Food_Tour_Cicchetti_and_Wine-Venice_Veneto.html&cjp=5431261&cja=10834516&cjs=38395X1559466X38b37c6c52b4c4044853d627335a3e9f  .  The prices don’t differ; HuffPo is just taking a cut.

Why don’t they just label the article “ad” at the top? It’s deceptive.

Likewise, here’s a travel ad, with a weak indication at the top that, well, there may be some money given to HuffPo by booking.com:

The description:

If London’s a bit too far away for you to travel, venture to the city of Chicago for an all-out celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Irish taverns are bustling, joyful people are singing and dancing in the street, and even the Chicago River sparkles a brilliant shade of emerald green. Families will love the vibrant and bustling Downtown St. Patrick’s Day Parade, full of colorful floats, marching bands and Irish dancers.

The exquisite Staypineapple at The Alise Chicago was designed by renowned architect Daniel Burnham, with beautiful mosaic floors and marble ceilings oozing luxury, class and style. Select suites offer stunning views of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan, and the hotel is ideally located for shopping on the famous Michigan Avenue. Guests can enjoy an onsite fitness center, yoga and a bicycle rental service to explore the beauty of Chicago. After a fun-packed day of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, guests will love the adventurous and contemporary cuisine at the The Alise Chicago, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and serving a selection of premium cocktails.

HuffPost Brand Forum is a paid program that allows companies to connect directly in their own words with HuffPost readers. For more information on Brand Forum, please contact BrandForum@huffpost.com.

In this case, the link doesn’t give HuffPo a cut; Booking.com just pays them to recommend hotels where Booking.com gets a cut.

Here’s an item that you might want to buy; you don’t know HuffPo gets a cut until the bottom of the page:

Number 6 of the recommendations is the Ted Baker London Tailor Wool Duffel Bag, with this description and link:

This vintage-inspired Ted Baker bag is, uniquely, made of textured wool. It’s [SIC!!!] faux leather trim adds a touch that gives it the timeless look of another decade.

The link is (my emphasis): https://shop.nordstrom.com/s/ted-baker-london-tailor-wool-duffel-bag/4725805?origin=keywordsearch-personalizedsort&fashioncolor=GREY\&cm_mmc=Linkshare-_-partner-_-10-_-1&siteId=tv2R4u9rImY-XGt3DO8GDElvQjUZR_l3oQ, which clearly tells nordstrom to give HuffPo some of the money.  And at the bottom of the page you see this:

How can such an evaluation be “objective”? Clearly they’ll choose based on the willingness of the store to refund some of the dosh to HuffPo.

Finally, there’s this from the “wellness” section. (Whose “wellness” is being promoted?)

And number 1 in water bottles with filters:

 

The description?:

For under $15, the filter inside this BPA-free bottle filters as you drink to easily rehydrate at the office, a sporting event or on a day trip.

Amazon Reviews: 1,900
Average Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“These have changed my life. I can go anywhere and all I need is a tap and I’ve got tasty (non-gross chlorinated tasting) water. I have two and might get a third.” – Amazon Reviewer

If you click on the link above, the URL is https://www.amazon.com/Brita-Ounce-Sided-Bottle-Filter/dp/B00AB8NOPY/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?amp=&ie=UTF8&keywords=water+bottles+with+filters&psc=1&qid=1523907905&sr=8-1-spons&tag=thehuffingtop-20

And, sure enough:

I wouldn’t trust HuffPo’s articles on “the best stuff/food/places” if there’s any kind of indication that the site gets a remuneration from its recommendations. If you want Amazon recommendations, just put in a product like “water bottles” at the Amazon site and click on “highest rated” on the right. That way you can see the same evaluations without HuffPo getting your dosh. It’s also duplicitous to put the “we might get a cut of the money” notice at the bottom of the page, as you may click on—and order—a product before you see it.

I’m not sure Breitbart does anything like this, and it’s sneaky. It’s sneaky if anyone does it, but particularly sneaky, to my mind, when a left-wing site does it. You may say, “Well, everyone does it,” but to me that’s no excuse for duplicity. After all, at the top of New York Times pages that may be mistaken for news but are ads, they clearly say “ADVERTISEMENT.”

My one consolation is that traffic at HuffPo continues to drop as its contents become thinner and more predictable. I used to go there to look at food and travel posts, but now these are rarely renewed, and when they are they are often “kickback posts.”

Traffic data:

21 Comments

  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 30, 2018 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    I could recommend Venice as the hot place to eat and haven’t been there since the early 70s. A place that lives on tourism, how surprising it would have good places to eat. I’ll bet Hawaii has a few good ones too.

    • nicky
      Posted April 30, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Less well known as tourist destinations, but with some very nice restaurants: Montpellier and Brussels. I also liked the food in Lisbon, simple but honest.

  2. Simon Hayward
    Posted April 30, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Jerry, you hate it but seem drawn like a moth to a flame to keep checking out how awful it is. It might be better for your blood pressure to just “step away from the huff” 🙂

    • Posted April 30, 2018 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      LOL, my blood pressure is fine. We all need our daily two minutes of hate. I’m more amused than angered, actually, but I also see HuffPo as a bellwether of the Regressive Left.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 30, 2018 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    The cheapjack greedhead hustle knows no political boundaries, Right or Left.

  4. Dean Reimer
    Posted April 30, 2018 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    I’d wager that Breitbart does this, too, only for survival kits, buckets of food slop, and the like. Not to excuse HuffPo at all, because the practice of unmarked sponsored content is, and always has been, unacceptable.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 30, 2018 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      Breitbart does do it. I subscribed to their mailing list for a few weeks to see what sort of news they spread (until I couldn’t stand it any longer!). Among other things I started getting emails for a get rich quick scheme about how to profit off a loophole built into the Trump tax cuts, which was NOT an accurate description of the scheme. It was basically a pyramid scheme crossed with a chain letter scheme, and most people would lose money.

      I see this as even worse than what HuffPost is doing because it’s outright lies that people will make easy money. Of course, there’s the old rule, “If it seems too good to be true, it usually is.” And that rule is ALWAYS true when it comes to money-making schemes.

  5. Gareth
    Posted April 30, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Its depressingly normal to see these sort of articles, even the BBC’s website has them. But most of them have the decency to just link to them elsewhere, rather than pass them off as their own ‘journalism’.

    Modern advertising grew out of the Public Relations industry that sprung up immediately after WWI, and was influenced by the propaganda of that war. It has now taken over many journalist outlets, all justified under the empty rhetoric of “its what the consumers want”.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted April 30, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      I thought it was an invention of radio and perfected on Television.

      • Gareth
        Posted April 30, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        Read up on Edward Bernays.
        Radio and television no doubt were instrumental in making it a bigger industry.

    • Diane Garlick
      Posted May 1, 2018 at 3:01 am | Permalink

      But since no one’s buying newspapers or magazines anymore, these publishers have to make money some way.

  6. Posted April 30, 2018 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    They would have lost me at “Tripadvisor”. Good for some things but not for finding out about the best food cities, IMHO.

    By the way, speaking of food travel, one interesting development are these online services (VizEat, Eatwith, Ottsworld, etc.) that are sort of AirBnB for foodies. They match you up with families that are willing to serve you dinner. Anyone have any experience with these? It sounds like a good idea but, like all things online, it might also be a disaster.

    • Gareth
      Posted April 30, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      There is some bloke in London who used trip-adviser and carefully selected customers to start an exclusive dining club in his back yard. He literally served people ready made supermarket diners in a well furnished shed. Apparently had very good ratings too.

      • Posted April 30, 2018 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        Last year, my wife and I went to a dinner held in a home. The owner and chef was a former restaurant owner that had found the restaurant business tough and not for him. He has evidently managed to make a respectable business this way and has been doing it for a few years now. The meal and experience was quite good though a bit expensive. I’m curious if these dinners-in-homes services lead to something similar. My guess is that they are more toward the lower end. That’s ok with me if the quality is good.

    • freiner
      Posted April 30, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      “Families that are willing to serve you dinner.” Didn’t hobos used to have a code symbol for that?

  7. Posted April 30, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    This is how most blogs make their money. And yes, HuffPost is now a blog. Listicles with Amazon links are blogs, not articles.

  8. nicky
    Posted April 30, 2018 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I agree there, the “Advertisement”, “Paid content” or “We may recieve a share…” (or rather more honestly “We receive a share….”) should be at the top.
    Some SA radio channels do this too: the ‘regular’ presenter reads something that turns out to be an add.
    Money appears to creep in everywhere.

  9. Posted April 30, 2018 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    I’ve now seen “sponsored content” on the CBC, too. Ugh.

  10. John Conoboy
    Posted April 30, 2018 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    It is getting impossible to tell what is an ad anymore. I have been careful to never click on ads on Facebook, but recently when I learned that you can go to a place on FB and see everything you ever have done, many of the links that I clicked on to see what I thought were articles shared by friends show up as actually being ads. And, it has a listing of companies that have information about you in their databasdes and it was extensive and include many that I would never deal with under any circumstances.

    On the plus side, my wife and I had a lovely time in Venice last November, but we just ate where ever we happened to find something that looked good. Favorite place was Gam Gam, a kosher restaurant at the edge of the old Jewish ghetto.

  11. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted April 30, 2018 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    My news aggregator Omni – dunno if there is a US version – uses theseto complement ad insertion. As they use the media ethics of clearly labeling them by text and yellow color, I find them a lot less distracting, time and screen space consuming.

    At least it is a lot better than traditional media, which instead try to detect ad blockers and throw up yet another popup and wall. It makes no sense since if I bought a dead tree magazine I could easily pay someone to cut out the ads. The implied idea is that if I do not pay for the paper I get nothing, as if the web did not exist. I like Guardian’s approach, they show you quality and the choice to support them instead of “noise” media is given to you.

  12. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 30, 2018 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    So, “Puff Ho” is in fact a completely accurate slur.

    (Taking the antiquated meaning of ‘puffery’. Never mind the ‘ho’… 😉

    cr


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