farking dishonest? or just farking fine?
August 2, 2004 9:02 PM   Subscribe

Fark.com sells their editorial, and the loyalty of their users. "After trying to figure out a deal they told me that I could just buy the editorial. The cost? Like $300 to $400 for a story... They said they didn’t have a problem not telling the audience that the content was paid for..."
posted by reklaw (71 comments total)

 
how much did you pay for this post? Come on, fess up.
posted by outsider at 9:08 PM on August 2, 2004


It makes a lot of sense - fark's political threads are all 100 % pure troll-bait. I always wondered if they posted trolling threads just to increase their pageviews and sell more ads.
posted by rks404 at 9:13 PM on August 2, 2004


Damn, that's crazy. I mean, it's just Fark, but there's still an issue of trust with readers that was broken. Drew's response is well-reasoned and I can see why he does this, but still, it'd probably be better if they had a small "support fark" image next to paid links, so that it was clear.
posted by mathowie at 9:14 PM on August 2, 2004


Immediately issuing an apology and putting "advertisement" on the links may restore its credibility, but even doing that will be taking a serious blow. Fark sucks anyway.
posted by Keyser Soze at 9:16 PM on August 2, 2004


Fark isn't news. It's entertainment. I don't think they have an obligation to be fair, just, even-handed, or objective, nor do I think it's any more reasonable to hold them to journalistic standards than it is to do the same to the Weekly World News. If Fark is your main source for news, you deserve whatever misconceptions you get.
posted by kjh at 9:22 PM on August 2, 2004


I'll add the same thing I said in the monkeyfilter thread about this, which is that I think this sort of thing is done all the time in women's magazines when it comes to recommending or promoting certain products (and I don't think any warning is given to the consumer), which has always seemed kind of skanky to me. I wonder whether it's done elsewhere.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:24 PM on August 2, 2004


The worst part, I think is that a link to this blog entry 'was up on TotalFark for about 5 minutes before it became an "un-link"'. This comment is followed by Drew saying 'I'm not a fan of having discussions about the inner workings of Fark online' and proceeding to utterly dodge the question -- he does not deny putting paid links on Fark without disclosing it.

To my mind, this stinks for the same reason it stinks for search engines to put in paid links without marking them "Sponsored Link" (a common practice back before Google effectively put a stop to it). It's absolutely a trust issue -- whether it's news or entertainment, you still want to know when you're being shilled to.
posted by reklaw at 9:28 PM on August 2, 2004


Who cares? It's just Fark. Exactly what did you "trust" about Fark in the first place? It's just links to tits and The Obscure Store.
posted by SweetJesus at 9:32 PM on August 2, 2004


Something stinks and I think its Fark.

Its unethical to do what they did. If it weren't then we wouldn't be talking about it. Its a form of lying by omission, still guilty.
posted by fenriq at 9:33 PM on August 2, 2004


"I feel like I can never trust Fark again."

Innocence shattered!

Meanwhile, dude gets 10x the traffic to his site that a fark story would bring.
posted by ODiV at 9:33 PM on August 2, 2004


"I feel like I can never trust Fark again."

I just want to look at that sentence a few more times.
posted by infidelpants at 9:36 PM on August 2, 2004


You mean the high minded integrity of Fark has been compromised? I fear for the future of discourse.
posted by jonmc at 9:36 PM on August 2, 2004


What, no "Obvious" tag?

Seriously, yeah, it's a bit of a disappointment to discover that Fark does engage in a bit of capitalism without letting their readers know.

Now that I'm over it, I'll go back and read stuff. Because Fark is indeed entertainment, and I like to be entertained. (Probably why I still visit here, too...)
posted by FormlessOne at 9:44 PM on August 2, 2004


I think this sort of thing is done all the time in women's magazines when it comes to recommending or promoting certain products (and I don't think any warning is given to the consumer), which has always seemed kind of skanky to me. I wonder whether it's done elsewhere.
Actually, it doesn't work that way. There's pressure to put products made by companies that advertise in the magazine into the editorial pages, but it's not demanded, and they usually would be used anyway (being mostly big-name, nationally available products). I've never ever heard of actual payment for placement in editorial content in a reputable magazine. It often works the other way too- if a manufacturer makes a product that gets featured on an editorial page (say, a new gadget or nail polish brand) due to a press release or word-of-mouth, the ad sales staff will go to them with the clip, and try to get them to advertise. There are also ASME rules and guidelines about all this.
posted by amberglow at 9:45 PM on August 2, 2004


I don't know why Drew wouldn't just label it as being a paid inclusion. I don't think that most people would even care.
posted by waldo at 9:48 PM on August 2, 2004


Speaking of magazines, I remember reading that the government was paying teen mags to put scary "real life" drug stories in its pages to scare kids straight...

Any merit to this claim? I'm too lazy to google at the moment.

waldo: maybe he was too lazy to care?
posted by ODiV at 9:54 PM on August 2, 2004


I don't know why Drew wouldn't just label it as being a paid inclusion. I don't think that most people would even care.

As if that scenario wouldn't get the same aghast treatment from a bunch of holier-than-thous that probably don't read Fark anyway.
posted by kjh at 9:58 PM on August 2, 2004


what are you talking about kjh? People don't belly ache about the ads running down both sides of Fark because it's clear they're ads. Marking links as ads would be a much better idea than hiding that fact.
posted by mathowie at 10:17 PM on August 2, 2004


This outrage strikes me as somewhat manufactured, that's all.
posted by kjh at 10:20 PM on August 2, 2004


Its unethical to do what they did. If it weren't then we wouldn't be talking about it. Its a form of lying by omission, still guilty.

kind of like coming home and finding swastikas painted on the front door.

*snickers*
posted by quonsar at 10:23 PM on August 2, 2004


It's just links to tits and The Obscure Store.

And once they had links to obscure tits.

Man, that was the shit!
posted by Ayn Marx at 10:29 PM on August 2, 2004


Older interview with Drew where he talks about his thoughts on advertising:Click here.
posted by hipnerd at 10:31 PM on August 2, 2004


only connect, Penn and Teller touched on that on the show I mention way too many times. Many womens magazines will even distort the gender of their writers. Heh.
posted by shepd at 10:37 PM on August 2, 2004


terroristswin.jpg
posted by planetkyoto at 10:40 PM on August 2, 2004


C'mere login, here boy...
posted by moonbird at 10:43 PM on August 2, 2004


I think this sort of thing is done all the time in women's magazines when it comes to recommending or promoting certain products...

Actually, it doesn't work that way. There's pressure to put products made by companies that advertise in the magazine into the editorial pages, but it's not demanded, and they usually would be used anyway (being mostly big-name, nationally available products)...

When Ms. went ad-free in 1990, Gloria Steinem (who's been in the trade for decades) wrote an essay exposing the cozy relationship between advertising and editorial in women's magazines and the intense pressure for "complimentary copy".

...this stinks for the same reason it stinks for search engines to put in paid links without marking them "Sponsored Link" (a common practice back before Google effectively put a stop to it)

Feh. Google was all on its own for a long time. It's the FTC warning that's prompted change among the rest of the pack. Surely the rules apply to other types of pay-for-placement such as fark's...?
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:53 PM on August 2, 2004


I hate to break the news to you fanboys, but The Matrix and Star Wars movies were all made for the express purpose of making money.

There, now don't you all feel like sheep. ;-P
posted by mischief at 10:55 PM on August 2, 2004


but still, it'd probably be better if they had a small "support fark" image next to paid links, so that it was clear.

Cheers, you win. Messaging mitigates placement.
posted by scarabic at 11:14 PM on August 2, 2004


there's a comment missing.
posted by quonsar at 11:21 PM on August 2, 2004


I hate to break the news to you fanboys, but The Matrix and Star Wars movies were all made for the express purpose of making money.

Whatever.

Making money is not unethical. Making money on ads is not unethical. Making money by linking to sponsors is not unethical. Making money by posting sponsored content is not unethical. Sheesh, it's the deception that's bugging people, not the commerce. If they'd just put "advertisement" or "a message from our fine sponsor" in teeny 7pt type next to the content, no one would have an objection. Dishonesty sucks.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:22 PM on August 2, 2004


If they'd just put "advertisement" or "a message from our fine sponsor" in teeny 7pt type next to the content, no one would have an objection. Dishonesty sucks.

Developing the audience of an unsponsored forum and then slipping in sponsored content without labelling is, in fact, unethical. It's hard to define bait-and-switch any more closely than that.
posted by scarabic at 11:33 PM on August 2, 2004


Drew Curtis takes payola. Metafilter shocked
posted by neckro23 at 11:38 PM on August 2, 2004


and, as you might guess, they've got their fingers poised over the keyboard, deleting comments mentioning this story as soon as they get posted.

a comment referring to this matter or linking to this FPP has an average lifespan of probably 3 minutes, even at 2:30am...
posted by rxrfrx at 11:52 PM on August 2, 2004


That's beyond weak. I pity them for what's coming. The pain will not be remotely worth the paltry CPMs you know they're getting
posted by scarabic at 12:06 AM on August 3, 2004


Jeez that's stupid. Disregard your audience. Give up control of the discussion. Let the story spin into a controversy about censorship and coverups. Yeah, that's a bright move... <eyeroll>

Joe Trippi was on NPR last night talking again about how the 'net Deaniacs' loyalty smashed fundraising records, blah blah, and then how the infamous scream literally changed the environment overnight as the web filled with remixes and parodies. His point, which should be quite obvious to anyone who's been paying attention for any length of time, is that when the 'net is working for you it's a powerful force and when that energy turns against you that too is an incredibly fast and powerful force, but that either way only a fool imagines he has control over it. The fark folks are morons if they don't apologize quickly and render the issue moot. So they slap a label on their advertorial in the future; what's the problem there? Better than throwing away the audience that makes posts worth $300-400 per.

On preview, what scarbic said.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:21 AM on August 3, 2004


If only I had paid some more, I could have more than 617 articles submitted.
posted by RobbieFal at 12:26 AM on August 3, 2004


Oh dear. If they're busy deleting comments about it, they're dead in the water. You'd think Fark of all places would know that information wants to be freed.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:26 AM on August 3, 2004


Someone over there said it had "jumped the fark" yesterday...maybe it has.
posted by jeblis at 12:59 AM on August 3, 2004


Uhh, you've been able to get a list of every single paid Fark ad here for as long as I can remember.
posted by effugas at 1:02 AM on August 3, 2004


I love Fark, it’s funny and I check it every day. I’m a fan.

This must be a different Fark to the one I know. Maybe he's referring to the Fark that's on Internet 2, or probably HappyNet.
posted by chrid at 1:21 AM on August 3, 2004


Would people who couldn't care less about this be angry if Mat did the same thing here at Metafilter?

Do the people who are angry feel that all marketing should be obvious?


To be honest, I doubt that Fark fans are going to boycott the site if they find out about this. Most people don't go there for the site's integrity. Well unless by integrity you mean that the site provides new links day after day after day (8% of which are amusing) for free. They certainly aren't going to stop clicking on the boobie links even if turns out that they are paid for. Wanna bet? Deleting the whistle blower posts seems like a waste of energy, in the end the vast majority is just not going to care.
posted by sic at 2:36 AM on August 3, 2004


Uhh, you've been able to get a list of every single paid Fark ad here for as long as I can remember.

That is a list of the classifieds that run in the right sidebar of the main Fark page. Not the same at all.


Developing the audience of an unsponsored forum and then slipping in sponsored content without labelling is, in fact, unethical. It's hard to define bait-and-switch any more closely than that.

Precisely. This is far from "obvious" when at least part of the audience constantly makes references in the threads to such things as quality of headline, prior unaccepted submissions or slow news day.

This is hardly about specific industry standards; it's about overall integrity and ethics. There is a difference between laughing with the users and laughing at the users.
posted by magullo at 2:44 AM on August 3, 2004


Drew's comments do change things quite a bit. His intentions are obviously different to what you might expect, from reading the linked blog post.

Doesn't make such practice less of a murky issue, though, and a simple link (an asterix?) along with such posts, to an explaination of Fark's policy and reasons, would probably clean the whole thing up.
posted by Blue Stone at 2:51 AM on August 3, 2004


Fark has always censored comments. I've had several of mine censored which is why I stopped logging in. I can handle being censored when I'm an ass (except on Fark I guess, because that would get rid of about 90% of all posts) but not because I have different political views than whoever happens to be at the moderator controls at that moment in time.

It was always pretty obvious that they accepted paid links though, there are certain users there who've had hundreds of accepted links that are mostly cookie cutter copies of each other. One person who was very fond of posting links to NewsMax even hinted or bragged that he paid his way to get links posted (and eventually became a moderator).

Do I care? Not really, I realized that Fark wasn't really worth the time I spent there anyway. It was humorous the first time I saw it but at some point had started a death spiral down the toilet and never recovered.
posted by substrate at 5:08 AM on August 3, 2004


The only solution to them deleting comments is to create more comments.

<A href="http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/34732">Look what I saw on Metafilter today...</A>
posted by PrinceValium at 5:16 AM on August 3, 2004


Excuse me while I figure out how much is the $300 investment worth, considering Farkers average attention span.

In others news, why do americans hate so much football ?
posted by elpapacito at 5:27 AM on August 3, 2004


You mean all those Newsmax and Conservative News pieces Drew runs everyday aren't from the grassroots? I'm shocked! Shocked I say!
posted by skallas at 6:36 AM on August 3, 2004


But I enjoyed all the wisdom those AskMen.com articles gave me! Now I know to wash my hair, clean my clothes, and not be a jerk in order to get women to want to sleep with me. But now I don't know what to believe!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:58 AM on August 3, 2004


I don't care about anyone making money, I don't care about being "fair" having "integrity"--especially on a site like fark. But I absolutely resent being secretly fed commercials.

Even if there was a one-line disclaimer--"Some articles are paid advertisements"--I'd feel better about it.
posted by jpoulos at 7:03 AM on August 3, 2004


Holy shit, I always thought that this was all fairly obvious. I'm shocked that nobody else knew or at least assumed that it was going on.
posted by Stan Chin at 7:20 AM on August 3, 2004


round my neck of the woods any paid inclusion anywhere needs to be labeled as such. Is it not so in the US as well?
posted by dabitch at 7:20 AM on August 3, 2004


$300 to $400? Heck, I'll post anything you want on my blog for $3 to $4. Of course I get fewer hits than Drew but thanks to my girlfriend hits are up 100% over this time two years ago.
posted by m@ at 7:22 AM on August 3, 2004


I'm missing this... by "ad" do you mean someone paid to have a link posted on Fark? I don't get the whole "the ads are faked" thing because I'm looking at Fark right now and 70% of the site's real estate is ads for semi-quality products and semi-attractive women vomited all over my browser window.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:30 AM on August 3, 2004


stan, lots of people assumed this, but its nice to get validation. There have been lots of comments in fark threads along the lines of "I hope they're paying you well, drew" after posting some baiting or outrageous political piece. On the bright side it doesn't seem that most of the fark community is even old enough to vote so their net effect on politics is probably zero. Oh well, its not like that Richard Mellon Scaife is short on cash or anything.
posted by skallas at 7:31 AM on August 3, 2004


There's also the important point this was all "brought to light" by someone who's been a relentless self-promoter for years and years. It doesn't validate or invalidate any of the Fark-specific arguments that are being made here, but it's tough to buy the idea of Jason Calacanis--of all people--getting all huffy and shocked about this without some a strong component of self-interest.

Methinks...
posted by LairBob at 7:48 AM on August 3, 2004


Heh. Calcanis must have been doing the Happy Joy Dance of Impending Free Promotion when he got that paid-link offer email. What a glorious gift.

"I can never trust Fark again, after this experience trying to promote my new blogs (www.autoblog.com, www.joystiq.com and www.bloggingbaby.com)! Oh where have those halcyon days gone, when one could promote his new blogs (www.autoblog.com, www.joystiq.com and www.bloggingbaby.com) on Fark in complete confidence that those new blogs (www.autoblog.com, www.joystiq.com and www.bloggingbaby.com) would be fairly marked and labeled as paid promotions? Now I shall have to market my new blogs (www.autoblog.com, www.joystiq.com and www.bloggingbaby.com) elsewhere, to preserve my sweet, sweet integrity."

Also, $300-$400 is chump change. Drew, if you're reading this, you should be charging a lot more.
posted by rusty at 7:52 AM on August 3, 2004


Fark sucks in the first place.
posted by angry modem at 8:13 AM on August 3, 2004


Fark was never a news site... but I never really thought there were paid ads in there. Now I know... and that's fine. 'Course, there's no big surprise here -- Drew is an entrepreneur with a site that's grown a vast amount over the last little while. Some ethical corners were cut in the process as a guy tried to earn a living off his creation.

As a side note, attaching blame here to Drew may be premature. Remember that that jason d00d dealt mainly with someone else. I work with a lot of salespeople and they'll say just about anything to get a sale... but when it comes down to the programmer's dungeon, the real story about what we'll do for x amount of money may be different. I'm sure people in the non-profit world know what I'm talking about when it comes to development departments, as well.

I love fark -- and screw all you haters, by the way -- but bringing this out in the open will cause them to clarify (and hopefully, fully divulge) their policy on paid inclusion. And that's a good thing.
posted by ph00dz at 8:19 AM on August 3, 2004


i'd hit it.
posted by eastlakestandard at 8:22 AM on August 3, 2004


naked: I noticed you stopped short of calling fark's activity unethical, cuz you know what they are doing is not unethical. Unless of course, you have a different set of ethics. ;-P
posted by mischief at 8:58 AM on August 3, 2004


It will result in a good thing, but don't you feel even the slightest bit hoodwinked? Given that, as others have pointed out, about three quarters of the page is already paid ads (obvious ones), I have always assumed that the links themselves were submitted by... well, people, yes, but not people who were paying Curtis to include their little bit. I thought people'd actually dug this shit up on their own. It's honestly not as intersting to me, knowing that some percentage of the links are, in fact, not "found," they're just placed there by some media service...
posted by JollyWanker at 9:02 AM on August 3, 2004


Fark sucks in the first place.

angry modem has spoken, people. Nothing to see here. Move along, move along.
posted by pardonyou? at 9:05 AM on August 3, 2004


I KNEW all those Godawful AskMen articles must've been paid for.

Conspiracy theorists: 1
Universe: 0
posted by TungstenChef at 9:12 AM on August 3, 2004


I don't see why Drew won't put up a little notice like "some links may be paid for content." Most people don't give a shit. Its only geeks and civil libertarians that got all up in arms when it was revealed most search engines did this with rankings. The fact that Curtis and company hide this speak volumes about their own shame and kinda kills the whole "I'm just a dude with a small ISP who runs a wacky site" allure.
posted by skallas at 9:16 AM on August 3, 2004


In others news, why do americans hate so much football ?

elpapacito, i've wondered the same thing my entire life. it's perhaps the most egalitarian (popular) sport. it's still growing in America, however ...

i almost posted this a while ago:

How Soccer Explains the World

fwiw, i'm a huge baseball fan and a huge soccer (football) fan. i go to Giants games and Quakes games.

oh, Fark? i think most people would agree that this practice is unethical (defining ethics as the standards agreed on by a specific community).

Any such pub would invariably be located in an obscure corner of a large city and filled with people speaking languages other than English.

btw, this is utter bullshit, as far as SF was concerned. for Euro 2004, the Sentana-sponsored (ick) pubs were packed (i wouldn't pony up $20 for one day of TV, but that's me) with people who were (!!!!) almost all speaking English.

also, you have to admit the traditionally Italian (it was Greece this year) style of packing the penalty box and playing for 1-0 or penalty kicks is incredibly boring. the fact that that style is still so successful means that the pro game still needs rule tweaking. the offside change has helped, but not enough.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:20 AM on August 3, 2004


The reason that Drew doesn't indicate paid links is because fewer people would click on them, making them less appealing to advertisers. When they're disguised as actual, member-submitted links, everyone will click on them.

The end result, like search engines that quietly pay for placement, is that the overall quality of the site suffers.
posted by waxpancake at 11:22 AM on August 3, 2004


...the overall quality of the site suffers.

You are talking about Fark, right?

Expecting anything approaching journalistic ethics from Fark is like expecting CGI-quality animation from HomestarRunner. Still, a full and proper disclosure of conflicts of interest should be expected.

Matt's policy of openness should be the standard for websites. Unfortunately, I can't see any successful enforcement when Drew Curtis can obviously afford to relocate to the Cayman Islands.

Then again, it's kind of hard to fit "We never would have linked this if we weren't paid for it" into a 54x11 Fark icon. I know.
(At least I'm not making more MetaFilter gifs...)
posted by wendell at 12:17 PM on August 3, 2004


The funny part about all those Ask Men links is that they were often the most popular threads and had a high click rate. Sure the thread was full of people saying, "How much did Ask Men pay?" but that's what made them funny. Still, it's not nice to fool with your customer base.

/wags finger at Fark
posted by haqspan at 3:07 PM on August 3, 2004


Matt's policy of openness should be the standard for websites.

yeah, but matt paid you to say that.

[/ducks]
posted by lord_wolf at 3:52 PM on August 3, 2004


mrgrimm: yeah indeed the show becomes boring when people play to maintain 1-0 or certain combinations, but that's true for any sport in which the final result is determined by points one can't obtain but by making goal.
At some point in time it makes sense to slow down the opposition amd rest a little, but this strategy can backfire too.

That reminds me of a Futurama episode in which Baseball (a really boring game imho) was transformed into "Blurnsballs" , a far more visually appealing sport with whacky rules and a lot of special effects.

I guess that most of the "boring" effect comes from the fact the show becomes less visually appealing , but that doesn't work with people who actually play the sport and can appreciate how physically demanding it can be.
posted by elpapacito at 5:36 PM on August 3, 2004


It will result in a good thing, but don't you feel even the slightest bit hoodwinked?

Not in the least. It was pretty obvious this was happening and wildly speculated about. Of course I may just be a cynical paranoid. I don't really see the big deal anyways. Fark is just Drews wildly successful listing of things on the net he found funny/interesting and he's been milking it for all it's worth. I know if a web site offers me money I'd find it more interesting.

RE: Blurmsball. Baseball would be much improved by the multiball effect.
posted by Mitheral at 8:03 AM on August 4, 2004


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