In a recent article, Fortune Magazine shed light on the advertising dilemma faced by news websites and their need for ad revenue. What do media sites gain by selling out the bottom third of their websites to click baiting advertisers like Outbrain and Taboola?
The answer is money.
Have you ever seen advertisements at the bottom of CNN’s website titled, “Enter Your Name, Wait 9 Seconds, Brace Yourself,” and “American Residents Born Between 1936?” If you look in the top right corner of the heading titled, “paid content” you will most likely see the company name Outbrain.
Over 25% of the sites hosted by Outbrain are shady click bait, and Outbrain makes its money per clicks that it provides these websites in return. “Time Inc. (which owns Fortune magazine), signed a deal with Outbrain in 2014 that was worth an estimated $100-million to the magazine publisher over three years,” according to Fortune.com.
This seemingly endless cycle of internet garbage which funds the pursuit of digital journalism seems to be a catch-22, or ethical arbitrage. How you trust news sites if paid content is actively paying for the real stories that people read. Are sites like Outbrain destroying the reputation of valid news outlets that seek to report the truth?