Some websites are created purely for the purpose of attracting audiences to make money from the displayed advertisements. They use clickbait to attract visitors from Google and other search engines as well as Facebook, and contain little, if any, original content.
They can copy material from elsewhere on the internet, including mainstream news sites and YouTube, often “from fringe and right-wing sites in the US”. Some write blogs, or even make up news. The owners of these sites are often anonymous. They give the articles that are startling, outrageous, ridiculous or curious or in some way likely to be clicked on (clickbait), and in this way attract viewers to click on links to their websites that contain paid advertising.
The more visitors to a website the more they will be paid by advertisers. The quality or truth of the content is irrelevant, what matters is attracting and engaging visitors. This is why even mainstream meda will cover “pseudo events and marketing fluff” and why websites often split articles into several pages. BuzzFeed “found that the most successful stories from these sites were nearly all false or misleading”.
Reference: Craig Silverman and Lawrence Alexander. ‘How Teens in the Balkans Are Duping Trump Supporters with Fake News.' BuzzFeed , 4 November 2016.
The headline on the story from ConservativeState.com was "Hillary Clinton In 2013: 'I Would Like To See People Like Donald Trump Run For Office; They’re Honest And Can’t Be Bought.'" The post is a week old and has racked up an astounding 480,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. (To put that into perspective, the New York Times' exclusive story that revealed Donald Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns generated a little more than 175,000 Facebook interactions in a month.
The Guardian identified hundreds of such sites based in places like Macedonia, including “more than 150 domains registered to people claiming addresses in Veles”, that were:
Reference: Ryan Holiday. ‘Fake Traffic Means Real Paydays.’ The Observer, 16 January 2014.
avowedly pro-Trump political news sites, featuring headlines like Hillary’s Illegal Email Just Killed Its First American Spy and This is How Liberals Destroyed America, This Is Why We Need Trump in the White House… Some claim to garner millions of page views per month. Most others are relatively obscure. All of them exist primarily for one reason – to cash in on the seemingly endless appetite for news about Donald Trump. And they’re getting a big boost from Facebook.
Although sourced in places like Macedonia they “have Americansounding domain names such as WorldPoliticus.com, TrumpVision365.com, USConservativeToday.com, DonaldTrumpNews.co, and USADailyPolitics.com. They almost all publish aggressively pro-Trump content aimed at conservatives and Trump supporters in the US.” For example, a story published on WorldPoliticus.com claiming that Hilary Clinton would be indicted in 2017 for her email activity according to unnamed FBI sources was shared and commented on more than 140,000 times.
But it’s not just eastern Europeans who are cashing in on the interest in Trump. “Liberty Writers News, a two-person site operating out of a house in the San Francisco Bay Area, generates income of between $10,000 and $40,000 a month from banks of ads that run along the side and bottom of every story.” Liberty pays Facebook $3000 a month to promote their website and they get about 95% of visitors from Facebook where they have around 150,000 likes. Also “by sharing stories with other like-minded Facebook pages, they can extend their reach to as many as 7m or 8m viewers”.
Make America Great is one example that is owned and operated by an online marketer, Adam Nicoloff. He also has pages on men’s lifestyle and parenting.
Reference: John Herrman. ‘Inside Facebook’s (Totally Insane, Unintentionally Gigantic, Hyperpartisan) Political-Media Machine.’ The New York Times Magazine, 24 August 2016.
Each day, according to Facebook’s analytics, posts from the Make America Great page are seen by 600,000 to 1.7 million people. In July , articles posted to the page, which has about 450,000 followers, were shared, commented on or liked more than four million times, edging out, for example, the Facebook page of USA Today.
This large following has been gained through promotion of “inflammatory populist rhetoric” and interest in Donald Trump. In July 2016 his website made $30,000, of which $8000 went to website hosting fees and advertising on Facebook. He employs a couple in the Philippines to “scour the internet for viral political stories, many explicitly pro-Trump”.
Similarly Terry Littlepage, another online marketer, runs around 50 Facebook pages with political themes such as The American Patriot and My Favorite Gun, and some 10 million followers. The links on these pages go to a handful of websites that contain material collected by freelancers. Littlepage spends a thousand dollars a day or so advertising his pages on Facebook and his websites earn up to $60,000 a month.
Apparently left-wing pages are not so lucrative.
© 2017 Sharon Beder