Recently I have been asked by a few people my opinion on a certain “link bait” event that happened. To save myself repeating the same answer, here it is.
The story goes something like this. Writer creates fictitious story, gets it to the front page of Digg, which leads to mentions in tabloid newspapers and Fox News.
Apart from the “fictitious” aspect, this would be considered by anyone a major victory. One count puts it at 1500 fresh inbound links. Unfortunately it is the truth/fiction aspect that has people up in arms. Variously the story is being called “fraud”, “hoax” and “satire”. People are getting emotive which is often dangerous.
I am not going to pass judgment because I do not know the intentions or brief behind the campaign and I do not want to know. The writer still has my respect, after all these are the sorts of link bait results we dream of if you ignore the story itself and the backlash for a moment!
Would I create a false story to gain attention? No. Do I think it is wrong to plant a false story? Yes and no. Yes because as I said, I wouldn’t do it myself, and no because, well, tabloids and Fox News are also partly to blame (hello, fact-check anyone?) and are not exactly well known for being pristine purveyors of the absolute truth are they?
Clients should have been fully aware of what was planned and they ought to be thrilled at the links they have garnered, which in many cases will have lasting benefits (regardless of what Google are saying right now), much longer than the fallout will last.
If this had been put out by a PR company nobody would bat an eyelid. Stunts, fakes and spoofs are seeded into the media all the time. Richard Branson is a master, he once landed a fake UFO to media acclaim. April 1st sees the news made useless as you do not know what to believe. As on April 2nd, this story now has a message saying the story was made up.
I have watched and read highly serious and untrue things said with a straight face by politicians that were far more damaging and longer lasting. I’m sure you can think of a few. Who cares really in the scheme of things about this, really?
So to answer the questions, I would not have played it the same way but at the same time I don’t think there has been any real harm done. If people are questioning what they read a little more now, then good I say.
That’s my opinion, what is yours?