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Sunday, December 04, 2016

If they're in it for the money, where's the money?

I have a basic question about those fake news sites we've been hearing about.

Before we get to it, let's clarify a point raised earlier. A few posts down, I linked to this NPR piece about a fake news entrepreneur named Jestin Coler -- apparently a real name, although there's all sorts of puns in there. The important thing to know about his main fake news site, National Report, is that it is genuinely funny. Headlines such as this one...
Trump to Limit All Intelligence Briefings to 140-Characters
...are obviously satirical. And yet right-wingers really have taken some of these stories seriously, such as the one about the decision to impose sharia law in Dearborn, MI.

So I don't think that Coler inhabits a morally iffy area. The same cannot be said of the rightists who could not spot the obvious signs of satire. Some stupidity is so stupid that it should be considered a sin.

Coler's operation apparently makes $10,000-to-$30,000 a month, according to afore-linked NPR story. And that brings me to my main question: HOW?

How the hell does anyone make that kind of money on the internet selling mere words?

I've read elsewhere that the big money-maker for people like Coler is Google Adsense. I've been using Adsense for many years, as a favor to Google for making Blogger possible. It makes a ridiculously small amount of money -- so little, in fact, that I never bothered to give Google my current address. They keep it all.

Some people tell you that Adsense will make $6.00 per 1000 visits. Bullshit. For me, it's less than six CENTS per thousand. (I'm not supposed to discuss the money, according to the terms of service. But since I don't even receive the $100 check that Google sends every few years, screw the terms of service.)

So how do the fake newsers make money?

Hell, how does ANYONE make money on the internet? I still don't know.

I have no idea how people make money on YouTube, where (I am given to understand) a monetized video will fetch its creator perhaps a thousand bucks for a million views. YouTube has invented the first form of entertainment in which the entertainer receives such a tiny reward for entertaining a million people. By way of comparison: Each episode of Elementary is seen by about 5.5 million people, and I suspect that the budget for each episode is a bit more than $5500.

The problem is the same as it has always been since the early days of the internet: Ad value is determined by click-throughs -- by interactivity. On the internet, it's not enough simply to inform the audience that a product or service exists. The content creator gets paid only if the audience member is interested in interrupting his-or-her web-surfing trance in order to buy (or learn more about) that particular product at that particular moment.

On TV, ads are considered valuable simply because they place the product's name in front of eyeballs. TV ads cost a lot of money even if people have no interest in the thing advertised. If television had to operate according to internet rules, the enormously expensive programming we take for granted simply would not exist. Jim Parsons would consider himself lucky to be paid $300 an episode.
That Quora link has people there lying through their teeth about how much money you can make through AdSense. I was on BlogHer for nearly 8 years before it dropped my contract when it changed ownership, and I made between $50-$100 a YEAR. The operators didn't have the $100 threshold but instead a $20-$25 dollar one, which made it easier to get paid.

I have had only one check from Google in all of the years I ran ads for them.

The truth is blogs are not money makers for an itty-bitty number of people who either got into blogging in around 2002 like Kos and Duncan Black (Eschaton) did or they are people who were already established writers. This is true for freelance writing in general unless you are an established writer with an agent. Only staff writers or technical writers can get any kind of stable income to rely on.
@Joe Cannon,

Read this article please. It relates to terrorism caused by right-wing conspiracies, specifically #PizzaGate. You need to focus in on this story and let people know everything you said about right-wing conspiracy theories is true. The part at the end, about what the owner and employees have gone through, threats from people who rely on InfoWars, Breitbart and the like, it's so sad.
JSL, I was going to write about the Pizzagate insanity, but decided to devote a post to the Wisconsin recount insanity instead, if only because the stories to which I linked have not received sufficient attention.

But yeah, this is a terribly important development. You should see how the story is being covered on the right wing sites like Gateway Pundit. "FALSE FLAG!" -- natch.

Ascended Madoka preserve us, they even question scientific consensus as "just your opinion".

People really are entitled to their own facts these days.

When Facepalm just isn't enough

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