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EL ESPECTADOR

The News Media And Advertising: Evolution Of A Zero-Sum Game

Even in its more profitable heyday, the ad-driven media model had its fundamental flaws.

A man searches through stacks of newspapers.
A man searches through stacks of newspapers.
Andrés Hoyos

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — Few phenomena are as pervasive, sought after and fundamentally misunderstood as advertising.

This newspaper, like practically all print media, has thinned somewhat due to the absence of ads. Because alongside sophisticated theories, algorithms and AI, advertising has moved to the digital world and the Internet. How effective is it there? I'll let you worry about that.

What I will say is that the algorithms and AI that target me personally seem rather basic and crass. When I open a webpage, I usually see pop-ups and banners that irritate me, both because of how suddenly they appear, and because they never offer anything I might want or find surprising. I know, I must be a freak to some, but my average readers may agree and I hope they will soon write and tell me so.

Let me clarify, when I search for something on Google or on Amazon — and I almost never visit Facebook —​ the ads I do find are ordered more efficiently, which makes it clear it is an order based on payment. And the products shown, which are like the one I was looking for — books for example —​ are equally useful in spite of being manipulated.

But print media is going through an impressive drought in resources. The legendary film magazine Cahiers du cinéma was recently bought by a group of film producers; a dramatic clash of interests that prompted editorial staff to quit en masse. The review might even die out as a result. It is an old dilemma: Those who have the money, buy media not in the hope of making money but to use them in one way or another to enhance their own prestige. Examples of this abound.

For a long while now, even before the days marvelously depicted in the series Mad Men, advertising has faced suspicion. Its aim is not to tell the truth, but help sell products. And if you need to embellish a little or even lie to do so, so be it. Readers over 40 years old will remember cigarette ads: They were glamorous, attractive and sexy. Did it matter that tobacco kills and, to make matters worse, that nicotine is extremely addictive? Too bad.

The day will come when people realize digital ads are not of great use either.

With this kind of advertising there's a basic contradiction. A prestigious media outlet is obliged to report the truth, dig into the story, and give its honest opinion. But to survive financially, it relies on advertising that broadly masks and distorts. It's a blatant, ethical dilemma. Of course the alternative would be for readers to finance the medium, which is something publications are trying today and involves disproportionate subscription fees. Either that or seek public donations.

advertizing_EE_newspaper_stand_inside

A newspaper stand featuring assorted publications in Venice, Italy.Claudio Schwarz

Here's another question: What, at the end of the day, prompts people to buy something? Yes, noise and exposure are useful. And if the product has an addictive quality, like nicotine, that obviously helps too. But for many things, word-of-mouth and recommendations are essential, and they do not depend on publicity but rather the sincere opinions of people you know.

Something tells me that the day will come when people realize digital ads are not of great use either. Unfortunately, by then, reviews like the Cahiers du cinéma will be but a distant memory.

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Geopolitics

New Probe Finds Pro-Bolsonaro Fake News Dominated Social Media Through Campaign

Ahead of Brazil's national elections Sunday, the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.

Jair Bolsonaro bogus claims perform well online

Cris Faga/ZUMA
Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino

SÂO PAULO — If you only got your news from social media, you might be mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, which will take place this Sunday. Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes registered with the Superior Electoral Court indicate.

An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.

Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.

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