News

How to Get Ahead in Advertising

Village Voice Media Promotes Advertisers Through “Social Networking”

How to Get Ahead in Advertising

Village Voice Media (VVM)—owner of 15 weekly newspapers, including the Seattle Weekly—is using a social-networking company it owns to erode the wall between editorial content and advertising by promoting its advertisers under the guise of community buzz.

In early January, according to Gawker, VVM bought a majority share in the year-old company Likeme.net, a review-based social-networking site much like Yelp.com. On Likeme, users can recommend and write reviews of restaurants, nightclubs, and other businesses, as well as “friend” other site members. (On its web site, Seattle Weekly denied that VVM had bought a majority stake in Likeme.net; however, VVM did not respond to requests for clarification.)

The majority of Likeme’s reviews—which appear on 12 VVM websites, next to editorial content about the businesses—are written by ad representatives for VVM. The reviews, which are exclusively positive, focus on businesses that advertise in VVM papers.

For example, if you search for a review of Nick’s Crispy Tacos on the San Francisco Weekly’s site, a review from Likeme user LaraW is prominently displayed on the San Francisco Weekly’s page for the restaurant under the heading “The Inside Word on Nick’s Crispy Tacos.”

“If you’re looking for a great midweek activity that doesn’t cost a fortune, this is a great place to go,” LaraW gushes. “The crowd is always fun and the food is awesome.”

“Lara W” is actually Lara Weiss, the advertising coordinator for the San Francisco Weekly, where Nick’s Crispy Tacos advertises.

And Weiss isn’t the only advertising staffer at a VVM paper writing reviews. Jessica Hill, the Phoenix New Times marketing director, raves that Phoenix nightclub Bar Smith is “THE place to be on a Saturday night,” while Kansas City Pitch advertising director Britton Hunter proclaims that Waldo Pizza has “excellent pizza and GREAT ranch dressing!!” Bar Smith advertises in the Phoenix New Times; Waldo Pizza advertises in the Pitch. In fact, just about every VVM publisher, promotions manager, and ad rep have accounts on Likeme, which is easy to find when cross-referenced with each paper’s staff list.

Reviews written by advertising sales managers and ad reps on Likeme are prominently posted on the websites of 12 VVM papers—the San Francisco Weekly, [Denver] Westword, Houston Press, [St. Louis] Riverfront Times, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward–Palm Beach New Times, Dallas Observer, [Minneapolis] City Pages, Nashville Scene, [Kansas City] Pitch, and the Village Voice. Nothing on these VVM websites indicates that Likeme’s glowing reviews were written by advertising staff.

While not all of VVM’s newspapers have incorporated Likeme into their websites, the ones that haven’t appear to be getting ready to do so. Nearly every member of the ad staff at Seattle Weekly—which is one of the first five Seattle businesses that shows up on Likeme’s Seattle site—has written reviews on Likeme (some of them for Seattle Weekly itself). For example, Debbie Porter, aka “DebbieP,” the Weekly’s promotions manager, writes about the Weekly as if she didn’t work there: “Talk about issues! Boy, do these guys have ’em! Every Wednesday there’s another issue. Another Uptight Seattleite and another horoscope. Love these guys!”

VVM isn’t the first company to engage in this practice, referred to by industry watchdogs as “astroturfing.” Companies such as Sony, Microsoft, and Philip Morris have all built fake grassroots campaigns to promote their own products or slam competitors.

“I think [VVM’s] first obligation is to be honest and transparent,” says Kelly McBride, ethics leader at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. “You lose your marketability when you allow people with an agenda to post. And clearly the ad reps have an agenda: They want to make their clients happy.”

McBride adds, “When you create the false impression yourself… that’s really, really bad. It’s inherently dishonest, and I’d think it undermines your credibility.”

VVM management did not return calls for comment. recommended

This article has been updated since its original publication.

 

Comments (65) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
1
This is the "new" journalism once the papers are dead. I can only hope people are as turned off as I am.
Posted by RM on January 21, 2009 at 6:34 PM · Report this
2
The ad reps and the Voice probably write better reviews than the new crew of loosers.
Posted by Linda Baldwin on January 21, 2009 at 7:48 PM · Report this
3
No one's really talking about the impact of the Internet on truth in advertising or editorial independence. There are no rules on this stuff. The corporate control of the flow of information is even more insidious than the VVM example.
Posted by coljack on January 21, 2009 at 8:34 PM · Report this
4
Nice. I really like how it appears the reporter didn't bother interviewing any actual person from VVM to figure out what, if anything, their thinking is behind this scheme. He just surfed around the internet for easy quotes! But he did get some canned quote about "credible journalism," so I guess that makes it okay.
Posted by jk on January 22, 2009 at 7:50 AM · Report this
5
thank god no one uses likeme
Posted by kettster on January 22, 2009 at 8:14 AM · Report this
6
The Stranger should print positive reviews of the hookers found on the back pages of their magazine.
Posted by JF on January 22, 2009 at 8:24 AM · Report this
7
Gee, hate to say the Stranger looks (surprise!) petty and self-absorbed. But for whom and why was this written? Your vast audience of media ethics experts? Your teeny readers? It's not even local - discounting those cheap shots at the Weakly. Oh, wait...
Posted by Menace on January 22, 2009 at 9:10 AM · Report this
8
I'm going to try to post this one more time as it didn't come up prior... SHOCKING!

I will be completely honest I don't work for either paper as I noticed that most people who commit on here work for one or the other.

However I have read both publications numberous times in the past and I can't help but voice something that has been driving me a bit up the wall after reading this as I am getting sick and tired of this petty turf war.

In regards to ethics... The Stranger had reviewed a Bistro in Capitol Hill during it's first couple of weeks which is a bit taboo, but that wasn't really the bad point it was the fact that the critic was there with a baby and someone else while attempting to create a proper crtique? He wrote a nasty review which cased the advertiser which was the Bistro to pull out of the paper, understandably so.

http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweek…

However the paper in order to retaliate gave the business free ads, big ones... in order to keep his business a big ethics NO-NO!

The Weekly devuldged this information and was later berated by The Stranger who couldn't take criticism themselves by blasting The Weekly's editor.

These are things that I remember as a reader of both papers and I'm sure if they did something like this to you in the future I'd be stating what you wrote here, but they haven't at the moment, but as a reader I'm getting sick of it!

Print is dying right now and you don't see the Seattle Times trying to kick over the Seattle P.I., as a reader I feel like the alt weeklies are in the same boat and shouldn't be pointing fingers, but reporting stories with interesting views... like the Willamette Weekly breaking the news about the Portland mayor's suppossed affair with an intern.

Please write stories more like this. That's what I have come to trust about both publications not this petty bull shit.

Please as a devoted reader of both papers, Please do your job!
More...
Posted by Lil Bit on January 22, 2009 at 9:19 AM · Report this
9
Question... how do we know that DebbieP is really a worker bee at the Weekly? Couldn't there be more than one Debbie in the world?

I'm just throwing it out there. This article gives me REASONABLE doubt.
Posted by Lil Bit on January 22, 2009 at 9:20 AM · Report this
10
@Lil Bit: As the article says, "In fact, just about every VVM publisher, promotions manager, and ad rep have accounts on Likeme, which is easy to find when cross-referenced with each paper’s staff list." These workers for VVM/Seattle Weekly have Likeme accounts that say who they are.

Better look for yourself quickly, I'm sure they're taking them down pronto. Unbelievable.
Posted by duh on January 22, 2009 at 9:45 AM · Report this
11
Journalism fail.
Posted by Justin on January 22, 2009 at 10:03 AM · Report this
12
Just more mindles "I hate the Seattle Weekly" from arch-competetor The Stranger. Unbiased? Unlikly.
Posted by Kip Schoning on January 22, 2009 at 10:25 AM · Report this
13
@ JK,

VVM staff were contacted for the story. Ad reps didn't say much and management didn't return calls.

@ Lil Bit,

Staff lists were cross-referenced with Likeme's user database. Staff members were also willing to acknowledge they had accounts, although they weren't willing to talk at length.
Posted by jonahsl on January 22, 2009 at 10:41 AM · Report this
14
@duh,
I see your point, but when you look at a yelp page aren't most of these created by the owner or employee themselves or a friend of the business?
I looked at the likeme.net site and the first image I saw was a Seattle Weekly cover which I clicked on and went to a ladie's page named DebbieP which is I'm guessing who you said, but it also showed that she had uploaded the pictures to SeattleWeekly... not a lot of sleuthing here fellas, this is an obvious one!
What I'd really like to know is how many people on The Stranger's staff write the positive comments on restaurants that they list, that seems like some good ole' fashion sleuthing to me. This one... I dunno seems lazy.
I'd also like to see some cutting edge journalism. My friend works at the Willamette and he told me about a story that broke about the mayor there and when I was driving to work they were discussing it on NPR, now that's great and powerful journalism, not this mudslinging...
It just makes me sad when the Seattle P.I. is going down and there are major layoffs at the Seattle Times especially in the reporter and editorial department that The Stranger is churning out faux news, yellow journalism... why can't we have some great reporting people! There is a gap right now and both papers should be filling the void! This is a great opportunity to get more readers and to show the relevance and cultural impact of alt weeklies and here you are shooting your "opponent" in the leg. It makes me sad as a reader, it really does.
Posted by Lil Bit on January 22, 2009 at 10:56 AM · Report this
15
Well, just a quick check of my town's like me page has 400+ users. Our VVM weekly doesn't have anywhere near that many sales people so simple logic indicates the vast majority of users aren't affiliated with the paper.
Posted by j on January 22, 2009 at 10:57 AM · Report this
16
Lil Bit has half of the story and that's good enough for him!
Posted by Lil Bitch more like it amirite? on January 22, 2009 at 11:10 AM · Report this
17
nick's crispy tacos are really fucking good though.
Posted by pinktaco on January 22, 2009 at 11:33 AM · Report this
18
Actually... Lil Bit is a girl, but that's cool if you want to be sexist and think that all "whistle blowers" are men.

All I'm saying guys and GALS is that as a newspaper regardless of which paper you are from which paper you read should be focusing on bigger issues and not faux news and mudslinging. Papers and print in general is dying and great reporters are being laid off, people who could have given us a greater "TOP STORY" than this... I mean honestly top story, really? After taking "JK's" advice I checked the site and any user could have seen that users from the paper worked there, that's not hard.

Where's the big news! There's big news all around us, take Tuesday for example! Why aren't you writing about issues?
Posted by Lil Bit on January 22, 2009 at 11:39 AM · Report this
19
Wow, does anyone in Seattle really give a crap about this non-local story? I mean, outside of the Stranger office? It couldn't be yet another way to take shots at the Weekly, could it?

Grow up and give us some real news. Petty battles with your competition may be fun for you, but nobody else.

Posted by rjh on January 22, 2009 at 12:10 PM · Report this
20
It's pretty easy to tell when reviews are ringers by their language. I'm perplexed they don't have the savvy to dumb it up a little so they look more passable though.

Amazon reviews, Missed Connections, Yelp, there's plants everywhere. The only thing that ever surprises me about them is how obvious they are.
Posted by Dougsf on January 22, 2009 at 12:20 PM · Report this
21
@rjh

TOTALLY AGREE!!! That's essentially what I've been trying to get at, but you are much better at shortening it down. Thanks.
Posted by Lil Bit on January 22, 2009 at 12:26 PM · Report this
22
This is insane. Really, really wrong. I really like the idea of ad reps writing reviews of their own paper.
Posted by Fnarf on January 22, 2009 at 12:42 PM · Report this
23
Oh Lil Bit, you fell into the classic trap. You see, the Stranger doesn't hold itself to any standards and therefore no one else can hold them to any either. Meanwhile, they are free to get all high and mighty on anyone who does not live up to their own standards, or the standards the the Stranger thinks they should uphold. It's better to just take the Stranger for what it is, entertainment.
Posted by ...and a place to find 2 girl specials on January 22, 2009 at 12:44 PM · Report this
24
Oh Lil Bit, you fell into the classic trap. You see, the Stranger doesn't hold itself to any standards and therefore no one else can hold them to any either. Meanwhile, they are free to get all high and mighty on anyone who does not live up to their own standards, or the standards the the Stranger thinks they should uphold. It's better to just take the Stranger for what it is, entertainment.
Posted by And a place to find 2 girl specials on January 22, 2009 at 12:47 PM · Report this
25
Yeah, pinktaco, but are they food, or are they a "fun activity"? Ad people are soooo ridiculous.
Posted by Fnarf on January 22, 2009 at 12:48 PM · Report this
26
@Menace

"Gee, hate to say the Stranger looks (surprise!) petty and self-absorbed. But for whom and why was this written? Your vast audience of media ethics experts? Your teeny readers? It's not even local - discounting those cheap shots at the Weakly. Oh, wait... "

Hahaha, nice to see that the astroturfers also see fit to comment on this article as well!

Nice job at not looking like a stooge, BTW. I don't know which one of you "viral marketers" quoted in the above article you are, but all you're doing is making Likeme.net look worse. If there was obvious documented evidence of Yelp shilling as blatantly as Likeme is allowing right here, I'd be just as disgusted and it'd be just as discredited. Likeme should immediately ban those paid profiles if they're at all concerned about gaining ground.
Posted by astroturf the world on January 22, 2009 at 12:48 PM · Report this
27
"Lil Bit has half of the story and that's good enough for him!


Posted by Lil Bitch more like it amirite?"

You viral marketers really need to work on your social skills.
Posted by stooges and shills abound today! on January 22, 2009 at 1:21 PM · Report this
28
"Oh Lil Bit, you fell into the classic trap. You see, the Stranger doesn't hold itself to any standards and therefore no one else can hold them to any either. Meanwhile, they are free to get all high and mighty on anyone who does not live up to their own standards, or the standards the the Stranger thinks they should uphold. It's better to just take the Stranger for what it is, entertainment."

As opposed to the stories not getting published (as some of the adsellers in the comments would prefer), I'd rather make the distinction of hypocrisy myself.
Posted by lax standards are irrelevant to the reality of the situation on January 22, 2009 at 1:25 PM · Report this
29
Pot. Kettle.
Posted by Black. on January 22, 2009 at 3:11 PM · Report this
30
I love how there is an advertisement at the bottom of this web page... what's it advertising? That's right, advertising...
Posted by JF on January 22, 2009 at 3:26 PM · Report this
31
The list of cities pimped at the bottom of the Likeme.net page indicates they're targeting Ruxton markets and not just VVM markets. If you dig further, you'll see sockpuppet recommendations for most Ruxton cities.

If you're a Ruxton or Backpage.com paper and not already actively participating in this (i.e. The Stranger), how does this product square with your non-compete agreement? (And I sure hope you have one.)
Posted by Follow the Links on January 22, 2009 at 4:20 PM · Report this
32
So what. These guys work for VVM. They are people and they have likes and dis-likes too. Aren't they allowed to express their feelings on items too? Just because they wrote a thing or two doesn't mean they are doing it for ads. Why dont you donkey's make this a real story and prove it. Oh, I see...it is easier to tag and run. Silly.
Posted by The Truth... on January 22, 2009 at 4:53 PM · Report this
33
"So what. These guys work for VVM. They are people and they have likes and dis-likes too. Aren't they allowed to express their feelings on items too? Just because they wrote a thing or two doesn't mean they are doing it for ads. Why dont you donkey's make this a real story and prove it. Oh, I see...it is easier to tag and run. Silly."

Man, you are so fucking oblivious to when you're being sold something.

Do you actively buy the "best commercials of 20xx DVDs" or do you actually know the difference between information and infotainment?
Posted by what the fuck is wrong with you people, how dumb are you on January 22, 2009 at 8:33 PM · Report this
34
The Voice is a corporate sellout and crap like what they're doing is disingenuous.

Hurrah to the Stranger for calling them on it.
Posted by Stephen on January 22, 2009 at 10:40 PM · Report this
35
I will openly say that I work for a VVM paper and I have a LikeME account. I have written a few things about my clients because I LIKE WHAT I WRITE ABOUT! Maybe Waldo Pizza has good ranch and maybe Bar Smith is a great place to be on Saturday Night. What should be looked at is if the relatively same thing is said by the same person for multiple locations.

Yelp is mentioned as the better option but do you really think Yelp is the ethical review heaven you call it? Come on every one of these sites have reviews by people that are attached to the business in some way. And god forbid a business has a competitor, because then their competitor will write a bad review.

Hey Stranger, remember what your mother said about pointing? "When you point at someone 3 fingers are pointing back at you"
Posted by VVMMAN on January 23, 2009 at 6:49 AM · Report this
36
God damn, Stranger. If you guys are going to play the whole journalistic credibility card, you had best make sure the article in which you do it maintains even the most base level of journalistic standards. If you're going to change and add whole sentences to an online article, which I notice you have done since yesterday, you have to note it somewhere. It's called a "correction."
Posted by jk on January 23, 2009 at 8:27 AM · Report this
37
@Follow the Link: Speaking as a former worker for an alt weekly (doesn't matter which one) I can say without a shadow of a doubt that both The Stranger and the Weekly are a part of Ruxton... thereby making The Stranger guilty by association!

Also, I think that people should be less passive and spoon fed as consumers, show a freaking backbone and take some responsibility for what you read! If you believe everything that is in print, and mask it as YOUR opinion without forming one of your own, I'm sorry for you... but if you believe everything that you read online than you are just a wacked out nut! And you have my pity because apparently you can't read between the lines!

If you are going to gauge a place simply by the reviews on a user site take it with a grain of salt, research or check someone's review that you trust before you give the business your money... but don't use one bad review to bend your perception.

As for this article again, I think that its rather pointless as The Stranger and The Weekly are together in terms of advertising based on their ties with Ruxton and the consistent swapping of staff. These petty wars between papers only helps to further alienate the reader by subjecting them to stories they don't care about. This earnestly should not be a TOP STORY you guys when there is a plethora of information and newsworthy events to showcase!

Not to mention the incredibly sloppy reporting of this site, I mean honestly? Anyone with half a brain would put two-and-two together when they saw DebbieP's site and read that she liked the Weekly and posted photos of it... Well, HELL SHE MUST WORK THERE?!

Interesting notion and then move on to someone else's review... that's what these sites are for.

PLEASE while we are moving towards a one paper city, PLEASE at least ATTEMPT to fill the void that will be there, by using your writers for more interesting affairs, as there are plenty of more well qualified writers who do not have jobs in the city who are being laid off and would love to fill your pages with readable content!

DONE.
More...
Posted by Lil Bit on January 23, 2009 at 11:11 AM · Report this
38
When people are struggling to keep jobs and businesses- both papers, restaurants, alike, are trying to stay open, I don't get what's so terrible about trying new stuff. All these people are just trying to survive. Why all the hostility? It's all this cut throat shit that got us all in the shit hole in the first place. I wish it would stop. If you don't like alt-weeklies- don't read them. If you don't like Debbie P's recommendation to a restaurant, don't eat there.
Posted by Sandy on January 23, 2009 at 11:26 AM · Report this
39
Ripping on your direct competition. Thats kind of weak - but New Times does suck, so keep it up. Advertorial and petty/shitty marketing like that is transparent and pathetic. That's why New Times won't survive. They suck.
Posted by SadlyTrue on January 23, 2009 at 11:49 AM · Report this
40
Isn't the simple answer that people who work at the weeklies have opinions as well about what they like? I mean, VVM employees eat, drink and stay at hotels like the rest of us mere mortals. Or at least I imagine they do.

Equally, if there are say twenty thousand users in LikeMe, how many of those exactly would you guess are VVM employees? And what is that impact when there are a hundred thousand users, a million?

I am an early adopter for LikeMe and I have gotten incredible value out of the recs from people who are probably VVM employees (the magazine tags are a dead giveaway in the "other stuff" section) - it's their job to know what's what. It's not like they are out there in the ball bearing business, they are a lifestyle publication.

I can't even believe this is an article.
Posted by bdp on January 23, 2009 at 12:36 PM · Report this
41
Yawn.
Posted by xolotl on January 23, 2009 at 1:58 PM · Report this
42
Lil Bit = Jen Miller??
Posted by Soundcheck on January 23, 2009 at 2:32 PM · Report this
43
I love all the Weakly trolls on here.
Posted by Adam on January 23, 2009 at 2:39 PM · Report this
44
soundcheck = JJ Clark.
Posted by lilbit on January 23, 2009 at 7:48 PM · Report this
45
“Alternative magazine sounds about as old and stale as ”record store”. The last of the decent rags died with the Rocket and Pandemonium in this area. You can only survive so long writing about the dozen bands/movies/art that these whiners like, and using your rag as a kiss ass for so long before you will have to get a real job.

“writers” who were really bloggers before the internet, had a purpose at one time. Now the Stranger and Weekly matter to publishing about as much as guitar hero matters to music.
Posted by Smash on January 24, 2009 at 5:06 AM · Report this
46
I wonder how many posters to this article are actually VVM staffers themselves? (I mean, besides the guy who actually identified himself as one.) Since advertisers are subhuman monsters, this doesn't surprise me a bit.
Posted by Brandon J. on January 24, 2009 at 11:39 AM · Report this
47
Lil Bit, I disagree with you. I think this is important news. Perhaps there is a bit of gotcha journalism involved, but I do consider it unethical and bad for a paper to deceive people like this and appreciate people calling it to my attention.

As for the stranger's review, i did not follow it, but see nothing wrong with a reviewer going to a restaurant within a few weeks of opening, nothing wrong with going with other people (they usually do so they can order and try more) It is not reasonable for a restaurant to get upset at a review and pull ads. the ads are there to benefit the restaurant, not reward or punish the paper. But it happens often. So be it. But for the stranger to give free ads to get back the advertiser is nto out of line. It is just business. They are not changing their review or endorsing the restaurant. That is what it is all about, really, the difference between content, public opinions, and paid advertising. AND the public's ability to see the difference.
Posted by reet on January 24, 2009 at 2:56 PM · Report this
48
Ummmmm, lil bit. Guilty by association is a term that means they should not be seen as guilty, but are unfairly tarred due to their association. it is not a method whereby guilt is established because of an association.
Posted by reet on January 24, 2009 at 3:07 PM · Report this
49
There is nothing new in the world of political gamesmanship.

Any one unfamiliar with the novice attempt to wake up amid the aftermath of the pre-9-11,

(albeit)

that urge to go back for remedial truth only to find that it has been absorbed by the latest round of firings or cocktail party mis-haps somewhere between some old publishers house cleaner on the run and the new appointment notice for

" intent to run for public office "

(then to be changed at a later date by notification of some obituary notice in an obscure newspaper printed in a city other than it's own home town and correlated with a pending name from a recent crime to be released in the future)

is, like it or not,

by any and all accounts, currently fully immersed in the 21st century electric company.

One needn't return to the old days of a handfull of contributors in a publishing tug of war to be lost by the myriad of similarity in planet earths reported billions of phonetically challenged translations of idiom in dialectic surname analysis and test subjects.

Of course, powerful friends and enemies lining up in the heavy hitter industires of Pharmacalogical Lobbying and Telecommunication Transferrance and all the little birds waiting in and on the wires for the final waves of analog t.v. transmission license restructure bidding wars to fill in the blank spots of dreaming, will be watching their stories continue to unfold with great interest.

My current suggested reading list for todays non-collegiate dipoloma opinion co-ordinators.......

Ms. Magazine Winter 2009
Special Innaugural Issue

UTNE Reader January February 2009
Yes You Can.
Todays editions January 24, 2009:

The Seattle Times Todays
The Seattle Post Intelligencer
The New York Times.

These are all great arenas with which to scan through the various levels of interest and follow up on any the diplomatic corrsets of

"shallow breathing in the political worlds lexicons."

It's kind to think of it as a connected way to "get your war on" isn't it?

ps. note to grad students...

I left out my scan of The Wall Street Journal in todays list for obvious inflationary murmurs in the dipolma mills of the internet dating guides.

Hopefully that will help with the lost song lyric files that this little voice in the internet was giving to Scott Weiland of STP before last years Bumbershoot while singing to myself on the streets of Seattle immagining imaginary friends and the "perfect come on chemist".

(....and that add lib will surely inspire thoughts of self interest...)

All hail the new regime of open air transcription encriptionism....

unless of course, the only thing we have to fear now is deletion itself.





More...
Posted by daniel on January 24, 2009 at 4:31 PM · Report this
50
It's lovely how The Stranger is pointing the finger at Weekly ad staffers over this issue. Particularly since it's The Stranger who has had mud on its face for sales reps masquerade as staff writers. Or is your selective memory really that short?
Posted by Don Ward on January 24, 2009 at 7:21 PM · Report this
51
OK, so lots of people can think of reasons why The Stranger isn't allowed to write about this.

Anyone willing to argue that Likeme.net has a shred of credibility?
Posted by elenchos on January 24, 2009 at 9:01 PM · Report this
52
I'm not surprised at all about the CityPages. That paper sucks some chunks.
Posted by The Cap'n on January 24, 2009 at 9:42 PM · Report this
53
Let me add to that comment. While CityPage's involvement in these activities comes as no surprise, I am still VERY glad that Jonah took the time to research and write this piece. This means that I have some tangible, icky proof to back up my feelings about that Minneapolis paper, which was formerly based on a vague but ever-present dislike. All those who say that The Stranger shouldn't waste its time with "Mudslinging," on its local competitors, listen up: being able to read this news as a resident of the Midwest is satisfying, and useful. Our papers certainly wouldn't sling mud on themselves.
Posted by The Cap'n on January 24, 2009 at 9:51 PM · Report this
54
This is the result of corporate media taking over true alternative weeklies. There are only a few true ones left, and most of them can't be bothered being part of associations that pretend to be alternative.
Social media is a fad and the more companies cannibalize themselves by taking away the value of holding a newspaper, they will continue to create their own problems. Try investing in more reporters instead of different media. If I was an advertiser I would go with something like radio, an industry that doesn't try to become something else and keeps true to their mission even when the wind blows.
Posted by Joe Fot on January 25, 2009 at 7:59 AM · Report this
55
I've worked for VVM for a few years now (not in sales or marketing). I'd put my name here, but I don't want anyone judging my LikeMe recommendations.

I agree that ad reps shouldn't pimp their current or prospective clients on LikeMe. Their bosses should discourage that. The problem is, this obviously rushed, biased hit on a competitor doesn't prove anything but that some ad reps like some businesses that happens to run in their paper.

The story also claims that VVM owns a majority stake in LikeMe, implying some large financial investment in social marketing. But Jonah's only support for that assertion is a source-less story on Gawker. Worse, the original version of this story didn't even credit Gawker; the Stranger obviously only added that after VVM, on the Seattle Weekly's site, said explicitly that it doesn't own LikeMe. Yet, despite that rebuttal, this story still asserts that VVM owns LikeMe, basically relying on an anonymously sourced story on a gossip site while ignoring a public statement from the principle subject of the story. I know the Stranger's bias is obvious, but shit -- couldn't you just pretend?

There's also no proof that the businesses reviewed by the sales people are even their clients. I'm sure some are; it's a rough time to be in ad sales, and I'm sure they're taking any edge they can. But you can't just assume that because they're writing about a client that it's their client. What if they just like the damn place?

Again, I'm not condoning what the named ad-sales folks are accused of doing. I'm just saying, if you're going to accuse someone doing something untoward -- especially when that someone's demise would directly benefit you -- you should do a little reporting first. Alt-weekly reporters -- Nigel up in Portland is a great example -- have to work so hard to convince the public that they're trustworthy news sources. This is the sort of lazy sniper journalism that makes people think alt-weeklies are little more than the Hooker Yellow Pages.
More...
Posted by VVMer on January 25, 2009 at 1:13 PM · Report this
56
Since I was quoted in this article, I feel it is important to inform you and your readers that the 5 reviews I wrote on likeme.net are, in fact, 5 of my favorite places to go. These bars and restaurants, advertisers or not, are places that I visit on a frequent - weekly to monthly - basis. The suggestion that I wrote such reviews dishonestly is both completely inaccurate and insulting. I am an honest person and was only trying to relay my opinion about my personal preferences so that others might obtain more insight on places they've not yet visited.
Posted by Britton on January 26, 2009 at 2:26 PM · Report this
57
Who the hell is Francis P. from Los Angeles and why is he the one that uploaded all these Seattle businesses photos? Seems pretty fishy to me.
Posted by JJ on January 26, 2009 at 9:01 PM · Report this
58
"Why does anyone care?"
Okay, yes, the Stranger may be a local paper, but does that mean it's not allowed to cover ubiquitous issues?
The references to the Weekly seem mostly to be concrete examples of what's going on... they could have chosen any other VVM paper, but then more of you probably would've bitched that it wasn't local.
Interesting article. But left me wondering: is this back-scratching an increase from before as more printed newspapers are going out of business? To try to keep up funding?
Posted by C on January 29, 2009 at 12:46 AM · Report this
59
I heard the staff at The Stranger eat babies.

discuss.
Posted by Art Vandalay on January 29, 2009 at 9:04 AM · Report this
60
Hmmm...I remember that the Seattle weekly ran a feature piece, including full page cover of a " male prostitute " when I was trying to get them to do a piece on an effort I was involved in that had to do with humanitarian issues - they passed on my story.

The media is a mess, as an expatriate I am still bombarded with CNN talking heads that tell me how bad thing's are, from their 200,000$ a year perch....

American media, the print is excellent for bird cages, and the electronic good for nothing, next...!
Posted by herbisme on January 29, 2009 at 9:36 AM · Report this
61
Wait, let me get this straight.

Some Gawker contributor cites an unnamed source (under the heading "Rumormonger") claiming that VVM has bought a majority stake in LikeMe.

A VVM publication (SeattleWeekly) explicitly denies this, and VVM doesn't comment.

So JSL and TheStranger report it as true?

That's some fine reportin' there.
Posted by Anonymous critic on February 2, 2009 at 6:56 PM · Report this
62
WOW its so easy to write posts. Why don't more people spam the hell out of this forum!!!!
Posted by ddgd on February 4, 2009 at 4:46 PM · Report this
63
The media is a mess, as an expatriate I am still bombarded with CNN talking heads that tell me how bad thing's are, from their 200,000$ a year perch....
Posted by ddgd on February 4, 2009 at 4:47 PM · Report this
64 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
65
I'm sow shad. Boo hoo. Unsmiley face.
:(
Posted by Kip Schoning on February 5, 2009 at 1:32 AM · Report this

Add a comment