Two Buck Chuck and Internet Laziness
Note: Since writing this post, both articles have been removed by Thought Catalog & Huffington Post
Recently, a few articles about the origin of Trader Joe's "Two Buck Chuck" have been floating around Facebook. After first clicking on someone's "Ew OMG srsly NEVER buying 2 buck chuck again!!" post which led me to this Thought Catalog article, I was totally intrigued. Not by Chris Knox's claims of overripe grapes and rat bodies, but instead by the lack of evidence behind his assertions. Not that I believe Thought Catalog to be the most hard-hitting of news sources, but it struck me that if any organization were to accuse a company of such a thing, surely there has got to be some sort of investigation behind it.
Clearly I was giving the article far too much credit. And I wasn't the only one.
Later, the article popped up again. This time, it was in the Huffington Post. Again coupled with a "Ugh, what's going to happen to our Wine Wednesday?!?!?" post, I clicked on this one again out of curiosity. If HuffPo is reporting on it, I thought, surely they've done some investigation. They're a respected hard-hitting news organization, this should be interesting!
Nope. It was the exact same article as Thought Catalog. But this time around I noticed the "This question originally appeared on Quora" disclaimer at the top.
I've been a Quora user for a little while and have read some great answers to questions. Experts in a subject will weigh in on a debate, parents will bond over silly stories of their children's shenanigans, artists will compare the validity of certain approaches. But I've also read some horrible, unhelpful, and blatantly untrue answers. Like with anything on the internet you have to take each answer with a grain of salt, understanding that Joe the regional manager of Total Wine & Beverage may actually just be Joe from Tallahassee in his living room drinking a Bud Light.
Case closed, right? This is just a reprinted Quora question that's been misinterpreted and is picking up traction. People will soon come to their senses and realize that there's no animal blood in Charles Shaw. Right?
One would hope. If people were actually reading the question straight from Quora, understood the nature of the website, and took the time to fact check (a trait I inherited from my journalist father), then sure. But we've become internet lazy. Unbelievable resources at our fingertips, the ability to Google nearly any topic, the option to even reach out to article authors and to contact news sources, yet we are content to repost to a friend's wall with a "Ladies' night ruined 5ever :("
...Now advertising has caught on.
In Sunday's "Last Week Tonight", John Oliver rants about native advertising and how news sources are using it to fool consumers into clicking on ads. As a marketer, I understand and even applaud the creativity of native advertising as a way to camouflage ads and bait clicks. As an information consumer, I'll always hate it. I'll get halfway through an article then double back, disheartened that I was fooled into reading an ad. Ultimately I end up frustrated with the advertising brand, frustrated with the site I was reading from, and 0% more likely to purchase the product they were advertising. Mostly, I just felt dumb for mistaking it for a legitimate news story.
The problem with native advertising is that many people never get to this realization point. Most take articles at face value, never seeking more information on the subject or realizing that it's a sponsored ad. But this isn't exclusive to native advertising articles - so quick are we to jump to conclusions based on a single article, often of the same political leaning from the one source which we most often refer to. We accept statements as fact without diving deeper to understand true falsehoods. We skim (or skimm) articles which we refuse to pay for and rely heavily on articles shared by friends on Facebook or what's trending on Twitter.
We're internet lazy. Advertising is taking advantage of that.