There's a type of spam most people have never heard of, because it's only sent to people who run successful websites. I call it "promo-spam." It's spam sent from dipshits with made-up job titles like "Social Media Gurus." They're hired by companies trying desperately to dip their ladle into the daily click-stream of bored morons with short attention spans by creating "viral" list articles. They've discovered a simple formula:
1. Find something vaguely interesting, like the eccentric habits of geniuses (Tesla, Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci), common misconceptions (wooden teeth of Washington, lemmings committing suicide, etc), or hot chicks.
2. Find several more examples of it.
3. Put it in list form, like the one you're reading now. If the list items are too long, break each item down into a sub-list.
4. Loot Wikipedia or other pop-culture magazines as much as you can. Change a few words and phrases to feign expertise and to make it your own.
5. Give the article a title with an ironic twist, e.g., "5 Things you do in the bedroom that you think are sexy, but actually aren't." or "7 Things from space that could kill you at any moment."
6. Link-bait on social networks.
The reason these shitty list articles have flooded the Internet is because they're cheap, easy to generate, quick to read and require no creative work; a pig with a stick in its mouth could tap one out in morse. Marketers then disseminate these shitty list articles (or mundane infographics) by emailing influential bloggers and "suggesting" links for their readers. And here's the part that makes my heart palpitate with anger:
It works. The reason? Because most people who have blogs, websites and Tumblr accounts are too lazy to come up with content of their own, so they link to other websites with disposable content like lists. Lists are the perfect form of entertainment for a generation brought up on Twitter, because every list comes with an unspoken guarantee to the reader that they won't have to invest too much time or mental energy in reading anything that might challenge them. If lists came with fine print, it would read:
Last January, I started receiving spam from a site called "Ranker." At first I ignored it, but little by little, the emails grew from a trickle, to 2 or 3 per month. They were emails asking me to link to stupid list articles with titles like "13 People Who Married Inanimate Objects:"
Why the fuck would I click on that, let alone link to it? What's the significance of the number 13? Are these the top 13? If so, does the author have a reputation that would make his or her opinion matter? And if so, why would I care about the rank of people who married inanimate objects? And how the hell would you even rank people who married inanimate objects in the first place, dick fat? Ranked according to what metric? FUCK! I actually felt my balls shrivel up into my pelvic cavity as I wrote this. Then one day one of the spammy emails caught my eye because of the misuse of the word "epic," so I responded:
I thought your audience might enjoy this list, as it's filled with some of the greatest pictures and videos in internet history. The 30 Most Epic Fat Guys in Internet History:
Please post a link to this if you like it and thanks so much, as always, for your time.
Social Media Manager
How about you actually try doing research before spamming people? This is literally on the front page of my website: http://thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=epic
Almost a month went by with no response, so figured that she was nursing a mild case of butthurt and doing something inexorably stupid like spamming her friends with Instagram photos instead of strangers. Spam adjourned. Problem solved... or so I thought. I received two more emails:
Hi, Here's a link that will intrigue you and your audience, It's not what is on the outside you should be worried about. The 7 Most Horrifying Things Found Living Inside People:
Please post a link to your homepage or whereve you feel this will fit, and as always thank you for your time.
Social Media Manager
I'd really hate to lose the "Best Page In The Universe", maybe we can find something a bit more suited to your liking.
How about The 7 Most Annoying Kids In Action Movie History:
or if that's not up to par can I entice you to make a list yourself? We'll promote it on our social media for you!
My response to her canned email was met with another canned response. What pisses me off is that she had audacity to make it sound like she personally selected my website to receive the distinct honor of marketing her shitty lists for her. To her, the problem was that I simply didn't like the lists. Yeah, because clearly that's the problem, and not the fact that I never signed up for your mailing list and don't want to be used as a marketing tool to promote your shitty click-bait website. Two weeks later, she struck again, and I asked, again, to stop receiving Ranker's spam:
Hi, I thought you and your audience might find this list interesting. The 10 Strangest, Most Terrifying Creatures Ever Found
I would really love to hear your thoughts on this list so please feel free to write about it or post a link on your site. Thanks as always for your time.
Social Media Manager
I'm a content creator, not a content aggregator.
I looked for you on our mailing list and couldn't seem to locate you. If this happens again please contact me.
I was being uncharacteristically patient with her; I was like the Mother Theresa of giving a shit. After all, maybe it wasn't her fault. Maybe she was born with a disease that made her incapable of not spamming people. Maybe she was receiving ADA benefits. Or maybe she was just an incorrigible dipshit. I wanted to keep an open mind. Then she sent this to me 6 days later:
Hi, In honor of the 35th anniversary of the 1977 release of the first Star Wars movie this month (May the 4th be with you), this is a list of the sexiest and hottest pictures of girls with Star Wars tattoos. The 35 Sexiest Girls with Star Wars Tattoos
I thought you and your audience would enjoy this piece not only during Star Wars month, but to also have something to write about or post on May the 4th. Have a great one and I hope you like it.
I've asked you 3 fucking times to unsubscribe me from your spammy bullshit. Fuck off already. I'm reporting you to the DNSBL spam database, and I'm also contacting the people in the photos because you aren't using it with their permission (I know one of them, and have verified this). Also, it's plagiarized from this article anyway, and I'm going to contact these guys as well since you're stealing from them:
Fuck you very much.
Here are the two articles for comparison, on the left is Walyou and on the right is Ranker:
While I was looking for other articles with the same content that came before Ranker, I stumbled upon hundreds of sites with the same content, most of them existing before Ranker:
So she replied, and was understandably apologetic inexplicably defensive:
Calm down please. I have informed you several times that I've tried to find you on our mailing list and have been unable. Instead of throwing threats and profanity can you please be a bit more adult about this and perhaps tell me if you have a different email than email@example.com?
Nothing is plagiarized our photos come from submissions, if someone submitted your friend I apologize and we will remove her if she does not wish to be on our list.
So I was getting spammed because she couldn't "locate" me on her mailing list, so that makes it okay to keep spamming me. It's such a chicken-shit move companies use to spam people under the guise of being open, transparent and opt-in. It's similar to the copout line included in email marketing when companies know their contact lists are spurious, but they want to err on the side of self-interest by emailing you anyway: "if you received this email by accident, please unsubscribe by using the unsubscribe button." Oh really? I DIDN'T RECEIVE YOUR EMAIL BY ACCIDENT, YOU SENT IT BY ACCIDENT. MY EMAIL CLIENT IS WORKING FINE AND RECEIVING EMAIL LIKE IT'S SUPPOSED TO. THE PROBLEM IS ON YOUR END, SHITBITCH. By this time I was pissed. Here was my response to her defensive non-apology:
I was polite the first 3 times I asked you to take me off your list. I don't know why you keep emailing me. I shouldn't have to ask 3 times to stop receiving spam. I shouldn't even have to ask once because I never signed up to begin with. It's not my job to figure out how I got on your mailing list or how your system fucked up.
And submitted or not, you have to do your due diligence when it comes to user-submitted content. You can do an image search on any one of these images and see that countless other people have posted them online. I spent less than 10 seconds and found the links above.
I despise sites like yours. You're a content aggregator. You aren't contributing anything new or original to the Internet. You're just adding to the cacophony of noise by collecting lists of things that other people created, putting them under one umbrella and making ad revenue from idiots with short attention spans who love reading "lists." This isn't original content, you don't have the rights to it, and you're not even adding any commentary or criticism to it, so it's not even close to being fair use. I have a site where I receive user-submitted content, and I do my due diligence with every piece to make sure the content is original (or that the person who submitted it has the rights), and not lifted off countless other websites. It's not a perfect system, but I try. You haven't even done a basic image search with your content, and frankly I'm tired of shitty content aggregator sites like yours and Huffington Post and countless others ripping people off to make a buck.
Also, if you don't know who you're emailing, then don't fucking email them and pretend you do. Your email to me said "I thought you and your audience would enjoy this piece," so either you knowingly emailed me after I asked you not to, which makes you an asshole, or you didn't think about me or my audience, which makes you a liar.
Instead of sending out these spammy, impersonal emails and ignoring the requests of people to be taken off your list, why don't you actually do something creative and write an original piece of content that anyone might give a shit about. See how hard it is to make compelling content that would get readers to come to your site based on your own merits, instead of ripping people off with more bullshit lists. Don't publish the Star Wars piece tomorrow. It's not yours. You can't claim ignorance anymore because I linked you to an article with the exact same content as yours that came out before yours did (January 4th). That's plagiarism.
Being disingenuous is one thing, but trying to defend what you're doing after being called out on it is bullshit of a higher order.
Again you have my sincerest apologies that Ranker sent you emails you did not wish to receive. After going through the Ranker mailing program and testing it thoroughly I am sure you are not on any lists and will not receive another email from Ranker.
She didn't respond, and the article was published.
Websites like Ranker, 9GAG, FunnyJunk, etc, exist because they turn a blind eye to content submission by hiding behind the "user-submitted" shield. Rather than assume that user-submitted content is not owned by the user (as it usually isn't), they err on the side of self-interest and assume it's legit until someone asks them to take it down. However, the days of nonexistent culpability are numbered because tools exist to check if submitted content is original. For example, I took one of the images from the "Sexy Star Wars Tattoos" article and did an image search and found this:
So even if the content was user-submitted like she said, it doesn't guarantee they have the rights to publish it. Anyone can submit anything online.
It took me a few seconds to do that search. If you search for a user-submitted image and it returns thousands of results, you can either be a thieving shithead and post it anyway, or realize that it's probably not original and do the right thing by taking it down. How likely is it that the user who submitted it was the content-creator? Tools to automatically check whether or not submitted content was original would be trivial to make. Yet they don't exist because it's not in these sites' best interest to stop accepting stolen bullshit. Websites make less money when they start being honest, and the companies advertising on their sites are their enablers. Stop supporting stupid content-aggregation websites*.
*Note: I mentioned Huffington Post earlier in the email as a "content-aggregator." Although some modicum of the articles on their site is original content, Huffington Post is by far the most nefarious content aggregator because they wrap all their stolen content with superfluous "commentary" which qualifies their content theft as "fair use." For example, there's an article on the site titled "7 Things Women Really Want From Sex." The actual article is content entirely taken from "FITNESS Magazine" and "Yahoo! Shine." These articles are little more than wrappers for other people's content. And it's completely legal, because they have just enough commentary to make it seem like an article about an article. Well, there's no reason why anyone can't do the same to Huffington Post's articles. In fact, look for my own site doing just that, coming soon. Sites like Huffington Post make millions off other people's content by abusing the fair use doctrine, so it's time we started giving them their own medicine. More coming soon...
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