Marketing advice from The Onion

Steve Niemiec
Steve Niemiec

SVP of Sales

Did you ever think you could learn something about online marketing from reading The Onion?

There is truth in every jest

If you’re not familiar with The Onion, first of all I feel bad for you.  Second of all, nothing they write is real.  It is a fake news outlet dedicated to making fun of current events and popular trends while embracing the absurdities of everyday life.  In other words, it’s not a place most sane people would go to seek B2B marketing advice.  While recently perusing the latest issue of The Onion I came across the following article:  Let Me Explain Why Miley Cyrus’ VMA Performance Was Our Top Story This Morning.

The article is a fake commentary from Meredith Artley, managing editor of CNN.com, defending their questionable decision to make Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance their top story ahead of news about unrest in Syria, Egypt and the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  I suggest you take some time out of your real job to read the full story (it’s hilarious), but for those who can’t, here’s a snippet:

But boy oh boy did it get us some web traffic. Which is why I, Meredith Artley, managing editor of CNN.com, put the story in our top spot. Those of us watching on Google Analytics saw the number of homepage visits skyrocket the second we put up that salacious image of Miley Cyrus dancing half nude on the VMA stage. But here’s where it gets great: We don’t just do a top story on the VMA performance and call it a day. No, no. We also throw in a slideshow called “Evolution of Miley,” which, for those of you who don’t know, is just a way for you to mindlessly click through 13 more photos of Miley Cyrus. And if we get 500,000 of you to do that, well, 500,000 multiplied by 13 means we can get 6.5 million page views on that slideshow alone. Throw in another slideshow titled “6 ‘don’t miss’ VMA moments,” and it’s starting to look like a pretty goddamned good Monday, numbers-wise.

There are many truths spoken in jest.  Even though Meredith didn’t actually say any of these things, it is clear that CNN’s real world decision was blatantly driven by a shameless pursuit for page views.

So, why should marketers care about this parody?

When publishers sacrifice quality editorial in exchange for chasing page views it is not only the audience that loses but marketers and advertisers as well.  While this might be  somewhat more acceptable in the mainstream consumer media, this trend has now unfortunately become even more common with B2B technology media outlets.  This is no parody — click on these examples below to see how they are just as comical for serious technology buyers:

What might be amusing toIT buyers, can be disastrous for technology marketers and advertisers.  If publishers are writing for page views and Google-baiting with silly articles, they are only concerned with themselves and not their audience or their advertisers.  In the spirit of ‘many a truth is spoken in jest’, this fake quote from “Meredith Artley” sums up the very real sentiment of publishers in our space.

So, as managing editor of CNN.com, I want our readers to know this: All you are to us, and all you will ever be to us, are eyeballs. The more eyeballs on our content, the more cash we can ask for. Period.

Be sure to ask yourself as a technology marketer – do you only want eyeballs or do you want real buyers?  I think we all know the answer.

audience, CNN, content, content strategy, eyeballs, Google, Google baiting, Marketing ROI, page views, reach, Steve Niemiec, targeting IT buyers, The Onion

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