Influencers, stealing data and the sinister side of online platforms
The notion of paying for content online is relatively new. Once upon a time, everything was free on the internet. Newspaper sites, magazine sites, podcasts, blogs, music hosting platforms, movie sites… you name it, it could be got for free. And a lot of it still is but there has been a move in recent years by content creators to put their work behind a paywall. There are a several reasons for this. One of course is that no one can work for free and creating content is work. Websites used to rely solely on revenue from annoying ads and popups. And with recent developments in software, malware, algorithms and stealing of personal data, ads have become much more targeted. Advertisers and marketers are no longer just putting ads out in the hope they’ll be seen by you, you are now personally being targeted. What you post on your page, search on google, comment on a friends post, talk about (apps are recording voice data too, admitted to in the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook are facing a $5bn fine for stealing data)… all that data is being collected and you are being targeted to buy exactly the thing you need!
So what about paid sites? Is this kind of thing happening there? You’ll be glad to hear that ads are generally not part of a platform should you choose to be a paying customer. Take Spotify for example. The free version plays ads after every few songs. The premium version contains no ads whatsoever. Many apps you can buy for your phone are ad free. Paying for a service takes the advertising out of it. One less place you can be targeted! Where you choose to hangout online can either be a place where anything goes or can be a safe space. And I’m not just talking about target marketing here, trolls hang out in these places too, the worst of the trolls! I’ll get back to that later!
Let me ask you this… have you ever bought anything online which was a targeted advertisement? Did you see those children’s name books on Facebook after you commented ‘congratulations on your new baby’ on a friend’s page? Oh that’s a nice idea for a new baby present, I’ll get it! Did you buy some runners you had your eye earlier in the week on Schuh.com but had forgotten about again? Oh there’s those runners, they are really lovely, and it’s payday, I’ll get them! Did you sign up to a healthy eating program or buy skinny tea after joining a slimming world group? Did you book those flights to Rome after liking several pictures in your friend’s holiday album? We are being targeted all the time on these ‘free’ platforms. Whether you like it or not, it’s not free. You are paying for it in some way! Your consuming of ‘free’ content is still costing you money, probably more than if you were solely using paid subscription websites where these ads don’t exist. If you have been completely immune to target marketing, my hats off to you! You are in the minority!
Let’s talk about influencers. Who are you following on Instagram? What do they advertise to you? Is it stuff you really want or need? How many SoSueMe tanning products do you actually need? How many affiliate links have you clicked on and followed through on the purchase? How many 10% off blogger codes have you used to buy a product on the manufacturers websites? How many times have you thought, those runners look lovely on her, I’ll get them too? How many blogger events have you gone to? A makeup masterclass with a goody bag worth €100? A fashion event with a discount for a certain shop? I’m not trying to shame you for purchasing these products, I have purchased many myself, I’m pointing out that you are being manipulated by marketing which is very clever and which is targeted specifically to you and people like you. The retail world depends on you, the consumer, buying products. If you don’t buy stuff you don’t need, the wheel stops moving. People must be targeted, sales must be made, targets must be reached! And influencer marketing is the latest, easiest way for brands to do this. Television marketing can’t differentiate between viewers in the way that online accounts can. There are very detailed analytical programs which help influencers target specific groups of people. They see the interaction on their posts and can see what age group, gender, location etc is most popular. That’s just the surface of analytics, it gets much more detailed than that. Target marketing online is much easier than in real life thanks to data collection and analytical software.
On to trolls… there is nothing more a troll loves than a comment thread where they can stir shit and piss people off. Twitter seems to be the perfect place although they are everywhere. The comment section on TheJournal.ie is a particularly disgusting cesspit. Trolls gather on Facebook, Instagram, discussion boards, comment sections of blogs… wherever they like! They, like everyone else on the ‘free’ internet, have open access to the comment box and they use them more than anyone else. I’ve heard many times, don’t read the comments section. It’s good advice. However, should we not be able to comment on articles, posts, photos without the fear of trolls ruining it? Online commentary has become the new social commentary. People socialise online now probably more than in person. Can’t we all just get along and have some healthy debate? Well, no we can’t clearly! The biggest trolling topics that I’ve seen are vaccines, organic food, abortion and religion. Some of the threads I’ve seen are truly horrific. But something trolls don’t like is paying to have their say. You won’t find any trolls commenting on blog posts or newspaper articles which are behind a paywall. It’s one of the main reasons I now blog on Patreon as opposed to my blog. I have been trolled a couple of times and it’s really horrible. I put my writing out there to help people. I share my experiences so that people can resonate and know they’re not alone. Reading other people’s experiences gave me hope and inspiration and encouraged me to do the same. I share what has worked for me, what hasn’t and all the bits in between. I’ve never done sponsored content or targeted anyone to buy products. Yet I have been criticised on several blog posts. So now I write on Patreon. It’s a safe space for me, it’s somewhere I’m not afraid to share my most personal of thoughts and experiences like my post yesterday about getting messages from spirits. I would never be able to share that publicly. And it actually gives me a little kick to know my trolls can’t read and criticise my writing and experiences anymore. Up yours, trolls!
So it’s easy now to see why some bloggers and content creators are moving to subscription sites. Having control over your own content, how you curate it, what you share and don’t has so much more freedom for the creator and allows for the content to be authentic which I feel is something that is really lacking with the big bloggers. You won’t see every second or third post being an ad. Aren’t you sick of being targeted? I know when I see #ad I skip through stories or scroll past a post, I don’t bother reading it. I don’t need a new pair of sketcher runners or sweaty betty yoga pants. Bloggers on paid subscription sites don’t have to work with brands, don’t have to conform to their brand identity and don’t have to curate their content specifically with the brand in mind. It strips the authenticity of the individual. Influencers are no longer authentic, even if they do choose the brands they work with carefully, they’re still selling you something which is targeted to you specifically so they can make a living. How many times have you heard ‘You guys, I can’t wait to show you this, I just know you’ll love it as much as I do…’ boom, you’re hooked! *heads off to delete Instagram*
Some of my online subscriptions are:
Blindboy Patreon, Rosemary MacCabe Patreon, Netflix, Spotify and I’ll be signing up to Luminary Podcast whenever they get their act together and open up to Irish listeners as it hosts my all-time favourite podcast host, Russell Brand. I miss him on a Saturday morning! There are lots of great content creators working now on paid sites, I do think it’s the way we need to move to get away from the sinister world of data stealing, target marketing and influencer marketing. On paid platforms, you’ll get authenticity, truth and honesty. Something really lacking these days on Facebook and Instagram. Something to think about!