By: Philip | 04-27-2018 | News
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Drew Cloud: Anatomy Of A Press Release News-hacking Fail

Unfortunately, modern "journalism" is often devoid of any leg work, investigation or even fact checking. Mainstream news is a mixture of clickbait and copypasta in equal degrees. Hundreds of bits of news copy all culled from the same dozen details shared by AP and Reuters. What's equally rampant, however, are the cases of "press releases as news."

My inbox is generally full of dozens of pitches per week from ad agencies and PR companies with some news story that generally centers around an event, development or happening of some sort with an especial focus (of course) on the client of the PR company. There are even companies that pay to have links from their clients inserted into suitable news stories. The price can be in the hundreds or higher depending on the domain authority and page ranking of the site in question.

In the 50's DJ world, they called this kind of scheme "payola" a sort of pay-for-play scam. The "Drew Cloud" scandal is a perfect example of the issues with "press release news." Drew Cloud was an expert journalist in the field of student loan debt. I say was because a couple of days ago the Chronicle of Higher Education discovered that "Drew Cloud" never existed. Drew had been considered a go-to pundit and source for quotes in Washington Post, The Boston Globe and other respected news venues.

"Drew Cloud" had a backstory, he was searching for information and news related to student loans but there was no clearinghouse for information on student loans, debt and related news. Student Loan Report has showed up at CNBC, The Today Show, MarketWatch, Business Insider and many more. The SLR scam even included a photo of "Drew Cloud" and a full bio. As it turns out, however, SLR is really just a creation of the marketing department of LendEDU.

We will see more of this. South Park touched on this just a few years back with a story arc about "sponsored ads" posing as news. A great current example would be the SteelSeries/Bullyhunters fiasco foisted upon the world by the "marketing geniuses" at FCB Chicago.

"Cloud" was not only being quoted, he was making the news as in pitching stories to journalists, giving intetrviews and having "his" stories referred to in other pieces. When the Chronicle tried to contact "Drew" he said he was traveling and had limited access to his account and then just stopped responding. Since being outed, the "Drew Cloud" bylines have all been replaced with the generic "SLR Editor" tag.

<blockquote>Matherson later told The Chronicle that Cloud "was created as a way to connect with our readers (ex. people struggling to repay student debt) and give us the technical ability to post content to the Wordpress website."</blockquote>

And that's just the thing. Corporations (who are legally people now as far as Citizens United is concerned) are being encouraged to develop "personalities" so that they can better engage with consumers. The mindhackers of marketing are trying to figure out every way possible to hack the news cycle as well. Keep your eyes open and be vigilant. Spam and advertising, like AIDS or any other virus, must evolve in order to get past our immunities. And that is exactly what they have been doing.

Twitter: #DrewCloud #studentloans #fakenews

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