April 19, 2017
Is Fake News Done?

Remember fake news? Only a few months ago, the media world was up in arms about patently false stories that purported to be news. 

Now, however, the public has moved on. Facebook is clearly labeling stories that are “disputed” and tags news organizations behind trending topics. At this writing, marketers are more focused on YouTube’s lack of brand safetythan fake news. 
Though we’re not free of fake news yet, it is on its way out. Here’s why:

1. Consumers moved on to tackling real news they don’t like.

So far, the biggest uproar about brand placement after the election hasn’t been related to fake news but to real news. As of February, some 1,000 brands have pulled their ads from Breitbart, a controversial news organization that for many brands represents a bridge too far. That’s why a handful began blacklisting Breitbart from their programmatic buys.

It’s a lot easier to blacklist certain controversial sites than it is to blacklist fake news sites. Controversial sites are generally well known. Fake news sites aren’t.

2. Consumers now understand programmatic.

Brands caught promoting fake news have gotten less press. Though the press has cited instances in which brand ads ran next to fake news content, three months after the height of the crisis, there has been little lasting damage. 

Those most exercised about the issue have gotten a quick education about the practice from The New York Times and others. 

As a result, activists now pressure marketers to scrutinize digital partners that actually place the ads. In the course of reexamining their programmatic buys, those brands might determine that the reach they thought they were getting was illusory anyway and reboot their programmatic buys to emphasize quality over quantity.

3. Ad tech firms have tackled the issue

Years of fighting fraud have given ad tech firms a leg up on fighting fake news. Ad tech firms are now adept at finding “tells” for fake sites ranging from lack of dates on the articles to dead links. Fighting fake news is a constant process, but as ad tech gets better at rooting out such sites, the rewards for fake publishers diminish.

The decline of fake news

Fake news’ high profile after the election has caused ad tech companies to up their game and the likes of Google and Facebook to take steps to avoid financing and promoting such content. Public pressure has also worked to make fake news a top concern for brands, which in turn are asking their ad tech partners to be more careful.

This means that, thankfully, fake news is on its way out. That doesn’t mean that it will be eradicated 100% — almost nothing can be on digital media. But it’s likely that in the future the influence of fake news will be a lot lower. That’s good news. Really.