Vetting Online Stories in the “Fake News” Era

We are, unfortunately, in an era where the term “fake news” has become somewhat of a socially acceptable (yet still grossly misinterpreted) phrase. While nearly everyone has taken sources from the internet with a grain of salt for decades, the past few years have been controversial to say the least, now that the “post-truth era” has commenced.

The unfavorable reality is that our current president is one who has been accused of and caught lying on several occasions. Forgetting about the Russian scandal for a second, or his alleged sexual misconduct, he has lied about simple facts; such as the number of people at his inauguration, or the fabricated correlation between immigration and crime rates.

Now, whether or not everything he has said is entirely factual word for word, vetting this information online can be extremely difficult given the turmoil American politics are in at the moment. With that said, how can you trust a story you come across online?

Skepticism is essential in maintaining factual knowledge. Never should you immediately assume a story you read online is 100% accurate. However, that is not to say that you should dismiss everything you read right away. The answer is to dig deeper, and verify from multiple resources. Find additional publications, stronger evidence, and avoid falling victim to a pushed narrative (that last point being stressed the most).

Today more than ever, both political parties are pushing their own narratives to attempt to disprove or derail the “opposition,” when in reality, no one should be opposing anybody. American politics were founded upon freedom of speech and freedom of beliefs, which should come with a mutual respect between every party. This has now turned into “right and wrong” in the eyes of more extreme party members, but that is rant for another blog. Why that is dangerous should be obvious, but the one I’ll point out for the sake of this article, is that you become oblivious to factual details that can cloud your judgment.

Train yourself to be able to spot false narratives. Propaganda may seem like an issue that was only prominent in the early 20th century during World War II, but it is alive and well, and smarter than ever, making it harder for individuals to actually recognize it. While traditional news sources are more reliable than a blog found in the dark corners of the internet, narratives can still be forced (see CNN, Fox News, etc.), even if they are factually correct. Besides not relying on your Facebook feed for news updates, there are several steps you can take in seeking out untrustworthy sources and stories.

  1. First, if the headline or what you’re reading seems to crazy to be true, it most likely is. Similarly, if it seems so ridiculous that it must be true, that could be a sign of the source effectively playing on your predetermined beliefs.
  2. Find outside sources that are linked out from the article. Chances are, what you are reading was repurposed from its original format, and due to plagiarism and intellectual property laws, that original article is more than likely linked somewhere. Once you find it, see if anything has been changed to alter the context.
  3. Any story that claims something will happen in the future should be immediately discredited to some extent. No news source is psychic.
  4. Any attacks on a certain demographic or group should indicate a heavily biased story, and thus, should not be given your full trust.
  5. Was an opposing idea or someone who disagrees consulted for the sake of argument? This is a great way to validate the original story. Showing that there are multiple sides is a selfless practice that often gives more credit to a news source. Simply focusing on one side and saying those who disagree are wrong does not have strong evidence.
  6. Consider if what you’re reading is actually news or not. This might seem like a no-brainer, but nowadays the “news”, even coming from the President, is not news-worthy at all.

Always remain skeptical when reading stories online, no matter if they are political or not. When diving into a subject or story, try and find as many sources as you can, and form your own opinion without being swayed by a writer on the internet. Strive to learn, and develop an individual mindset in this increasingly challenging world.


Artificial Intelligence in Advertising: Smart or Scary?

Ever since the Terminator movies of the 80’s, people have been pretty cautious of technology, to say the least.

Technology can be both exciting and terrifying, depending on your perspective. The impressive leaps and bounds that modern technology is able to make today has paved the way for advancements in nearly every facet of the business world, and the field of advertising is no exception.

AI and automation have allowed professionals in advertising to reach their target audiences much more quickly and accurately through advanced algorithms that can memorize and predict what exactly a certain customer has searched for and is looking for. This makes an advertiser’s job much easier, as well as much more effective.

Technology has reached a point where it knows us better than we know ourselves. It’s something that sounds more like a sci-fi plot than reality, but it’s true. Because of AI’s ability to take note of the things we search for and the pages we spend the most time on, many platforms are able to predict what we intend to purchase or search for next. Strategically placed ads can then be seen throughout the internet, most prominently on social media. Think of how many times you’ve looked up product on Amazon only to find an advertisement for something similar on Facebook.

A good way to look at this (no pun intended) is to consider the way the human eye operates. We are only able to clearly see what our pupils are looking at while the rest of our field of vision is blurred. We also have trouble deciphering complex visual stimulants. In other words, an ad that is too “busy” with too much text, too many images, or varying colors. Intelligent advertisements take this into consideration when placing their ads.

When applied to advertising, artificial intelligence aims to mimic the human eye. Many forms of technology today have allowed advertisers to study where exactly a person’s eyes are drawn on a certain website or landing page through heat maps. These give professionals an idea of what attracts readers or buyers, which they can then use to adjust their advertising efforts accordingly. The goal is to increase interaction between the ad and the customer. A more engaging experience is one that is more likely to end in a sale.

Artificial intelligence is powerful, and it’s important we consider how we can use it for a greater cause. It allows people to connect with others on a much more human level, as ironic as that is. Advertising has benefitted greatly from these technological breakthroughs. With more precision in their strategies implemented, advertisers can harness the power of AI to reach further and wider than they may have ever thought imaginable.

And hopefully, it never turns around on us like it always inevitably does in the movies.

Stop Advertising and Start Captivating: How to Better Target Your Audience

Now that 2018 is right around the corner, we are in a new age of digital advertising. Even the word ‘advertising’ sends a cringe-worthy chill up most people’s spines. A good example that comes to mind is that 30 second, unskippable video popping up telling you to buy car insurance when all you are trying to do is watch that new Kendrick Lamar video that’s setting Twitter ablaze. It seems like more and more websites contain pop-up ads that dominate an entire screen, which is even worse on mobile devices. This is what advertising looks like in modern times, especially for those in the millennial generation.

Is it just me, or do these new ads scream desperation? The unskippable ads and and online pop-ups only cause frustration for those of us trying to consume content faster and easier than ever before. One could argue that failed attempts at creating effective online ads are actually hurting a company’s brand.

So the questions remains- how do advertisers survive now that old age tactics are dying?


No one likes the car salesmen “in your face” approach, and advertisers that do so are likely to be met with less website traffic and fewer sales. Creating engaging content is what advertisers and businesses need to do in order to stay afloat in the world of digital communications.

Take one of my favorites, The Most Interesting Man in the World for example. The beer company Dos Equis developed a clever commercial that took the advertising world by storm with a rugged older gentleman simply known as ‘The Most Interesting Man in the World.’ He was said to have achieved incredible things in his lifetime (if you’re familiar with the Chuck Norris jokes that preceded him, you’ll know where the inspiration came from) , with some hilarious one-liners being created in every commercial such as, “mosquitos refuse to bit him purely out of respect,” “his two cents is worth $37 in change,” and “if he were to pat you on the back, you would list it on your resume.” He would then end each commercial endorsing Dos Equis beer, which is a genius and highly effective marketing tactic, because it held people’s attention.

The internet immediately fell in love with this advertising campaign. He quickly became a meme, which is the holy grail for advertisers, and the company saw an increase in sales soon after the commercials were first aired. The key to this campaign’s success was its engagement to its audience. Customers enjoyed the commercial’s quirkiness. It was entertaining. Its humor related to a younger crowd, and many people within that demographic shared it across social media, increasing its reach even more. Perhaps the most impressive thing for me, was how it connected the humorous juxtaposition with the brand itself, without coming across as too sales focused.
Now that Generation Z is beginning to make a larger online presence, advertisers must take into consideration that this means more people who simply despise ads. Though it will always change throughout time, effective advertising campaigns must look at the bigger picture and try and get their audience to want to buy their products rather than just hit the skip button as soon as it comes up. Stay on top of the demographic shifts your target audience is into, and think about making something you would engage with yourself, if you came across it. A great ad is one that sticks with the customer, making them not only a viewer, but a fan.

How Newspapers Have Survived in the Digital Age

It is no secret that the outlook for the traditional American newspaper is looking undeniably grim. Sales of physical papers are down, newspaper publishers are shutting their doors, membership to renowned newspaper associations like the Newspaper Association of America — which has now changed its name to become the News Media Alliance — are dropping rapidly, and the word ‘newspaper’ is nearly meaningless to many news corporations.

Many attribute this steep drop-off in circulation to the ubiquity of technology and its ability to deliver news to the peoplewithout a fee. Others say that it is newspaper publishers’ own fault, as they focused too much of their time and resources into creating an online presence.

In spite of these pointed opinions, it is important to note that the newspaper’s decline is not due to the negligence of corporations, nor the disinterest of millennials. Instead, the newspaper is merely changing with the times, adapting itself in order to fit into the busy lives of its readers — or, in today’s terms, viewers. This is how newspapers have strived to survive in the digital age:

Print may be “dying,” but it is still profitable. While there is no denying that circulation is down, many publishers still make a majority of their profit from their print versions. This is due to companies that still invest in print advertising. Although this form of advertising is also slowly waning, it is still exponentially more profitable than digital advertising, especially since these ads are known to be more memorable to and impactful on audiences.

Technology cannot rule all. Although many fear that jobs will be stolen away by artificial intelligence, it is evident that the supervision — and mere presence — of humankind is still very much necessary to any business around the globe. After all, no robot can be programmed to emulate human discretion — as evidenced by a major blunder Facebook made just last year.

The issue spun out of control when the popular social media platform turned to an algorithm to track and report trending news stories, as opposed to allowing humans to select newsworthy topics to put in the spotlight for the public. It led to several unsavory and false stories to be placed in the forefront of the public’s mind — and generated a lot of scrutiny.

This ties directly into the operations of newspaper publications because, although online materials may be more efficient for readers to skim, the information is not always entirely correct.

This is because the rigorous process of drafting and approving pieces that produce a newspaper does not go into producing articles for online platforms. The process is often write, publish, then edit and/or correct. This is detrimental to the integrity of the story, especially when viewers read it prior to edits and adjustments.

Evidently, there are some major changes coming to the world of journalism and readership. However, it will likely be a long time — at least two to three decades — until a moratorium is officially read on behalf of print journalism.

3 of the Most Unique yet Successful Marketing Tactics

Cards Against Humanity

By now, most people have experienced the vulgarity and outrageously humorous card game Cards Against Humanity. The premise is to match one of your white cards with the given black card to create the funniest possible phrase or sentence. The ensuing results are a mix of hilarity and awkwardness. This game alone is enough to attract quite a wide audience, but the marketing team at Cards Against Humanity didn’t want to stop there. One of their more unique tactics employed involved actually increasing their prices on Black Friday. CAH went against the traditional decrease in price like every other business, and managed to earn just as much, if not more sales than the Black Friday prior to that year’s. The company has sort of prided itself on going against the norm in terms of advertising, and it seems to pay off nearly every time.


Car companies in the early 20th century advertised their automobiles with a typical standard that can be seen all over the world: better performing than the rest. However, Volkswagen took a different approach in 1960. The “Think Small” campaign was arguably one of the most successful and controversial car advertisements during that time, and is still seen as a standard in the history of marketing. During this time, many Americans avoided the small, German-made cars following the United States’ issues with the country, so Volkswagen played off of just that. This was a perfect example of selling your product for exactly what it is, and not pretending to be anything else.


One of the most satisfying candy bars out there, Snickers targeted their slogan after exactly that. “Snickers Satisfies” was the company’s slogan up until 2010, when they launched one of the most successful rebranding campaigns in candy bar history. As the first commercial aired during the first break of Super Bowl XLV, Snickers took advantage of this spotlight to launch their new slogan “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” The commercial featured senior stars Betty White and Abe Vigoda as two representations of fatigued football players, taking hard tackles throughout the game. Upon eating Snickers bars, they effectively become “themselves” again. The humor incorporated greatly benefitted the company, as global sales following the ad campaign increased by 15.9%.