Remember The Atlantic‘s Scientology debacle? Well now the NSA is running a sponsored post on Gigaom, and we may have another controversy on our hands.
Last week, we dissected Gigaom’s bizarre and inconsistent sponsored content: Some posts are high-quality analysis of industry issues; others are 100 words of product copy pasted into an article format. Now the NSA is running a sponsored post on Gigaom, and it’s 220 words of pure advertorial, recruiting cloud computing professionals for the NSA. And it could be quite troublesome if Gigaom hopes to credibly cover the NSA in the future. Let’s look at a few aspects.
It’d be hard to imagine a more positive headline (or a worse pun). On its own, this isn’t that bad, (except that it’s basically just asking for Twitter to joke about the NSA hacking into the cloud to steal your private communication).
Summary & intro
This part is just strange—or more likely just lazy—as the summary and intro for the post are exactly the same. Word for word. It makes the reader question the amount of thought that went into this post.
The description of the NSA
This is a fair description of the NSA’s mission, but it seems risky for Gigaom to publish such a self-serving portrayal of the controversial agency on its site, particularly if they hope to cover the NSA’s activity sometime in the future. In addition, the last sentence of this paragraph, “NSA advertising calls its careers extraordinary, and given the importance of the agency’s mission, there’s little doubt that it’s true,” seems to hope to position this sponsored post as something other than NSA advertising—like a genuine piece of editorial. It feels willfully misleading.
The Twitter CTA
I just find this part kind of funny, because yes, I’m totally going to follow @Gigaom to get my daily dose of propaganda from the NSA.
Even after we analyzed Gigaom’s sponsored content practices at length last week, I still can’t get my head around this; after The Atlantic’s scientology debacle, I thought the mainstream publishing industry was past this. (This isn’t quite the Scientology debacle, but it’s not far off.) For such a fine site, they certainly shouldn’t be running sponsored posts like this.
Update: Just realized that Pando’s David Holmes got to this first, and has an excellent breakdown on why this is a terrible idea for Gigaom. Read it.