Google news, Yahoo news, and other news aggregators, sometimes pick up press releases and distribute them alongside news stories produced by journalists.
Some PR people have noticed this flaw in the news aggregators and are quite happy to exploit it. They brag that their press releases can sneak by journalists and reach a significant number of readers directly. Especially since studies have shown that some readers think they are reading trusted news sources.
I think this is a bad practice and unethical. Because content should be clearly marked as promotional, as in a press release. Let's mark press releases clearly in the following ways:
- "This content is not to be distributed by News Aggregators."
- "This content was prepared to promote the products or services of the following company or companies: [put company names here] and was created by: [PR firm or individual]."
- "This content is not a news story it is promotional content."
This is an important issue because in order for our society to make good decisions we must make sure the quality of our information is good. Otherwise it is garbage in, garbage out. We have some big decisions to make on global warming, foreign policy, healthcare, tech policy, and many dozens of important issues.
Let's label our online content clearly so we can clearly identify trusted information.
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For more discussion please see: Why Social Media Releases are Moving in a Bad Direction - Questionable Ethics in Masquerading as "News"