A revealing investigation by Breaker has uncovered that half of the media outlets approached would take money to promote something, without clearly labelling it as sponsored content. Some would even accept directed content from the sponsors.
In an exercise designed to test their journalistic integrity, they contacted 24 cryptocurrency media outlets asking if they would accept money to cover content for ICOs. It was also specified that they were not to be marked as sponsored content. In effect, it was a bribe to accept money to publish what appeared to be an unbiased, unsponsored article about an ICO.
Disturbingly, 12 of the 24 organisations came back clearly accepting such an arrangement, selling out for anything as low as $240 (CryptoNinjas) to $4500 (NewsBTC).
Breaker’s investigation names the following culprits, who unambiguously confirmed they were willing to publish for a price without labelling it as sponsored content:
- AMB Crypto
Many of the media outlets are familiar names in the cryptocurrency space, and may surprise the public due to their self-described fair and unbiased news.
NewsBTC, one of the largest outlets on the list, has responded by claiming that it is untrue, and the sales representative who had the conversation had since been fired. The CEO declined to provide further evidence of termination.
“It’s come to my attention that one of our sales team has mistakenly suggested that we could publish content without disclosure that it has been paid for (i.e. a sponsored article) to one of your undercover reporters posing as a PR agent. This is not our policy. The sales executive offering this has been removed from our company active immediately and won’t be dealing with/offering our advertising (or otherwise) services again, be it to a PR company, a reseller or anyone else.”Samuel Rae, CEO of NewsBTC
The full report by Breaker is a disturbing read. The casual attitude and prepared documents that some media outlets have ready to send, are evidence that this kind of bribery may be occurring far more often than thought.
At bitfudge, we take journalistic integrity seriously: misleading your audience is not OK. All of the offending media outlets have been removed from our external news feed.