Blog, Marketing

So, what exactly is fake news? And what does it mean for businesses and content producers? We investigate.

News is not what it used to be. Back in the day, news came from a select number of analogue institutions– trust was built over years of readership and publication. However, the tech revolution has unseated a great many of those institutions, replacing them with a whole bunch of new, online ones. Without the establishment-based prestige, reader trust has been disrupted. Macquarie Dictionary named ‘fake news’ the 2016 Word of the Year (despite it being two words). You can be sure that it will feature prominently in 2017, too.

Our ever-growing outrage culture today means that some are quick to point fingers– even at legitimate sources. This makes defining ‘fake news’ difficult.
Fake news does not simply mean biased content. Fake news does not mean clickbait. For something to be fake news, it has to be knowingly created to mislead for the purpose of commercial or political gain.

So what exactly does fake news mean for businesses and content producers? And how exactly do you make sure you’re not accused of being fake news?

The first thing you can do is verify your sources. You must make sure the information you are using is genuine and trustworthy. Read from a broad base of sources before you form an opinion. Be transparent about where you found your information, too– a set of footnotes never hurt anybody.

Another thing to remember is not to post sensationalist content. There are whole websites dedicated tricking browsers into believing they are visiting legitimate news sites. Sometimes it’s for clicks and traffic. Sometimes, it’s a little more complicated. The golden rule? Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Even if it’ll hike your traffic up.

By definition, click bait itself is not fake news. But if you are using deceptive headlines that lie from the outset, you are engaging in a ‘fake news’ practices. And if you write false, defamatory messages about your competitors within that mix, you are engaging in an even dirtier practice.

This applies even if you’re not a news publisher per se. Whenever you engage in content marketing (as every business should), you are publishing to inform your readers and to build trust and rapport. You can’t build trust if you engage in deceptive practices. But how do you find the balance between “clickable, yet useful” and “misleading and sensationalist”?

One of the simplest techniques is this: don’t post too far out of your area of expertise. Research the needs, wants, and interests of your consumers, and find the crossover: which of those elements can you speak to with authority? By doing this, you will build trust and fill a need for your consumers and they will thank you for it. But, while you’re doing that, keep this in mind:, if you sell skincare products, and you want to increase sales, don’t publish a press release on a fabricated study on the efficacy of your acne cleanser. If your users are looking for ways to prevent acne, you can write about that. You can mention your product– just don’t make up your sources. People can smell a rat from a mile away.

Ultimately, people will gravitate towards sources that are reliable and have an allegiance to telling the truth. Using cheap shots to draw in large crowds won’t help you grow as a business or content producer. While accusations of fake news won’t be going away anytime soon, incorporating these strategies will at least help shield you from them.