Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Newsonomics: The Daily’s Michael Barbaro on becoming a personality, learning to focus, and Maggie Haberman’s singing
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Oct. 2, 2013, 1:27 p.m.
LINK: online.wsj.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Caroline O'Donovan   |   October 2, 2013

“Unique visitors” aren’t always that unique. Sometimes, they’re not even visitors — at least of the human variety. A story in The Wall Street Journal looks at what happens marketers end up buying ad space on websites that turn out to be visited only by robots.

While some scammers create stand-alone operations, others devise sprawling empires. In one case, the White Ops technology uncovered a zombie-populated lifestyle network, with hundreds of connected sites, including bodybuildingfaq.com, financestalk.com, and abctraveling.com. No one at the sites could be reached for comment.

In some scenarios, legitimate websites inadvertently set themselves up for botnet invasions when they hire companies to help boost their traffic. That can involve building audiences through methods such as paid keyword-search advertising with search engines.

White Ops discovered that more than 30% of the visitors to the education portal Education.com were robots. In the past month the site received about four million unique views, according to Quantcast.

A spokesman for Education.com said it was aware of the bot-traffic and that it had likely come from an initiative in the summer to boost its audience numbers. Education.com had bought traffic from a variety of legitimate sources, including search engines, to lure in new subscribers, as well as users “who would perform well for advertisers.”

“We shut down the program,” the spokesman said.

Show tags Show comments / Leave a comment
 
Join the 45,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Newsonomics: The Daily’s Michael Barbaro on becoming a personality, learning to focus, and Maggie Haberman’s singing
“To be a Times reporter is to be in some ways a raconteur, right? A lot of the journalists here are great, great storytellers at a bar…I think The Daily taps into that great oral tradition of journalists, enthusiastically talking about a story in a way they’re excited about, and it gets people excited about it.”
Panoply’s Pinna might just be the first really interesting attempt to get people to pay for podcasts
Plus: 60dB goes to Google, waiting (and waiting) for Apple’s new analytics, and the best podcast-related reads of the past few weeks.
Not a revolution (yet): Data journalism hasn’t changed that much in 4 years, a new paper finds
“Our findings challenge the widespread notion that [data-driven journalism] ‘revolutionizes’ journalism.”