Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
With VuHaus, public music stations hope collaboration will bring in more listeners (and money) online
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 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
With VuHaus, public music stations hope collaboration will bring in more listeners (and money) online
“NPR’s capacity is really in news and the spoken word, and it’s very active on the cultural side, but not organized around music. There was a sense we either needed to work with each other or have a hard time competing at all.”
Could email newsletters be a partial solution to magazine companies’ problems? (Toronto Life thinks so)
Following the success of Twelve Thirty Six, Toronto Life is looking more closely at email newsletters as standalone products.
Coda Story, focused on deep dives around single themes, is now tackling a “post-truth” Eurasia
The platform is focusing on two major themes — disinformation campaigns in Eurasia and the migrant crisis in Germany — and focusing on larger character-driven narratives.