I don’t read Medium posts as much as I used to since the paywall was put in place. But I still keep an eye on it; there are plenty of good writers on there and I’ve found some great content. One thing I hadn’t spotted on Medium was spammy content. I’d seen more crap on Academia.edu. If you’d asked me I would have told you that there wasn’t any spam on Medium.
Well, if you’d asked me before today, anyway.
I was wondering about the news this evening, not sure if there was going to be the regular news lineup as it’s a federal holiday. So I googled msnbc schedule january 18 2021 as you might. Here’s what I got:
I looked at the first result from MSNBC and it had a lot of boilerplate, so I went back to the results page. The next few results looked spammy, but then I saw a link from Medium. It didn’t surprise me that Rachel Maddow might have a Medium presence; many media outlets do. Since it had the date in the title I was hopeful it was a schedule lineup and not just a description of the show.
Here’s what I got:
It looks okay for a second but then you realize everything’s stock and the text looks vaguely familiar. A quick googling of “With honesty and rigor, Rachel Maddow uniquely connects dots to advance stories.” takes you a ton of TV listings site. It’s all boilerplate.
As a matter of fact, using that boilerplate surfaced more Rachel-related spam on Medium. When I did a search for “With honesty and rigor, Rachel Maddow uniquely connects dots to advance stories.” site:medium I got no less than 599 search results, Just looking at the first page tells you that this is a search result full of pork shoulder and ham.
I took a look at a few of the sites. They look somewhat different but tend to follow a pattern: Stock information about the Rachel Maddow Show with dates covering the last couple of months, a ton of garbage text, and a repeat of the Rachel Maddow Show information.
Obviously if someone went to this much trouble to create a Rachel Maddow Medium Spam Network they were trying to make money. I went looking for links and found https://cutt.ly/djIyMe5 and https://cutt.ly/ijvw8GR for example. The first one unshortens to http://watchhotx.dplaytv.net/series/181561/2021/9 , while the second one unshortens to http://putlocker.online-tvs.com/series/181561/2021/4 .
I had never heard of either of these sites. Dplaytv.net looks like some kind of video streaming site. Online-tvs.com I didn’t see directly, but I saw a lot of links to it. I also saw some Medium URLs, again, so I experimentally did a Google search for “online-tvs.com” site:medium.com and, well, 11,000 results kind of tells it like it is.
That’s a pretty extensive network. (In fact it’s extensive enough that I wonder if Medium does in fact have what I consider classic spam, or in other words ads for sex drugs. So I goog’d for (“viagra without” | “cialis without”) site:medium.com . And I got results, but they were relatively limited — 112 results, far less than even the Maddow-specific spam content. Anyway.) I didn’t see any indication that the two streaming sites had affiliate programs, so I guess this is just a traffic push to make money on advertising?
I had never ascribed any automatic credibility to Medium because it’s more of a platform than a publisher, and I don’t consider these spam sites particularly hazardous, as they’re obvious garbage trying to get clicks. But isn’t it wild to see so much at once!