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Fark NotNewsletter: Google farked us over
Posted by DisseminationMonkey at 2017-01-10 2:56:37 PM (1044 comments) | Permalink
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A note from Drew Curtis:
You would probably assume that Google, a company that makes nearly all of its money from advertising, has a crack team of ninjas instantly handling issues in their publisher network. That assumption would be totally wrong.
This past October we suffered a huge financial hit because Google mistakenly identified an image that was posted in our comments section over half a decade ago as an underage adult image - which is a felony by the way. Our ads were turned off for almost five weeks - completely and totally their mistake - and they refuse to make it right.
The thread in question, which contained the image flagged by Google Policy, was originally posted back in 2010. The thread linked to an ABC.co.au article about a guy who was acquitted of charges of possession of underage material in Puerto Rico. He'd bought a pirated DVD in Venezuela and was busted by U.S. Customs because there was a picture on the cover that looked like she was underage (I'm certain this picture isn't the same as the image Google flagged, by the way). At the trial a child psychologist even testified that there was no way she could be an adult. Someone managed to locate the actress, however, who flew down and testified in person that she had been 19 years old at the time. He was cleared of all charges.
The image in the thread was of the actress, who in addition to being an adult at the time, was fully clothed in the photo. We've posted a copy of the photo in them comments under this blog post on Fark if you're curious. We're not including it on the email newsletter on the off chance other content algorithms might make the same mistake. It's completely and totally safe for work, however.
We took down the image in question and pointed all this out to Google Policy, who took another week to respond that the problem actually was there was a small pedo bear logo in the lower left corner. This is total bullsh*t. They specifically accused me of having committed a felony. The presence of that logo would not have triggered a felony charge. They screwed up and were scrambling to cover their butts.
What's insane about this is Google ostensibly makes all of their money from advertising, yet for some reason has customer service worse than any cable company ever dared deploy.
Google's Policy team lets an algorithm shut ads off on media companies without warning and without human review - because no actual human being would have ever approved this decision.
It is literally impossible to contact Google Policy without going through an intermediary. And even intermediaries have immense difficulty contacting Google Policy. First contact with Google Policy took two full weeks.
During this five week period where our ads were shut off, every single interaction with Google Policy took between one to five days. One example: Google Policy told us they shut our ads off due to an image. Without telling us where it was. When I immediately responded and asked them where it was, the response took three more days.
In talking with other media companies, I've discovered that my experience is unfortunately not an uncommon one. Many other sites I've talked to have had this same thing happen to them - some have even gone under as a result. They're afraid of being blacklisted by Google so they don't talk about it publicly.
I'm not afraid. I'm pretty sure Google corporate has no idea Google Policy operates with such a high level of incompetence. They need to know.
This happened once before back in 2013 - Google shut our ads off, again with no warning, over an image they said had "too much sideboob." When I asked them how much sideboob was too much sideboob, they said they couldn't tell me. In 2013 I raised hell and actually got reimbursed for the lost revenue, something I've been told by many others is close to unbelievable because Google has never reimbursed anyone else I've talked to.
This time, no reimbursement is coming.
And 2016 wasn't the greatest year for Fark financially - we were already off-kilter before this. We waited until the end of December, hoping that Q4 ad revenue might be enough to fix things. It wasn't.
What we need from you: Due to the way Fark was built, we are invisible to both SEO and Social Media traffic. The only way anyone finds out about Fark is word of mouth.
To our regular readers - if you wouldn't mind, please tell your friends on social media that you read Fark. Also, it would be great if you could sign up for either of these options as well:
TotalFark: $5/month, Fark's special content section. Even if you never use the special content, if you could sign up for this it would help tons
BareFark: $2.50/month for no ads. We'd prefer everyone sign up for this rather than Fark serving any ads at all
Or both if you're so inclined
You can also buy subscriptions for other Fark accounts if you like. And if you've managed to run out of people to sign up for TotalFark or BareFark, we've made it so you can subscribe me - Drew - and username Fark as many times as you want. If you do, I'll personally buy you a beer next time we meet in person.
To our media audience - many of you are morning radio shows, late night talk show writers, journalists, and thought leaders. You use Fark as a resource for your work and we love you for that. Now more than ever we need you to send some love back to us. If there's any way you could work a Fark mention into your content, even once in a blue moon, it would help us immensely. We don't mind that you use Fark content - take whatever you like but please drop us an occasional hat tip. And if you could sign up for one or both subscriptions that would help us as well. And if there's ever anything I can help you with, please let me know. I would love to collaborate on something.
If we could get about 10,000 new subscribers, we'd be able to get back on track. I'll post updates next week as to how things are going. As an added bonus, if we hit that threshold I promise to schedule a night where I delete the politics tab exactly the same way I did the last time it happened. If you weren't around for that, it involved a lot of capslock and was enjoyed by many.
So that's the main thing - however allow me to ramble on a bit.
This February, Fark will have been around for 18 years. We've been around a long time and survived two tech crashes, the great recession, any number of disastrous changes to the ad market, etc. You name it, we've been through it.
Over the years, an amazing community has sprung up spanning two generations now. I've lost count of the thousands of marriages and thousands of kids that happened as a result of two people meeting on a message board I started just so I could learn how to code in Perl and SQL. I am friends with hundreds of you on other social media platforms. Even folks who don't frequent Fark as often as they once did still have friends from their Fark heydays.
Our lives change with time, and so has the Fark community. People wander away. Some come back. Some don't. New folks wander in. Over the past few years, Fark's community has declined slightly month over month as the amount of spare time people have became consumed by other activities. Most of Fark's initial audience was made up of people who were trying to kill time at work. When we ask people why they left the audience, the number one reason given was they got a promotion at work.
Adblock adoption hasn't been the greatest thing for Fark's bottom line either, but don't worry, I totally understand why people use it. The ad industry seems fixated on video ad units, usually loud autoplay ads, and the CPU load these ad units create can crash browsers on older computers - incidentally we don't allow this type of ad, although it's becoming a larger and larger percentage of overall ad spending in general. People don't use adblock because they hate ads, they use adblock because they hate what online advertising has become. I personally believe this is a temporary situation, like popup ads in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the ad industry is any closer to realizing that antagonizing potential customers is an entirely counterproductive way of marketing. As a business owner, I also can't assume they'll magically figure this out in the next 3-6 months. My main point here is I don't blame Adblock, I blame the ad industry for sucking.
Combine these two trends and you get a shrinking revenue picture. Fark has never made a ton of money, but it provides a living for me and a small staff. And I love doing it.
It's hard to predict how ad spend revenue cycles will play out over time. For example, we went nearly 18 months during 2008 and 2009 with practically zero revenue, but fully recovered as ad buying picked up again. You never know when things will pick up again. As a business owner, however, I can't just assume things will magically get better.
As 2016 progressed, the financial situation started to get tighter and tighter. I began to consider the possibility that we might have to make a return to Fark's original revenue model. In 2002 we launched TotalFark, a special section of Fark you could access for $5/month. This predated online ads by about three years. TotalFark revenue was powered the website for almost a decade, until ad revenue actually managed to pass it up.
Initially, we thought the product was access to every article submitted to Fark, instead of just the ones we chose to put on the public part of the site. This is still a feature you get when you sign up for TotalFark, but it's not the reason people signed up for it. The community is what really shines.
The folks on TotalFark are amazing, smart, funny, and awesome. Over the years, they've helped each other in times of calamity. They've raised money to help with each other's medical bills, rescued people from abusive relationships, and opened their homes to each other during natural disasters. I've been to dozens of your weddings, funerals, baptisms, bar mitzvahs, you name it. They've also done hilarious things like mistaking streetlights for UFOs, having medical issues related to slatted wooden chairs, and spent thousands of hours contemplating how to find out the bacterial consequences of cats sitting on kitchen counters using lipstick. The real value of TotalFark has always been the people themselves - a small vibrant community of the smartest, funniest people I've ever met.
We've done a poor job promoting TotalFark. Most Fark readers probably don't even know it exists. We haven't tried to push new subscribers in almost a decade, and the revenue from TotalFark is now much lower than it ever has been. This wasn't much of an issue as long as ad revenue was strong.
2016 was a rough year. Then October happened and Google shut our ads off. We waited until the end of the Q4 ad revenue to see if we might get enough of a bump to recover. We didn't. October knocked us off kilter.
Folks have asked what they can do to help. Please tell your friends you read Fark. If you could sign up for TotalFark or BareFark that would be amazing. It does actually make a huge difference to us. If you're a member of the media, please let people know once in awhile that you use us as a resource. We're glad that you do, and we're hoping all of this will help us help you for another couple decades if not longer.
I'm working on a few other solutions as well, one of which is a tangent project I'll be announcing sometime in February. I'm also open to any other solutions if anyone has them, please email me with any thoughts: Drew at some website .com.
Thanks for listening. I appreciate it.
PS (some inside baseball stuff):
There are a couple of issues I'd like to address ahead of time, specifically the questions that have come up about the timing and intent of this subscriber push.
I don't want to go into detail about behind the scenes financials. I know folks are curious but I don't discuss them as a rule. We're in a revenue short situation and we need to fix it. If anyone needs specifics to approve of my personal financial lifestyle choices, I fly coach, I eat mostly at food trucks, and my friends hate buying Christmas presents for me because there's literally nothing I want to own. Again - I'm trying to push forward a few other solutions, but I can't assume any of them will work at the end of the day. I'm optimistic though, because that's how I work best.
To the alpha skeptics who have wondered if this wasn't some huge scam to reap a windfall and then disappear to the Cayman Islands: I can assure you that I didn't just wake up one morning after running a fiscally conservative business for two decades in order to rake five figures in income and run off to Mexico. I figure I've got at least three decades of a career in something ahead of me, and the last thing I would do would be to torch 20 years of hard-earned goodwill at this point in my life.
We now return you to your usual Fark NotNewsletter.
The number of comments these words were mentioned in on Fark and TotalFark in the past week
Drew - 1795
TFD - 1646
Welcome to Fark - 46
Bacon - 351
Some of the top-voted smartest and funniest comments from the past week
Petit_Merdeux explained how a guy whose drink was switched got the last laugh
b0rg9 showed a troublemaker's biking jacket
Mad_Radhu gave a helpful tip for sorting laundry
nekom explained why some landlords won't rent to plumbers
mattj1984 admitted to being very sneaky
Louisiana_Sitar_Club identified with the wise words of Abe Simpson
Dimensio experienced the Daily Fail effect
Smoking GNU gave safety advice for the hairy palm types
doyner complained about Mariah Carey's sharp knees
Curate's Keg figured out why a couple had to spend so much on vet bills for their dog
Shadow Blasko would rather not have tax money spent on religious items
WickerNipple guessed at why Mark Zuckerberg is now open to religion
Weaver95 discussed words added to U.S. money and the Pledge of Allegiance
Marcus Aurelius summed up some football players' habit of poking other players' buttholes
unyon explained that sometimes one size doesn't fit all
Sin_City_Superhero busted a stereotype
doglover shared a helpful Venn diagram about TV shows
serpent_sky pointed out that "young and stupid" isn't a valid excuse for some things
GRCooper discussed praying to "Lord of the Rings" characters
dittybopper disputed someone's authority to act as the fashion police
CSB Sunday Morning: New Year's Day
Smartest: jaylectricity shared a story about going to a Patriot's game with Bruce
Funniest: Lsherm had an exciting New Year's Day flight
If you would like to suggest a topic for a CSB Sunday Morning thread, please email dugitman.
WickerNipple showed Trump reacting to the post above him
fusillade762 shared a plea to respect the president-elect
drumhellar implied that people should leave Trump alone
mjjt shared a tutorial on how to draw a pig
Demetrius posted alarmingly similar photos
stan unusual doubted Paul Ryan's opposition to a House vote
bobbiepaws discussed some difficulties with the American health care system
markie_farkie compared the Affordable Care Act to the original Republican proposal
make me some tea shared a tweet from Elizabeth Warren
Silverstaff explained why Hillary Clinton's supporters keep responding with "But her emails!"
Some of the top-voted contest entries from last week, listed from highest number of votes down
RedZoneTuba found that Carrie Fisher always lit up the stage
ADHD Librarian put the spotlight on Darth Vader's dramatic side
Don_cos added a walking carpet to the scene
Surly U. Jest used the opportunity to do a rain dance
Wrongo gave this dog some swimming companions
Surly U. Jest made a time traveling ghost
Stantz found young Carrie Fisher waiting for her mom in the wings
Pure Weapons-Grade Bolonium showed us why they call it a layover
Wrongo showed a woman and a little girl on a stage
Surly U. Jest made this rainbow 100 times more magical
Morchella won Farktography Contest No. 609: "Potent Potables 4" with a photo through a beer lens
If you would like to suggest a theme for a Farktography contest, you can contact Elsinore or stop by the Farktography Forum.
Headlines of the Week (brought to you by ox45tallboy)
Can somebody tell me what kind of a world we live in, where women dressed up as bats get all of my press? This town needs an enema
Police in New Jersey seek overweight, excessively hairy, naked man. That narrows it down
A toddler has shot someone in the U.S. every week for the past two years. Can we lock that damn kid up already?
Janet Jackson gives birth to child at 50. That's a long gestation
Huge explosion reported outside court in Turkey. At least 10 injured, cars on fire, feathers everywhere
Brandon Marshall says the New York Jets season was like sitting on a wet diaper. Which is not a fair comparison, because even inside a diaper something actually runs
Leicester City weren't sure if Nigerian midfielder would sign with them, but Ndidi did
Scientists successfully engineer human stomach tissue in lab, but say they need time to digest their findings
Sarah Jessica Parker gets trapped in an elevator, but not furlong
Russia begins pulling out of Syria, still balls deep in Donald
With no other products to export, Zimbabwe starts shipping its elephants to China. Presumably in trunks
Weird News Quiz Results (brought to you by ox45tallboy)
A special shout-out to quizmaster ivan for his work in putting together this week's quiz, which had a few real stumpers in there. Still, mattj1984 managed to pull out a respectable 937 for the top spot, followed by Vaginosilicosis with 910 andUnrepentantApostate with 904.Kidsmakeyoucrazy snagged 4th with 902, with Garza and the Supermutants and Twilight Farkle tying for 5th with 897.
This week's hardest question by far was the one about the U.K. being second only to the U.S. in something. Only 9% of quizzees knew the correct answer from an article this week was "Military might." For the 81% who put "Obesity," according to the CIA World Factbook, the U.S. is currently ranked 12th in the world for obesity and the U.K. is 27th. (The previous year listed the U.S. at 18th and U.K. at 43rd). See? We're not that fat.
This week's easiest question was about Scarface the pit bull. 82% of quizzees knew he really, really, really didn't want to get into that sweater.
You can take last week's quiz right here. Look for a new quiz every week on Fridays, and look for the answers all week in the weird news from all over we feature every day.
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