The purpose of online media is to create the most perfect place upon the most perfect content upon which to serve advertisements. The only problem is that most of the content recaps happenings in the real world, which are infinitely less scalable than fictional content. This problem translates to native advertisements, since content farms must find something interesting about the real world upon which to tie in a product or brand.
Fictional content, however, solves the limitations of the content farm as being constrained by people's interest in the actual world. That's what happened this week when Fortune did a profile on Lex Luthor Jr.
In preparation of infinite comic book movie franchises involving Batman, SuperMan, and whoever else is in the realm of the DC comics stable of characters, Warner Brothers purchased premium placement on the Fortune website to sow the seeds of a comic book character's backstory.
The reaction to this purchased content wasn't negative. It was just integrated into the #trending media economy as another coverable, blurbable bit, with Fortune's fake profile being covered in other publications including Wired and GQ.
Content farms moving towards fictional coverage isn't that farfetched. I've already documented the realm of hyperbolic fake news that is meant to be shared on Facebook, 'tricking' people into clicking on stories that elicit outrage, hope, and wonderment that is outside of our daily stimulation. The Luthor profile may fall into real news about a fake person?
It seems that big box content farms are establishing a realm where reality, fiction, and sponsored content can exist harmoniously in order to create the most perfect internet content for an accepting audience. The way big box content farm readers seamlessly integrate native advertisements and eCommerce affiliate link-ridden content into their realities will be seen by their children in the same baffling way that I can't comprehend my parents sitting patiently through advertisements as part of media consuming experience. It is alarmingly normal.
It feels ridiculous to encounter hundreds of mentions of the Lex Luthor profile without categorizing it as more than 'viral marketing.' I suppose that there are still people out there search for 'viral tidbits' as being most representative of 'what's happening in the world.' They are the people who are most prepared to accept native advertising and optimized content marketing into their hearts.
As a content farmer, I must accept that questioning the native advertisement as an authentic method of reach is an outdated argument. Content farms must continue to tout their reach to brands as the best way of having real, fictional, and sponsored content reach 'real people.' This kind of curated fictional virality serves to reinforce the content farm as a purposeful medium of reach.
The move towards fictional content and immersive coverage of fictional characters living in fictional worlds may be a new realm of internet content, especially for stories, movies, and comics that are 'grandfathered in' to geek coverage. They do not face the intense scrutiny given to stories that are grounded in reality. While great fiction serves as a metaphor for reality, the dependence upon content as anything beyond escapism is a core competency that content farms can capitalize upon.
As every day goes on, I can't help but feel like a crotchety old man on the content farm with my crops drying up and my livelihood on the verge of termination. Things continue to change, and even as audiences reach more robots/humans than ever, the overarching goal of the output. I can't necessarily say that a fake profile on a big box content farm's site is 'bad for the world/internet.' It's just the best implementation of the content farm as a mechanism of large scale page serving service. Fake content is more scalable than real content.
Based on the media reactions, the Lex Luthor content marketing was certainly a success, representing a creative way of 'reaching the masses' in a medium that complemented the fictional story. While the goal of this content marketing is to 'supplement the brand' of the story of Lex Luthor, the entire process just shows how ridiculous online marketing has become. The only trackable online outcome besides comic book fans getting to know the backstory of Lex Luthor Jr. was a Twitter follower boost of 13.7k followers.