A story on financial website Money.co.uk of a teenager stealing his dad’s credit card to pay for prostitutes ticked all the right boxes to be a search engine success.
And for those of you who haven’t come across it yet, it is too good to be true.
It’s made up, fictitious and fabricated to generate what the man behind it – Lyndon Antcliff – calls linkbait.
According to a blog post by Antcliff, the piece, which carried no byline and wasn’t on the news wires, attracted 14,000 links, in addition to being picked up by various other news publishers.
As he says in the post he’s not himself debating the ethics of such practice, but will ‘leave that to others who have a lot more time on their hands’, which is where this post steps in.
Yes – sites should optimise headlines for search engines and try to ensure the story keeps up with what the headline promises. But making content up is dangerous for a publisher’s reputation and unethical.
As Antcliff points out, it’s alarming that other media did not check the facts of the article before republishing it and the spread of the story proves he knows what he’s doing when it comes to optimising content.
It’s just a shame the same trial couldn’t have been carried out on a real piece of content.
Despite Antcliff saying he ‘pushed the boundaries of the ridiculous to make it obvious that the story wasn’t true’ it is still available on the website and until recently carried no label of it being hoax.
It now includes the note: “This story is a parody and is not intended to be taken seriously”, which doesn’t help explain things much, just makes the reader wonder why they’re publishing it.
Other media aside, doesn’t running content purely for linkbaiting purposes undermine Money.co.uk’s credibility to a worryingly low level?