From Facebook to Talking Points Memo to the New York Times, often what looks like fact-based journalism is t. It's advertising. Not only are ads indistinguishable from reporting, the Internet we rely on for news, opinions and even impartial sales content is w the ultimate corporate tool. Reader beware: content without a corporate sponsor lurking behind it is rare indeed. Black Ops Advertising dissects this rapid rise of sponsored content, a strategy whereby advertisers have become publishers and publishers create advertising--all under the guise of unbiased information. Covert selling, mostly in the form of native advertising and content marketing, has so blurred the lines between editorial content and marketing message that it is next to impossible to tell real news from paid endorsements. In the 21st century, instead of telling us to buy, buy, BUY, marketers engage with us so that we share, share, SHARE--the ultimate subtle sell. Why should this concern us? Because personal data, personal relationships, and our very identities are being repackaged in pursuit of corporate profits. Because tracking and manipulation of data make likes and tweets and followers the currency of importance, rather than scientific achievement or artistic talent or information the electorate needs to fully function in a democracy. And because we are being manipulated to spend time with techlogy, to interact with friends, to always be on, even when it is to our physical and mental detriment.
Mara Einstein is professor of media studies at Queens College, City University of New York, and an independent marketing consultant. She has been working in, or writing about, media and marketing for more than 25 years, and been an executive at NBC, MTV Networks, and at major advertising agencies. Dr. Einstein is the author of a number of books, including Compassion, Inc. (University of California Press), which examines the growing trend of promoting consumer products as a means to fund social causes and effective social change.