We recently stumbled across a content guide sheet from MTL Blog. We felt it would be interesting to share with others who are interested in the inner workings of MTL Blog and how they generate content. It shows scheduling times and you can see the demographics they target, i.e. college kids, university students.
What’s interesting is that the target demographic here is up to young workers but their ad package states up to age 34. Granted the definition of young is a generic term, however, advertisers prefer older demographics, because the 30 plus demographic has more disposable income. Cegep and university kids have limited disposable income since they have rent, tuition, books, and students tend to either not work or have part time jobs. What’s funny is that Facebook stats show that MTL Blog’s demographic is 18-24, a far cry from the up to 34 demographic that is pushed in their ad package and promised coverage to advertisers, but that’s another issue for another day.
Recently MTL Blog got caught using an non-declared organic content ad masquerading as real content, which you can read up on here. This is a paid placement masquerading as normal content. This was brough to light thanks to a mention on Twitter during the #askmtlblog smack down, which was triggered by the in depth article from Fagstein that asks 40 questions and digs up some information.
So CBC also did some follow up on it and sheds some light on the Keurig product placement and charging for coverage issues highlighted here and here. You will need to fast forward to the 8:18 mark for the story to start.
Shortly after their call the Keurig ad went from
to THIS (note the teeny tiny orange sponsored content label)
MTL Blog uses the”they forgot” excuse very often. Take a look at the headache a local blogger had to go through when they called out MTL Blog on stealing their content in not just 1 spot but 2!
A greater issue with this sponsored content post is that it shows the tag in one post in the top 10 list but does not show the entire list as sponsored. The lists’ integrity (if you can call it that) is in question since it is not a real top anything since one of the posts is paid for. The entire post in the life section should be tagged as sponsored content. Instead it isn’t and that leads readers into starting to read this post and not know that a portion is an advertisement.
So after the dust settled from the #askmtlblog smack down, I ended up back on the link for a post I had just put up and saw that the hashtag had one last person give it a kick and add some tail end content for blatant visibility.
What are you doing this week end? #askmtlblog Here’s what! [insert bullshit mtl blog link] #montreal #MTLBlog
This is when you take a long breath and realize that no matter what happens, no matter what people come out and say to MTL Blog, they will always worm their way to get extra traffic and clicks by being deceptive.
Using a url shortener makes people more likely to click on the link and to be honest this is borderline spam. I should also note that MTL Blog did like this tweet and that Maya Dee, aka Marialys Diaz, is an MTL Blog employee, but spam is spam and MTL Blog will continue to be MTL Blog no matter what they say or who they blame for their inapptitude and laziness.
The product in question is the Keurig coffee maker and word has it that an online ad agency has been approaching certain sites to put this content (some allege Sid LEE was the ad agency behind this). It is true that Sid Lee has the Canadian deal for Keurig. However, as there are many moving parts in any kind of ad campaign, it could be that Sid Lee is responsible for one component while another company handles the online campaigns.
There is confirmation of the ad campaign by another local website The Main. The Main also covers local events, and community organizations but they are legitimate in terms of not stealing images and content. I should note that I actually read their site and enjoy it.
@fagsteinlive Haven't declined, but we were approached. Just haven't decided what we can do with them yet.
Regardless of who does what campaign (and I personally love the stuff Sid Lee does), this ad was slipped in as organic content. This blurs the line between paid advertising and a recent advertising trend called Native Advertising. For those who don’t know what native advertising is, it’s the subtle placement of sponsored content often done by the people who run the sites. Techcrunch has a great article on this that should be read for anyone interested.
The dangerous thing with this ad is that it’s placed without any notice of being a sponsored ad, kind of like product placement. This is the most deceptive form of advertising and although companies need to make money, you are really tricking viewers without giving them any chance to see this. Even the most media savvy viewer would never assume this is an advertisement. In fact, unless you have been approached by Keurig or are involved in the ad campaign, then there is no chance you will know this.
Now some will say that MTL Blog is not a news organization but they blur the lines. Their Facebook page clearly says newspaper and they have stated in the Canada Land article they wish to move in that direction.
As of today the Newspaper label is still up even though in the Fagstein article “Lapointe said this description, and a similar one on their website, was an error and would be corrected.”
Now MTL Blog described itself as mixed media in the Canada Land article. This is dangerous because when you use the word media people assume you mean real grown up news. When people see news outlets, read newspapers, or listen to the radio, they apply a certain level of trust. MTL Blog is clearly not a media station, newspaper or radio. They are a PR company masquerading as a new company. Even in their company description with the Registre des entreprises they describe themselves as “Nous créons et vendons des campagnes d’affichage en ligne pour diverses clients.” and “Nous vendons des services de couverture d’événements pour diverses clients.”
In an age of social media and the erosion of traditional media and the gatekeepers, misinformation such as masquerading advertising as content is dangerous. Remember Ad agencies are scum and will do whatever is needed to sell you their product. This includes lying and tricking people by whatever means necessary.
Following on the in depth article by Fagstein and the Twitter train wreck of #askmtlblog CJAD Radio had a discussion with Toula Drimonis and Dave Kaufman about MTL Blog. Their talk covered some the issues which you can listen to on soundcloud, just go to 9:05- 19:17 time marks. If you are new to this, they do a good job of explaining some of the things people have been voicing their concerns about.
Recently we were lucky enough to get our hands on the full photo sales pack for coverage offered by MTL Blog. As we have discussed before, they cover events for a fee and pass it off as native/organic content. Their site shows a version of a rate card with no prices.
Now we wrote about a portion of this rate card before, which was initially leaked to FuckNoMontreal. Although now we have the full doc for you to look at. This doc is from late November so it is a little old and rates may have changed but this gives you an idea of what it is and silences any critics who say the previous image was faked.
So a recent petition has been posted on change.org for a band called Archery Guild. They have been getting harassed by the collection department of MTL Blog. This was over a show that MTL Blog went to cover and even though no contract was ever signed, they are sending this band a bill with interest.
Now we have discussed how MTL Blog is not a real news site since newspapers don’t charge for coverage of shows. Although their situation is a little more complicated since they re-post news-like stories in order to imply legitimacy.
We have seen that MTL Blog does charge for events as seen here and the following is a testimonial showcasing the frustration of a small local artist getting harassed and shaken down by a larger marketing / PR company aka (MTL Blog).
Please take the time to fill out the petition and spread the word. Twitter also happens to be a great way to get MTL Blog to do stuff since they only react when put on the spot as evidenced by past experiences with local bloggers.
An excerpt from the post states the following:
Although you’re posting as a blog, you’re not. You’re a PR service. In the criteria, you stated that payment must be made before the event. I didn’t pay before the event, and I didn’t sign anything saying that I would. This is why I’m wondering what gives you the leverage to add interest and tax. If there were a contract, it would be a different story. There was no contract, this was your responsibility.
So recently Marois & Moi did a write up on MTL Blog’s rate card and fee to cover events. This was originally leaked on Fuck No Montreal back in April and we did a write up last week.
Now it’s clear that MTL Blog charges to cover events as they have an inquire within rate card with no prices on their site.
Here is the leaked email on Fuck No Montreal
As well, they flat out admit it in an interview posted on Canadalandshow where they say “Lapointe sees MTLBlog as a ‘mixed’ media-brand. The young company has been exploring native advertising, with resulting stories stamped ‘sponsored content’ on the site.”
Although a comment on the Marois and Moi article caught our eye.
The comment reads “I’m a bar owner and I occasionally use MTL Blog’s services to cover my events. They do a great job! I guess you have to be in this business to understand that finding a professional photographer that’ll shoot your event, edit the pictures, send them to you the morning after and share them on a popular cultural blog for under 150$ is a no brainer. Stop complaining and get a life.”
We did some digging and found that the name on this comment is tied to a local bar, Nacho Libre, and MTL Blog has covered it multiple times like they do with other bars. You can even see the MTL Blog water mark on the picture. Because MTL Blog would hate it for someone to steal their picture. You know, like they have to many local bloggers
Although something about these pics and the statement admitting they charge seemed off. It’s not marked as sponsored content. MTL Blog will mark some items as sponsored – it shows up on the home page and on the post in an orange highlight.
The posts done on Nacho Libre are not marked sponsored and it implies it is organic. This is a deceptive practice because readers will assume it is a non-paid advertisement. When people know they are being sold something they react differently. Now this is not an uncommon practice. Food bloggers get invited to openings and give reviews that are a form of advertising but some will state that it is a media event. Often if you state you have sponsored content, (which MTL Blog clearly has as seen in screenshots above) readers can make the conscious decision to filter paid content from organic content.
Although since MTL Blog’s Nacho Libre coverage of events is not labeled paid content, then people think this is an organic coverage and is news, albeit social news, and not to be confused with real grownup news with real reporters tackling real issues (but that’s another issue)
So for those reading events on MTL Blog do be aware that you may be marketed to even if it seems like normal party coverage. As well, we should note that Nacho Libre has another bar opening called Brutus and MTL Blog has been writing hype articles on upcoming bacon focused items. The posts are not labeled sponsored but you can tell that they are building up hype the same way that PR and marketing companies do, although when you leverage a seemingly neutral source for content that’s when you blur the line and are tricking people/lying to them.
Just recently, MTL Blog posted an article about the STM with the headline of “STM Prepares To Sell Metro Maps To Montrealers“. You can see it on the screen grab from their Facebook page which acts as a time capsule and shows the original un-edited text.
Shortly after, the STM sent out a tweet to MTL Blog saying that the title is misleading and that they are exploring the idea and not preparing to sell.
MTL Blog actually changed it, which is something they rarely do. Normally mistakes get ignored/forgotten and they keep moving ahead, but this one was public enough so makes sense that they clean up the mess. It also highlights how deceptive and misleading headlines coupled with little or no research of a story they are writing leads to a situation where people who follow them on Facebook or Twitter will think this is real and will contact the STM and clog up their resources with unfounded requests.
There was a similar case a recently when MTL Blog did a post saying that metro maps were being given away and when people contacted the STM, they were not for the public.
This also prompted the very rare MTL Blog edit/correction on their post, something you will rarely see no matter how many errors they make.
We should note that if your “source” is a lone Reditt post you may want to dig a little bit deeper and actually call the STM before you make a statement to thousands of readers. The actual article by Andy Riga in the Gazette is clear when it uses words like “might”. The article goes in depth with what might happen with the signs and does not blindly imply like the MTL Blog article which stripped away lots of the detail of the Gazette article and jammed together a few points.
This is also part of a greater issue where MTL Blog is treading the line between journalism media and an entertainment blog. Real newspapers have editors and they check facts, MTL Blog does not. They are trying to take some info from legitimate articles, water them down but add no value to them. Covering a story is one thing if you have a reference or source but you should be adding value and opinion to it. MTL Blog just makes the story shorter and adds a nonsensical line of: “If these prices seem fair and you really want some STM swag, let ‘em know. Hopefully we’ll all have hip and trendy STM signs in our respective apartments soon.”
I don’t know which is more frustrating, if MTL Blog becomes a news aggregator, a plagiarist or the fact that they jump on both sides of the lines and cause frustration with their misleading headlines.
So in one of our earliest posts we wrote about how MTL Blog stole the picture from La Pantry. In it we stated that a tweet and public shaming is the only way it seems to get MTL Blog to take down picture.
The pic in question was originally used in an article covering 7 places to have brunch in Montreal and then in a post on MTL Blog in which they cover 21 Montreal hangover restaurants.
Now ignore the fact that any article with the title of “Best Montreal Hangover Breakfast Restaurants” that lists 21 establishments is not really the ‘best of’ but rather simply a really long list of places that serve breakfast.
Now in our initial article we said that calling them out on Twitter was the only way to get this done and other bloggers like Will Travel for Food and Montreal Breakfast Review had success with this approach. La pantry had to go that route even though we wrote about this early on and MTL Blog is aware that we exist as evidenced by their take down attempt near the end of July.
Now MTL Blog took down the pic and replaced it with another one, although, they seemed to neglect doing their due diligence and going over all 20 plus spots to see if the pic is still there. Guess what? It’s there. See below on how even after the tweet and take down of the initial pic the photo is still up. I took a screen grab with the date and time as well as well as better shot of the post itself and url.
This would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. I mean, there it is, number 19 of 21, the same photo that they took down as the cover is used in the exact same post. The excuses of being young, inexperienced, and understaffed are simply poor excuses. It took me less than a minute to find this.