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.
So a while ago MTL Blog started making a move towards “reporting” news. Now, as those words get read, journalists everywhere shed a tear as what they love gets associated to an aggregating trashy local buzzfeed. You can see some of their attempts to make a shift have an image of a news site by reporting spotting of famous people people or writing about Montreal based issues like air BnB.
In both cases, they stole / borrowed heavily from legitimate news organizations. So one of the constant content streams from MTL Blog is covering parties. I mean other sites do it and quite well. Nightlife has been doing it for ages as well as CultMTL for shows. So we weren’t too shocked when we saw that MTL Blog charges for covering certain events. Their rate card is below, although there are no listed prices.
Although someone pointed out recently that a rate card with prices had slipped out a while ago. The tumblr page Fucknomontreal posted a copy a while ago and the rates range from $80 to $160. Now this is an older rate card and odds are the rate has gone up.
Some of the requirements are funny:
The photo album needs to be shared via your official Facebook and Twitter channels the next day.
We will not accept to cover any party/club events under 150 attendees.
Cancellation fee: If the event is cancelled for any reason, there are less [sic] people than expected, and/or the photographer is sent home for any reason, the payment will still be due regardless. MTL Blog must be informed 24hrs in advance if the event is cancelled.
I mean I guess if you want that 18-24 Cegep and undergrad demographic, this is money well wasted. There’s also the added benefit of being associated with a site that steals its content.
Although implying that it does event coverage and having people think it’s media is wrong, they are charging people for publicity, which is a PR company, plain and simple.
The danger is the more and more content they push and move toward some kind of news outlet, people will think that they are real media and are covering news. Putting news in the hands of a PR company is a dangerous thing. They have already made posts that are mysogynist, as well as fake news to stir up interest and traffic. So imagine what happens when they wiggle their way and get people to think that they are actual news, or heaven forbid, legitimate.
So recently on of our favourite parody sites SooMTL had their facebook page taken down. Although Facebook never says why, it’s likely related to the action by MTL Blog as we experienced when their complaint letter took down the server we used to be hosted on. You can read up on all the messy details here.
In fact the complaint letter we received was sent twice, the first time MTL Blog got the facts wrong (much like their articles) and confused us for Blog Mtl aka SooMTL. Here is an excerpt of their email (do note that I changed the url destination on their site name since no one should ever end up on that site).
“We have received multiple complaints from many users that think that this blog is our site (they call themselves Blog MTL). It is a misleading, ironic, sarcastic and slander website created by a group of individuals that want to ruin our reputation with local clients and users (in Montreal, Canada). Our company and website is MTL Blog, Inc (http://www.mtlblog.com) and we need this site removed as soon as possible. It is affecting the credibility of our business and thus affecting our ad revenue and potential client growth.”
We had a feeling they were going to go after SooMtl so we reached out to them and let them know. Now taking down something on facebook isn’t impossible although next on their target is their web site. It’s hosted on wordpress so that in theory should require a little more rigour and being a parody site is not a crime, in fact in this case their posts are more enjoyable than MTL Blogs. I’m a particular fan of the top 10 Mtl although I also love the Chad references.
It’s refreshing to see that MTL Blog now has a value for intellectual property. You know that thing they often disregard when they take content from other people without asking for it or referencing it. For examples, feel free to look here, here, here, here…. You get my drift.
The good news is that SooMTL has a new Facebook page, twitter and instagram account.account. Bad news is that MTL Blog will likely keep trying to shut them down. Maybe someone out there should complain to their host and Facebook regarding stolen content. You can look them up on their whois record although they use cloudflare for DNS so it’s a little harder to find the server. But there a mechanism for copyright infringement cases, you just need to read up on it, good luck you will need it for that.
As a parting gift we just notice something and figured we should share it with you. We discovered that there are other domains registered to the same package. We saw some other sites registered to the same IP. The one called chucksbrand seemed like a lifestyle site based on MTL Blogs CEO’s name. Not sure if it’s a future project or an old project and the dailybabe.co is not up yet but we can assume that it will be 100% class.