‘Shooting,’ ‘Bomb,’ ‘Trump’: Advertisers Blacklist News Stories Online – WSJ

Like many advertisers, Fidelity Investments wants to avoid advertising online near controversial content. The Boston-based financial-services company has a lengthy blacklist of words it considers off-limits.

If one of those words is in an article’s headline, Fidelity won’t place an ad there. Its list earlier this year, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, contained more than 400 words, including “bomb,” “immigration” and “racism.” Also off-limits: “Trump.”

Some news organizations have had difficulty placing Fidelity’s ads on their sites, ad-sales executives said, because the list is so exhaustive and the terms appear in many news articles.

Forbidden WordsTop 15 words blacklisted by advertisers working with brand-safety firm IntegralAd ScienceSource: Integral Ad ScienceNote: Data for June
DeadShootingMurderGunRapeBombDiedAttackKilledSuicideTrumpCrashCrimeExplosionAccident01,0002505007501,2501,500Bombx621

Big advertisers have been burned several times in recent years when their digital ads appeared next to offensive content, including fabricated news articles, hateful or racist videos on YouTube and pornographic material.

Such miscues happen, in part, because of the complexities of online ad-buying, where brands generally target certain kinds of audiences rather than specific sites or types of content. It has become clear to advertisers that one way to protect themselves is to stipulate the websites or types of web content they want to avoid, and ensure their partners—digital ad brokers and publishers—honor those wishes.

“Political stories are, regardless of party affiliation, not relevant to our brand,” a Fidelity spokesman said in a written statement. The company also avoids several other topics that it says don’t align with published content about business and finance.

Marketers have used blacklists for years to sidestep controversy. Airlines avoided articles dealing with airline crashes, for instance. Now those blacklists are becoming more sophisticated, specific and extensive, ad executives said.

Online news publishers are feeling the impact, from smaller outlets to large players such as CNN.com, USA Today-owner Gannett Co. , the Washington Post and the Journal, according to news and ad executives.

The operations area of Fidelity Investments Center in Albuquerque last December.PHOTO: JIM THOMPSON/ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL/ZUMA PRESS

The ad-blacklisting threatens to hit publications’ revenue and is creating incentives to produce more lifestyle-oriented coverage that is less controversial than hard news. Some news organizations are investing in technologies meant to gauge the way news stories make readers feel in the hopes of persuading advertisers that there are options for ad placement other than blacklisting.

Consumer-products company Colgate-Palmolive Co. , sandwich chain Subway and fast-food giant McDonald’s Corp. are among the many companies blocking digital ad placements in hard news to various degrees, according to people familiar with those companies’ strategies.

Some companies are creating keyword blacklists so detailed as to make almost all political or hard-news stories off-limits for their ads. “It is de facto news blocking,” said Megan Pagliuca, chief data officer at Hearts & Science, an ad-buying firm owned by Omnicom Group Inc.

The use of lengthy keyword lists “is going to force publishers to do lifestyle content and focus on that at the expense of investigative journalism or serious journalism,” said Nick Hewat, commercial director for the Guardian, a U.K. publisher. “That is a long-term consequence of this sort of buying behavior.” The Guardian has had some advertisers block words such as “Brexit,” he said.

Ad RestrictionsThe number of advertisers who worked with DoubleVerify to prevent their adsfrom appearing alongside news or political contentSource: DoubleVerifyNote: Data for second quarter of each year
2016’17’18’190255075100125150175200

During the second quarter of this year, 177 advertisers that worked with ad measurement firm DoubleVerify Inc. blocked their ads from appearing on news or political content online, up 33% from the year-earlier period and more than double the 2017 total, the company said.

Integral Ad Science Inc., a firm that ensures ads run in content deemed safe for advertisers, said that of the 2,637 advertisers running campaigns with it in June, 1,085 brands blocked the word “shooting,” 314 blocked “ISIS” and 207 blocked “Russia.” Almost 560 advertisers blocked “Trump,” while 83 blocked “Obama.”

The average number of keywords the company’s advertisers were blocking in the first quarter was 261. One advertiser blocked 1,553 words, it said.

The polarized political environment in the U.S. has put brands on heightened alert. Marketers are mindful of the backlash they can face on social media when customers feel they advertised in offensive content. One Twitter account, Sleeping Giants, called out hundreds of brands that appeared on the right-wing news site Breitbart News Network following the 2016 presidential election, prompting widespread blacklisting of the site.

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Colgate-Palmolive is blocking online ad placements in news stories, according to people with knowledge of its ad strategy. “In general, our media buying goals are to advertise where people are most likely to be receptive to what we have to say,” a Colgate spokeswoman said in an email. The company said it looks for “opportunities more likely to fit with the brand’s positive, optimistic message.”

Subway said it has blacklisted 70,000 websites, including most hard-news outlets. The company wants to align with “positivity and the moments when our guests will be most likely to consider getting Subway,” said Melissa Sutton, Subway’s director of media services.

Used-car retailer CarMax Inc. blocks online ads it purchases through automated systems from appearing next to news content in categories such as “disasters,” “extreme violence” and “inflammatory politics” to ensure the integrity of its brand, the company said.

McDonald’s currently is blocking hard news from its automated ad purchases in the U.S., according to a person familiar with its ad buying. “The first time your brand is damaged, it’s not easily fixed,” said Bob Rupczynski, senior vice president of marketing technology at McDonald’s, during a recent ad conference in Cannes, France.

Pedestrians walk past a McDonald’s Corp. restaurant in Chicago in July. PHOTO:CHRISTOPHER DILTS/BLOOMBERG NEWS

Hotel company Marriott International Inc. avoids buying digital ads near opinion or commentary news, according to a person familiar with its approach.

Alphabet Inc. ’s Google has a long keyword blacklist that contains more than 500 words and phrases, including “privacy,” “federal investigation,” “antitrust,” “racism,” “FBI,” “taxes,” “anti-Semitic,” “gun control” and “drought,” according to a copy reviewed by the Journal. The list has made it difficult for at least one news publisher to place Google ads on its site, a person familiar with the matter said.

Blacklisting is cutting into the revenue of some online news publishers, even though they sometimes can replace blocked ads with content from other advertisers.

The audiences of many online publishers grew after President Trump launched his campaign—the “Trump bump.” At the same time, “they are losing revenue because some clients are using extensive keyword exclusion lists,” said John Montgomery, executive vice president of global brand safety at GroupM, one of the world’s largest ad-buying firms.

It is a worrisome trend for the news business, a sector already taking a hit as advertising spending shifts to online ad giantsFacebook Inc. and Google. Spending on newspaper print ads in the U.S. has plummeted 32% over the past five years, according to estimates from Zenith, an ad-buying company owned by Publicis Groupe SA .

CNN.com, which is owned by AT&T Inc., said it deals with some advertisers whose blacklists exceed 1,000 words. Among the words advertisers most often wanted to avoid on CNN.com during the first half of the year were “shooting,” “Mueller,” “ Michael Cohen ” and “crash.” The most-blocked term during the time period was “Trump,” which was blocked 636,636 times, CNN said.

Some digital publishers said the push for brand safety amounts to indirect censorship. Vice Media told advertisers at a presentation in May that it will no longer allow brands to block 25 words, including “bisexual,” “gay,” “HIV,” “lesbian,” “Latino,” “Middle Eastern,” “Jewish” and “Islamic.”

“Bias should not be the collateral damage of our much-needed brand-safety efforts,” said Cavel Khan, senior vice president of client partnerships for North America at the Brooklyn-based media company.

Marketers became more aggressive about protecting their brands online after a 2017 article by the Times of London that carried the headline: “Big brands fund terror through online adverts.” The article reported that ads from well-known brands were appearing on YouTube channels promoting hate speech or terrorism.

In the ensuing months, similar ad-placement problems plagued YouTube and other advertising platforms such as Facebook. Advertisers began taking a more cautious approach to digital advertising, enlisting the help of firms specializing in “brand safety,” ad buyers said.

“What turned out to be a reaction to protect a brand from unsafe things that are mostly user generated content,” on sites such as YouTube, ended up hurting media companies focused on producing real journalism, said Christine Cook, senior vice president and chief revenue officer of CNN’s digital operations.

The Colgate-Palmolive Co. New York office in 2018. PHOTO: MICHAEL BROCHSTEIN/LIGHTROCKET/GETTY IMAGES

In automated ad buying, brands aim their ads not at specific websites, but at audiences with certain characteristics—people with certain shopping or web browsing histories, for example. Their ads are matched in real time to available inventory in online ad marketplaces that can come from thousands of websites. That is why brands sometimes are surprised to find their ads on websites they find controversial.

Ad-tech firms specializing in brand safety offer advertisers multiple ways to control their ad placements. Advertisers can block entire categories, such as “politics” or “violence,” using classifications brand-safety firms have set up after crawling the web. They can avoid certain keywords that appear in an article or headline. And they can establish a blacklist of sites to avoid or a white-list of sites they deem safe.

Brand safety has become a big business on Madison Avenue. Some agencies have hired teams of people to monitor digital ad placements, and some marketers have hired brand-safety officers.

Ad-technology firm OpenSlate said so many companies have asked for help avoiding news and political content on YouTube that it developed an algorithm last year to identify channels focusing those areas. Mike Henry, OpenSlate’s chief executive officer, said about one-third of its top 100 clients are currently avoiding news and politics on YouTube.

Some ad-sales executives said the technology used for brand safety is too blunt because it doesn’t take into account the full context of how specific words are used in a news story or video. CNN.com and Gannett are creating technology intended to give advertisers a better way to gauge if a news story is controversial.

CNN.com said it is testing a new product dubbed SAM, for Sentiment Analysis Moderator, that uses machine learning to score its site’s content for whether it will make readers feel “mostly negative,” “somewhat negative,” “neutral,” “somewhat positive” or “mostly positive.”

CNN tested the system by having it score 70,000 pieces of content, then having human editors review the content to see whether the technology worked. The company is testing the system with some advertisers who want to buy ads based on sentiment.

The New York Times and USA Today also have been using sentiment analysis to help brands advertise in news articles that may have a positive or optimistic sentiment.

Allison Murphy, senior vice president for ad innovation at New York Times Co., said the company now offers several different ad-targeting options. “We can satisfy a brand that is fine with politics but doesn’t want to be around President Trump,” she said.

In May, representatives of several companies, including CNN.com, USA Today and the Journal met to discuss how they could work with ad agencies and measurement companies to devise a way to move the sector beyond keyword blacklists, according to people familiar with the meetings.

The “overreliance on long keyword blacklists has a real cost” to both publishers and brands, said Josh Stinchcomb, global chief revenue officer of the Journal and Barron’s, both owned by News Corp . “To that end, we are building proprietary tools that ensure brand safety.”

The Washington Post also is using new technologies that help advertisers gauge the context of stories.

Ms. Cook at CNN.com said news organizations must change advertisers’ perception of news. “One of the things I have been evangelizing is all the dimensions of other content types” the company creates, she said.

Some news publishers, including CNN.com and USA Today, are producing and promoting more ad-friendly lifestyle, technology, business and sports content.

“If a client says to us, ‘We are just really not comfortable with news,’ unlike some of our competitors, we don’t have to say, ‘Let me talk to you about why you should run in news,’ ” said Michael Kuntz, chief operating officer of national sales at USA Today Network, which includes USA Today and more than 100 local news outlets.

Still, he said, “the future of the digital news space is heavily reliant on us continuing to change the perception around why news does not need to be a polarizing category.”

Source: ‘Shooting,’ ‘Bomb,’ ‘Trump’: Advertisers Blacklist News Stories Online – WSJ

If you let commenters go after your reporters, it hurts your credibility with other readers » Nieman Journalism Lab

Newsrooms: When you let your readers attack your reporters in the comments — U R SO BIAS YOU STUPID LIBTARD #FAKENEWS — does it impact your journalists’ credibility in the eyes of other readers? How about your organization’s credibility?

Yep and yep.

But at least it’s not worse for your female journalists than for your male ones — attacks in the comments hurt everybody’s perceived credibility.

That’s the finding of a new paper out this week in Information, Communication & Society by LSU’s Kathleen Searles, Augusta University’s Sophie Spencer, and Louisiana-Monroe’s Adaobi Duru.

There is now a broad base of scholarly evidence (and an even broader base of anecdotal evidence) that women publishing online tend to face more abuse than men — whether they’re reporters, bloggers, or social media users. So the researchers were initially interested in seeing if that disproportionate abuse would lead to a disproportionate impact on female journalists’ perceived credibility — as well as whether that impact would also extend to the news site hosting the content. Emphases mine:

To answer these questions, we employed a survey experiment which manipulated exposure to an abusive comment, and author gender. We found a significant effect for the abusive comment on author credibility and intention to seek news from the author and outlet in the future, but gender of the author did not moderate these effects. To ensure the null effects for gender were not an artifact of comment or topic, we fielded two additional survey experiments. Across topics, whether the abuse was gendered or gender-specific, we found abusive comments exert significant negative effects on evaluations, regardless of author gender. Our results have implications for news organizations considering comments.

So on an individual comment basis, an abusive comment about a female reporter doesn’t hurt her credibility more than an abusive comment about a male reporter does his. (To be sure, the fact that women are more likely to face commenter nastiness means that, on net, abusive comments online likely have a greater total negative impact on women than on men.)

While newsrooms may be heartened to hear that abusive comments are not affecting perceptions of women, these results should still give outlets pause. Across three studies we found that abusive comments penalized journalists. These results suggest that adopting guidelines for flagging abusive comments, much like The New York Times, may help mitigate these penalties.

An aside: I feel it necessary to share the amazing abusive comment Searles et al. used in the first of their studies. They were specifically looking for a comment that would be (a) gender neutral, (b) clearly attacking the author, but (c) not partisan or offensive. They picked this one from a real Washington Post story: “More verbal flatulence from a known prevaricator. Mendacity on a galactic scale. It’s hard to fathom why or how anyone can be sucked into this cesspool of ignorance and self-aggrandizing fantasy.” Confession: I’d be flattered to receive that quality of mean comment, and I’d imagine the man (definitely a man) behind it hitting “Submit” and then retiring to a leather club chair, a snifter of brandy swirling in his hand and Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy on his side table.

The authors note that, while their later studies ramped up the gendered nature of the comments, it’s possible there’d be a differentiated effect for women if they’d gone even farther: “[Perhaps] gendered insults are not sufficient to indicate the violation of social expectations. Threats of physical or sexual violence may have a different effect, and sadly, anecdotal and observational data recount, such abuse is not uncommon. It may also be that the volume of comments is important. While not within the scope of this paper, we encourage follow-up studies to investigate this possibility.”

Source: If you let commenters go after your reporters, it hurts your credibility with other readers » Nieman Journalism Lab

The Odd (and Oddly Sweet) World of Obsessive Pornhub Commenters

Adult actress Natasha Nice is onscreen giving Alex Adams — who is not her step-brother, whatever the video title might promise — an impressively enthusiastic blowjob. Meanwhile, down in the comment section, people are talking about Jesus.

The thread spirals on for another 35 comments. One includes an entire Latin prayer; there are also plenty of joking references to Satan and Jesus both loving porn.

I didn’t stumble upon this video or thread by accident — I swear. I wasn’t even scrolling through the hilarious posts on r/pornhubcomments. Nice herself sent me the opening exchange, calling it her favorite Pornhub comment.

Like most professional adult performers, Nice would prefer you watched her scenes on paid sites and leave comments there. Nor does she make a habit of reading the world’s biggest porn-streaming site for the text. But when I inquired, she examined the reactions to her Pornhub videos and came back with the best analysis of the commenting community I’ve read so far: “Looking at my scenes on Pornhub, the comments are very different. Most of the time, they’re not even about me! They usually are at the start of threads but then someone cracks a witty remark and they just go from there. They feel sassy and sarcastic. I appreciate the comedy — as long as they’re being nice about me — but I’m sure some of that sass could do damage. Still, it’s a very free platform to speak openly!”

Despite the reputation of many other free, open platforms, Pornhub comments are known to be creative, funny and surprising — not what you’d expect from people visiting a site to help them reach orgasm. (Many of the best entries are documented on r/pornhubcomments.) For example:

  • There’s a guy in Norway who comments as Shrek: “Wow this is good! But you know what’s better? Shrek 5 coming 2019!”
  • You can get valuable safety advice from the punningly named 9inchmales: “That smoke detector is low battery (listen at 12.15). I fuck with MILFs but I don’t fuck with fire safety.”
  • And you can always be reassured that other people are distracted by the home decor on amateur porn sets, too. Take comments like this one from ChippyChippah: “Is it odd that right after I came, I thought, ‘I’d really like to install a similar built-in bookshelf/desk in my home’?”

So who are Pornhub’s top voices? Why do they do this? And how many are there?

A Pornhub rep tells me that more than 500,000 individual users have left comments on videos, with a total of 3 million comments left in the last six months alone. In that same time period, people have commented on 850,000 different videos. And yet, despite the constant flow of new content, the most commented-upon video of all time is still Kim Kardashian’s sex tape, seven years after it was first uploaded.

Sadly, though, YoFokinMummer, the Jesus-loving commenter who received Natasha Nice’s seal of approval, didn’t hang around on the site for very long. The self-identified Brown Mills, New Jersey, resident watched five videos, left a scattering of comments and then disappeared. Their profile shows they joined the site and last logged in three months ago. That’s fairly normal behavior: The average registered Pornhub user who has left feedback on videos creates 3.5 comments.

Still, there are many other prolific voices who seem to be having a blast as the town criers of streaming porn. I reached out to them to find out what life is like in the community. I also talked to the actors they patronize to find out what they think of all this.

The Couples Fucking Onscreen Are Also Lurking in the Comments

In one amateur video with amazing comments, a couple has sex on a couch. No one’s face is visible — except the one on the wall above them: a painting of Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in The Shining. Naturally, the comment section came alive with Shining talk. Even the performers got in on it. As it turns out, one of them painted the art.

Not only are the couple behind Egg2025 amateur performers, they’re also among Pornhub’s most active commenters. Five months after creating their profile, they’ve posted 25 videos of their sex sessions, racking up a total of 21,353,685 views.

What’s it like to be both performer and viewer? It’s just more real. “My favorite comments are whenever people talk about how they can see how much me and my boyfriend love each other and why they like amateur porn,” the female half of Egg2025 explains. “It’s real couples having sex, not some porn star in a studio with like six crew members around and a director telling them what to do.”

It’s obvious why Egg2025’s videos appeal to people seeking amateurs — their clips are short, simple and passionate — but surely, I thought, comments on your sexual performance must be nerve-racking, especially when you’re not a pro.

Actually, it’s quite nice! “When we started uploading videos on Pornhub, I was scared that people were going to call me fat, ugly or something else along those lines, but it was almost the opposite,” Lady Egg explains. “Most comments are surprisingly pleasant. There are occasional weirdos — and you do get haters every so often — but they’re few and far between. And they mostly get lost in all the appreciation and humorous random facts.”

As a commenter, Egg2025 compliments others and leaves gracious thanks for nice notes about her scenes. “We comment because we’re responding to what people have to say about the content we make,” Lady Egg says. “It just makes me happy that people enjoy our videos more than anything else.”

‘The Pornhub Community Has a Lot of Straight-Up Comedians’

NoFaceGirl, another performer and commenter, has a simple explanation for what inspires her to post on other people’s videos. “I comment on the ones that I really enjoy, whether it’s a good fap or just because I can feel the passion in the video. It also helps if it’s filmed incredibly well. I like to give kudos when it’s deserved; it makes me feel more involved in the community.”

NoFaceGirl also enjoys reading the comments on her own videos. And just like the Egg2025 couple, she thinks Pornhub comment sections are pretty friendly places. “I love them,” she says. “Most of the time, the Pornhub community is incredibly nice. Yes, there are some weird apples, but overall, it’s fun to read supportive comments. It can also help you find what you’re looking for in a video, but the best ones of all are the funny ones. The Pornhub community has a lot of straight-up comedians.”

Case in point: In one NoFaceGirl sex video, we see everything but her face; what we see of his is buried in her ass. It’s well shot, energetic and getting a good response from the Pornhub commentariat. One exchange in particular made me laugh: “Nice ads!” Redtunder45 wrote, meaning “ass.” “Also btw, very good job diddling on the grundle.” “Call me the grundle diddler,” NoFaceGirl responded.

‘Any Comment I Read on There Comes Across as a Slap in the Face’

What does Pornhub think of all this? They sent over the kind of bland corporate statement you’d expect from any conglomerate, regardless of its type of business: “Our comments section has proven to be invaluable in that it provides a popular channel for users to interact with each other, as well as video creators. In fact, not only do they interact there, they’ve also been known to share ingenious life hacks as well.”

For a more colorful assessment, I turn to two of those video creators. Though 28 of her scenes have been uploaded to the site, Ashley Sinclair doesn’t care what people have to say about her there: “A lot of Pornhub’s content is stolen from those who pay to have content produced as a source of income. Any comment I read on there comes across as a slap in the face to me. If someone says, ‘You’re the hottest performer I’ve ever seen,’ many people would take that as a compliment. My first thought is, ‘If I’m the hottest performer you’ve ever seen, why are you stealing my porn?’”

Natasha Nice has a more lighthearted view: “You don’t go to the comments section of a scene on Pornhub looking for the most profound philosophical discussion on the evolution of pornography or even the state of human sexual exploration. It feels like a space for people to be goofballs — sometimes stupid goofballs, sometimes rude goofballs and sometimes just silly ones.”

In fact, a comment on one of her latest scenes there fits into all three categories at once:

What a charmer.

Source: The Odd (and Oddly Sweet) World of Obsessive Pornhub Commenters

The Complexity of Simply Searching For Medical Advice | WIRED

In the first few hours of a newborn’s life, doctors administer a vitamin K shot. This is because infants are born without enough of the vitamin, and the baby needs a boost to prevent any potential bleeding.

This is a routine practice—ask your pediatrician, your obstetrician, or the CDC. “Babies are born with very low stores of vitamin K, and without the Vitamin K shot … they do not have enough Vitamin K in their blood to form a clot,” the CDC says on its website.

But new parents who turn to search engines to understand the practice will find an aberrant—and dangerous—strain of thinking. Google “vitamin K shot” and the first result advises “Skip that Newborn Vitamin K Shot.” It isn’t until below the fold—the fourth result—that the CDC website appears.

Renee DiResta (@noUpside) is an Ideas contributor for WIRED, the director of research at New Knowledge, and a Mozilla fellow on media, misinformation and trust. She is affiliated with the Berkman-Klein Center at Harvard and the Data Science Institute at Columbia University.

This is an example of a keyword void, or search void: a situation where searching for answers about a keyword returns content produced by a niche group with a particular agenda. It isn’t just Google results. The most shared articles about vitamin K on Facebook are anti-vax, and the CrowdTangle analytics platform shows those articles are reaching an audience of millions. YouTube results are no better; several of the top 10 results feature notable immunology expert Alex Jones.

There’s an asymmetry of passion at work. Which is to say, there’s very little counter-content to surface because it simply doesn’t occur to regular people (or, in this case, actual medical experts) that there’s a need to produce counter-content. Instead, engaging blogs by real moms with adorable children living authentic natural lives rise to the top, stating that doctors are bought by pharma, or simply misinformed, and that the shot is risky and unnecessary. The persuasive writing sounds reasonable, worthy of a second look. And since so much of the information on the first few pages of search results repeats these claims, the message looks like it represents a widely-held point of view. But it doesn’t. It’s wrong, it’s dangerous, and it’s potentially deadly.

Since so much of the information on the first few pages of search
results repeats these claims, the message looks like a widely-held
point of view.

Search isn’t the whole story, of course. Social reinforcement from trusted friends is critically important, particularly when trust in authorities is in crisis. The vitamin K question pops up frequently on pregnancy forums and in mommy groups, particularly in the groups that focus on what’s come to be called “natural parenting”. These communities opt out of vaccines at a higher rate, and a number are now also skipping the vitamin K shot: two studies have found refusal rates are higher at birthing centers than hospitals.

Natural parenting groups are very common on Facebook—a quick search turns up dozens with just the keyword “natural.” These groups boast tens of thousands of members, organized regionally and sometimes by an additional interest. Most of the discussions in these communities revolve around routine parenting questions, the kind that can incite small flame wars but are ultimately just a matter of preference. However, the recommendation engine knows that there’s a link between “natural” parenting and the antivax movement: join a natural parenting group and you’ll see suggestions for homemade baby food, backyard chicken-raising, organic homemaking—and dozens of anti-vaccine groups.

The anti-vaccine group that the recommendation engine most frequently pushes to me personally has 130,000 members. It recently ran a GoFundMe that raised $10,000 for a paid Facebook ad campaign to target new parents with stories of SIDS deaths that they are claiming were caused by vaccines: “Vaccines Kill Babies Campaign—Parents Must Know Vaccination Is NOT Safe.” According to the group’s blog, the ad campaign is currently live, with ads targeting men and women with the interest “Pregnancy and Parenting.” And one of the posts they’re paying to boost with the GoFundMe money specifically claims that vitamin K can kill newborns: “If you are on the fence about vaccination, read this story, do more research, and join our Facebook group to talk with other parents. Your child’s life depends on it.” The top comment is from a new mother, who’s tagged her friend: “Bit worried after going on this site what do u think.” The friend reassures her, but members of the group join the comment thread, pushing her to join their community to “learn the truth.”

The tactic of paying to push manipulative narratives isn’t new, nor is it unique to anti-vaxxers. Last year, The New York Times wrote about climate-denier groups that have purchased Google’s AdWords to surface sites propagating claims that global warming is a hoax. I’ve written about recommendation engines that push radical news and information to people on YouTube and Facebook. This has led to entire organizations, like Snopes and FactCheck.org, devoting more resources to combating misinformation. But it’s hard to make corrections go viral.

As we increasingly rely on search and on social to answer questions that have a profound impact on both individuals and society, especially where health is concerned, this difficulty in discerning, and surfacing, sound science from pseudo-science has alarming consequences. Will we have to fight the battle of keyword voids at a grassroots level, wrangling with the asymmetry of passion by tapping people to find these voids and create counter-content? Do we need to organize counter-GoFundMe campaigns to pay for ad campaigns that promote real science? Or will the tech platforms where this is occuring begin to understand that giving legitimacy to health misinformation via high search and social rankings is profoundly harmful? Getting high-quality, fact-based health information shouldn’t be dependent on the outcome of SEO games, or on who has more resources for pay-to-play content promotion.

Ultimately, the question is, how do we incorporate factual accuracy into rankings when no one is willing to be the “arbiter of truth.” Unfortunately, the answer is not easily Googled.


More Great WIRED Stories

Source: The Complexity of Simply Searching For Medical Advice | WIRED

The Outline Raises $5.15 Million to Fuel Measured Growth – WSJ

Joshua Topolsky, the chief executive of the Outline, doesn’t want his digital-media company to get too big too fast.

The startup has closed a $5.15 million fundraising round, the company’s second, Mr. Topolsky said. The new financing values the Outline at $21.15 million, he said, up from the company’s $11 million valuation from the last round.

The latest round is relatively small compared with other recent raises in the digital-media sector, including Axios, which raised $20 million in November; theSkimm, which raised $12 million in March; and the Athletic, which raised $20 million in March.

That is by design, Mr. Topolsky said. The company, which was launched in December 2016, deliberately raised a small round to avoid setting unreasonable expectations that are out-of-step with his vision for measured growth, he said.

Some of the biggest players in the digital-media industry have struggled to meet investor expectations for significant revenue growth year after year, particularly as competition has increased for a growing pie of digital advertising sales. BuzzFeed, valued at $1.7 billion in 2016, and Vice Media, valued at $5.7 billion, both missed their revenue targets in 2017. Meanwhile, Mashable sold for $50 million, a fraction of its earlier valuation.

“You see the industry; you see what’s happening,” Mr. Topolsky said. “We did not want to be another casualty in the world of media brands that have been overvalued and over-invested in.”

The Outline’s latest round was led by RRE Ventures, a New York-based early- and mid-stage venture-capital firm, Mr. Topolsky said. Other backers included Red Sea Ventures,

Tegna
Inc.,

Advancit Capital and NextView Ventures.

“One of the reasons why we didn’t raise $25 million, or get as much money as possible, is we really want to create a sane business that’s scalable,” Mr. Topolsky said.

Mr. Topolsky said he told investors he was seeking to raise between $5 million and $8 million for this round. He said he also realized that an uptick in advertising revenue meant the company needed less outside investment.

The company, which drew 3 million unique visitors in April, according to its internal metrics, thinks the site will eventually reach an audience of between 10 and 20 million users, Mr. Topolsky said. So far, much of The Outline’s readership has proven to have higher-than-average education and wealth, he said.

The Outline plans to use the financing to hire more ad sales representatives, developers and editorial staffers, Mr. Topolsky said. The company, which has 30 employees, plans to add six to 10 people by the end of the year. It recently hired Evan Gotlib, previously senior vice president of sales at LittleThings, to be its chief revenue officer.

Mr. Topolsky said the company eventually plans to introduce sister brands to The Outline that will each have their own destinations, with the first one slated to launch sometime in 2019. The ultimate goal is to create a portfolio of prestige digital brands in the mode of Condé Nast’s print magazines, he said.

In recent months, the company has been focused on building out its ad sales staff to keep up with inbound advertiser interest, said Elias Rothblatt, the company’s chief operating officer. The company said it has signed deals with

Samsung Electronics
Co.

, Belvedere,

Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Co.

and

General Electric

Co., he said.

The company is focused on cutting high-value direct deals with advertisers, and it has an average deal size of $120,000, Mr. Topolsky said. The Outline’s pitch to advertisers is focused on the quality of its audience, not its size, and sales representatives are touting higher-than-average advertising engagement metrics.

Source: The Outline Raises $5.15 Million to Fuel Measured Growth – WSJ

Don’t Put Your Keys Between Your Fingers for Self-Defense

Photo courtesy of Aimee Lutkin

Even if they haven’t gone so far as to get formal self-defense training, many people (particularly women) have considered what strategies they’d deploy if they were attacked by a stranger. A popular thought is that one would use an object on your person as a weapon of defense—like keys, for instance.

The technique known as “The Wolverine”—wherein you put your keys between your fingers, ready to jab an assailant—is widely known, but according to self-defense instructors, it’s also not a great approach. The belief that putting your keys between your fingers will make your hand into a deadlier weapon is so common a misconception, in fact, that every self-defense expert we spoke with said that they had at some point dispelled the myth for a student. But as Gabrielle Rubin, founder of self defense course Female Awareness, tells us, even if you’re starting out with less-than-ideal strategies in mind, “I love that you’re thinking of something.” Here’s some more effective ideas to keep you safe—and yes, some of them still involve your keys:

Put Your Keys On Something to Give You Reach

The problem with the keys-in-hand gambit, Rubin points out, is that if you’re at the point where you’re trying to jab at someone with your fist, they’re already closer than you want. She suggested putting your keys on something called a kubaton, which is a kind of keychain based on a small bamboo weapon that can be used to hit your assailant (and also keep track of your keys). It’s both a weapon if they get near you, and a handle you can hang onto while beating them with the weight of the keys themselves.

“I put it on a carabiner,” says Rubin, “So if I was to hold them and swing them on the carabiner, I could swing them like a nunchuck.”

Another option would be attaching your keys to a lanyard or chain, for optimal swinging, though this is assuming you’re rivaling a janitor with your key collection.

Hold the Keys In a Way That Won’t Hurt You

Putting your keys between your fingers may be reminiscent of a wild animal or your favorite Marvel action hero, but the potential for damage to your own hand is high. Matan Gavish, founder of Krav Maga Academy, tells us that holding your keys this way will likely cause more problems for you than your assailant.

“First, the metal jagged area of the key can easily cause damage to the skin between the fingers when being used violently,” he wrote. “Sharp pain like that can lead to opening of the fingers which will immediately reduce the effectiveness of any strike.”

The base of the key hitting the inside of your hand after impact would also be painful, he added, all of which means you might drops your keys, leaving them vulnerable to a bad guy scooping them up. (And you’d be locked out of the house.) However, Gavish does note that if you have to throw a big ring of keys in someone’s face to get away, that’s an option.

He also suggests that if you must use your keys to fight, try “closing a fist around it with the sharp edge coming out the bottom or pinky side.”

To Jab or To Pound

When it comes to using your keys, consider how you would want to use them. Rubin boiled the available techniques down to two factors: “hit bone, poke flesh.” If you’re holding your keys like Gavish suggested above, you’re poking. Go for the eyes, throat, solar plexus and groin. If you’re holding them as more of a club, you want to hit them in places with a lot of bones. Striking someone in the hand is always far more painful than the forearm, for example, which is generally protected by fleshy muscles.

Chris Moran from JKD NYC also shared some photos for an effective strike, and though he didn’t have quite as harsh a critique of the Wolverine, he did say that the technique limits a person “to striking in punching mechanics.” He suggested two ways to hold your keys depending on many you have, and then coming down on an assailant like you’re “drawing a ‘X’ with your hand for attacking.”

(L) Small key collection, (R) Big key collection/Images via Chris Moran.

The overall message is that keys can be used as a weapon in a confrontation, but some tactics are much more effective than others, and the most widely-publicized method may actually be counterproductive for your safety.

The simple idea of “I’ll use my keys!” is tied to what Rubin calls the “illusion of safety”; lots of people are afraid to carry more serious self-defense devices, because they fear they’ll be turned against them. Also, most of us would rather just not think about the upsetting prospect of being attacks. But if someone is close enough to poke with your keys, you’re probably better off pulling their hair, scratching with your fingernails, and going for their eyes. Also, she points out that scratching someone “gets their DNA.”

Hmm, wonder why no one wants to think about all this.

Source: Don’t Put Your Keys Between Your Fingers for Self-Defense

Images of a tiny community capture Texas’ rural past  | Daily Mail Online

No one knows how Weeping Mary, Texas, got its name. Local folklore has it that there was a freedwoman named Mary who lived there and didn’t want to sell her land to a wealthy white man. So, the man in question persuaded a black man to purchase the land for him instead. Mary was tricked into selling her land and became so distraught that she wept and wept. She became known as Weeping Mary and the community later adopted the name sometime after 1866.

The mystery surrounding Weeping Mary’s name has inspired a play and movie called The Judgment of Weeping Mary, the children’s book Simmering Secrets of Weeping Mary and photographer O Rufus Lovett, who first heard of the unincorporated town in rural east Texas in the spring of 1994.

For eight years, Lovett would chronicle the community, which was established as a ‘freedom colony’ with land from nearby plantations given to former slaves shortly after the Civil War.

Today, Weeping Mary has 85 residents, a few of whom remember the days prior to 1968 when the community didn’t have electricity or running water. They’ve felt the brush of urbanization’s hand through indoor plumbing, central air and heat and the widening of lanes into streets. But the community remains closely tied to its history.

Weeping Mary, an unincorporated town in east Texas, was founded as a 'freedom colony' with land given to former slaves

Weeping Mary, an unincorporated town in east Texas, was founded as a 'freedom colony' with land given to former slaves

Weeping Mary, an unincorporated town in east Texas, was founded as a ‘freedom colony’ with land given to former slaves

For now, at least, local folklore remains with the older folks in Weeping Mary, designated a historic state landmark in 2008

For now, at least, local folklore remains with the older folks in Weeping Mary, designated a historic state landmark in 2008

For now, at least, local folklore remains with the older folks in Weeping Mary, designated a historic state landmark in 2008

Toward the end of the war in 1865 Texas had about 250,000 slaves in the state, said Brett J Derbes, managing editor of the Handbook of Texas. Southern slave holders moved there and brought their slave property with them because they thought it might be a safer territory, he added.

After the war, communities founded by freed slaves became fairly common in the state. Legend has it that there was an agreement made between the area’s freed slaves that they would not sell their land to white purchasers – but that ultimately did happen and the details have been lost to history.

Lovett, a Longview, Texas, resident who is a long-time photography instructor at Kilgore College, has heard slightly different versions of the story over the years, and has read that perhaps the community was named for Mary Magdalene’s weeping at the tomb of Jesus or after a previous Catholic church called Our Lady of Sorrows.

When Lovett started taking photos in Weeping Mary, getting anyone to share the origin story was difficult because some of the residents seemed suspicious of him, he said. But over a period of time the community’s elders told Lovett their ‘porch lore’ and invited him back for barbecues, family reunions and services at the nearby Weeping Mary Baptist Church.

‘I think it was just a matter of my asking and telling the stories,’ said Lovett in a syrupy Southern accent. ‘They’re probably a little sensitive about that. You know, it’s been kind of that folklore that’s been handed down from one generation to the next.

‘And during that time I was an outsider, even though we became pretty good friends, but here’s this white guy asking questions about what some consider a sensitive past and so they were a little leery about telling me the story probably because it did deal with some racial issues.’

For now, at least, that lore remains with the older folks in Weeping Mary, designated a historic state landmark in 2008. The moments when the community’s elders sat on their porches and told their stories is captured in Lovett’s photographs.

The few remaining buildings scattered throughout Weeping Mary have fallen from their former glory and survive in memories conjured up by older residents

The few remaining buildings scattered throughout Weeping Mary have fallen from their former glory and survive in memories conjured up by older residents

The few remaining buildings scattered throughout Weeping Mary have fallen from their former glory and survive in memories conjured up by older residents

No one knows how Weeping Mary got its name, but local folklore has it that Mary was tricked into selling her land to a wealthy white man and became so distraught over this she wept

No one knows how Weeping Mary got its name, but local folklore has it that Mary was tricked into selling her land to a wealthy white man and became so distraught over this she wept

No one knows how Weeping Mary got its name, but local folklore has it that Mary was tricked into selling her land to a wealthy white man and became so distraught over this she wept

As the years went by, Lovett said this tradition was slowly being replaced with cell phones, computers and video games. Though the history of the community can now be found online, it is disconnected from the oral storytelling that brings it alive.

JL Skinner, a deacon at Weeping Mary Baptist Church, has lived his entire life in the hamlet surrounded by the ghosts of his childhood. This patch of earth is where his life began, where his ‘Grandma Sugar’ delivered him on the floor of his family home. There are the river birch trees he and his friends would use to carve wagons and other toys.

‘A lot of stuff we played with we tried to make,’ said 64-year-old Skinner. ‘We’d jump rope Hoppiescotch and shoot washers.’

But there are no longer enough children for these activities to continue and people’s tastes have changed, Skinner said. His own children no longer live in Weeping Mary, though four aunts and an uncle remain. Over time, a lion’s share of the original houses in Weeping Mary have been demolished and not replaced.

‘If somebody gonna get a house built we all help. It ain’t like that now. All the older peoples have died and the younger peoples with different attitudes,’ Skinner said.

For a time, life in Weeping Mary was simple but tough, Skinner remembered. They ‘were just low-country’ folk that embodied the aphorism it takes a village to raise a child. His grandmother, the community’s midwife, would delegate chores to him, such as picking berries, drawing water from the well and chopping wood. The callouses on his hands are all that remain of this time. The well is gone, his childhood friends are gone and wanderlust has never gotten to him.

‘It’s just a comfortable place,’ said Skinner. ‘Before I got out of school I got married and settled down until ’85, then I bought the old McDonald place, where I live now. I ain’t goin’ nowhere; I’m still alive.’

The few remaining buildings scattered throughout Weeping Mary have fallen from their former glory and survive in memories conjured up by older residents. There’s the Weeping Mary Baptist Church – what is believed to be the first establishment built in the community sometime before 1896. The church also once served as the local public school, which was common in post-Civil War freedom colonies.

Residents who attended the one-room school at Weeping Mary Baptist Church in the 1930s and early 1940s recalled how difficult the teachers were and ‘the terrible cold walk to school’ since they did not have buses, according to the Dallas Morning-News. Instead, the teacher would walk from house-to-house to gather their 40 students and they would walk to school together.

The moments when the community's elders sat on their porches and told their stories is captured in Lovett’s photographs 

The moments when the community's elders sat on their porches and told their stories is captured in Lovett’s photographs 

The moments when the community’s elders sat on their porches and told their stories is captured in Lovett’s photographs

As the years went by, Lovett said the community's oral storytelling tradition was slowly being replaced with technology

As the years went by, Lovett said the community's oral storytelling tradition was slowly being replaced with technology

As the years went by, Lovett said the community’s oral storytelling tradition was slowly being replaced with technology

The school portion of the church closed in the early 1940s when Booker T Washington School was built in Alto, Texas – the largest town nearby with a population of 1,208 – and all of the children of Weeping Mary and other communities in Cherokee County were bussed there and still are.

The one-story church with a small steeple, however, remains operational and honors the namesake of Weeping Mary. A handmade banner hangs over the pulpit that reads: ‘The Lord has brought us from a mighty long way’ as a reminder of the community’s legacy of slavery. Near the church in Alto is St Thomas Chapel Cemetery, which has unmarked graves of slaves and former slaves.

After the Civil War slaves gained their US citizenship and many of them shifted into sharecropping. They worked land they didn’t own and were paid fairly low wages. One Weeping Mary resident recalled being paid either five or 10 cents an hour and no more than 50 cents per day for their work in the cotton fields, according to the Dallas Morning-News. Despite that ‘terrible atrocity’, some of these families were able to raise enough money to buy small plots of land over time, Derbes said.

As with most communities founded by freedpersons, the majority of Weeping Mary residents were farmers. Many worked on neighboring farms and others later worked at the nearby Indian Mound Nursery, operated by the Texas Forest Service. It remained a largely agricultural community up until recently.

Lovett’s photos of the community are perhaps the most definitive work of his career. They are compiled in a 2006 book by the University of Texas Press

Lovett’s photos of the community are perhaps the most definitive work of his career. They are compiled in a 2006 book by the University of Texas Press

Lovett’s photos of the community are perhaps the most definitive work of his career. They are compiled in a 2006 book by the University of Texas Press

Lovett's interpretations encapsulate lost moments of this community hidden behind the east Texas Pine Curtain

Lovett's interpretations encapsulate lost moments of this community hidden behind the east Texas Pine Curtain

Lovett’s interpretations encapsulate lost moments of this community hidden behind the east Texas Pine Curtain

The area was once predominated by miles of sugarcane, cotton and peanut fields. Today, cattle raising and logging continues, as more than half of Cherokee County is forested. Outside of these industries, some residents spend their time reading and discussing the Bible on their porches and attending services at Weeping Mary Baptist Church.

‘It’s a deeply religious community. It’s a tightly-knit community where the people still gather for sporting events and community events,’ said Derbes, who has not been to Weeping Mary.

‘They still know their neighbors, which is more than I think you can say for a lot of communities in Texas where people live tightly compacted but don’t even know each other. So, I get the feeling that this is a fine example of a small east Texas town.’

Lovett’s photos of the community are perhaps the most definitive work of his career. They are compiled in a 2006 book by the University of Texas Press. His interpretations encapsulate lost moments of this community hidden behind the east Texas Pine Curtain. His photos lie in boxes, hang on walls in his home gallery and are scattered in collections throughout the country. Much like some of the prints, Lovett’s memories of his last visit to Weeping Memory have faded but remain present in his life.

Some of the children Lovett photographed went on to graduate from college, work for the highway department or raise children of their own

Some of the children Lovett photographed went on to graduate from college, work for the highway department or raise children of their own

Some of the children Lovett photographed went on to graduate from college, work for the highway department or raise children of their own

It’s been 23 years since Lovett became attached to Weeping Mary, and he still finds himself reflecting on his time there

It’s been 23 years since Lovett became attached to Weeping Mary, and he still finds himself reflecting on his time there

It’s been 23 years since Lovett became attached to Weeping Mary, and he still finds himself reflecting on his time there

It was difficult at times for residents to understand the beauty an outsider like Lovett might see within Weeping Mary, he said

It was difficult at times for residents to understand the beauty an outsider like Lovett might see within Weeping Mary, he said

It was difficult at times for residents to understand the beauty an outsider like Lovett might see within Weeping Mary, he said

The 65 year old said he has heard that some of the children he photographed went on to graduate from college, work for the highway department or raise children of their own. Other people he knew there have died. Homes have been destroyed and built. It’s been 23 years since Lovett became attached to this community, and he still finds himself reflecting on his time there.

It was difficult at times for residents to understand the beauty an outsider like Lovett might see within Weeping Mary, he said.

‘There’s not a lot of opportunities to work there in Weeping Mary, so they work in Alto and Rusk and Nacogdoches, some of them as far as Lufkin or Crockett, there’s people that even drive up to Dallas in various jobs,’ Derbes said.

The pot-holed streets in Weeping Mary have no curbs or gutters. There are no schools, cemeteries or businesses. A makeshift all-purpose repair shop called the Oil Pit closed about two years ago when its owner, Cherry Jenkins, died, said Skinner, who used to work with him as a part-time mechanic and lived in a mobile home across from him.

A lack of jobs may be the reason why Weeping Mary only has 85 people, many of whom are descendants of the community’s founders. Lovett remembered introducing himself to Jenkins to see if he wouldn’t mind introducing him to residents because he wanted to photograph them.

There are no schools or cemeteries in Weeping Mary. Except for the Oil Pit, a repair shop, the hamlet has no businesses 

There are no schools or cemeteries in Weeping Mary. Except for the Oil Pit, a repair shop, the hamlet has no businesses 

There are no schools or cemeteries in Weeping Mary. Except for the Oil Pit, a repair shop, the hamlet has no businesses

A lack of jobs may be the reason why Weeping Mary only has 85 people, many of whom are descendants of the community’s founders

A lack of jobs may be the reason why Weeping Mary only has 85 people, many of whom are descendants of the community’s founders

A lack of jobs may be the reason why Weeping Mary only has 85 people, many of whom are descendants of the community’s founders

The residents have had mixed reactions to press about Weeping Mary because of the community’s history of slavery

The residents have had mixed reactions to press about Weeping Mary because of the community’s history of slavery

The residents have had mixed reactions to press about Weeping Mary because of the community’s history of slavery

One of the boys featured in Lovett's photo series expressed to Lovett his disinterest in the photo of him jumping into a backyard pool in his underpants because he was teased in school

One of the boys featured in Lovett's photo series expressed to Lovett his disinterest in the photo of him jumping into a backyard pool in his underpants because he was teased in school

One of the boys featured in Lovett’s photo series expressed to Lovett his disinterest in the photo of him jumping into a backyard pool in his underpants because he was teased in school

Lovett made a few visits to Weeping Mary before he started taking photos. With his camera on the front seat, Lovett would drive the 95-miles down Texas Highway 21 to Weeping Mary, a cluster of homes reached by an iron bridge that spans a creek shaded by tall oaks.

‘I wasn’t going to invade them with cameras without getting to know them first,’ said Lovett. ‘The Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel was interested in some of the early photographs and we did a piece called “The Children of Weeping Mary”, kind of a picture page to begin with and then later we did “Christmas in Weeping Mary”, and so I did have a reason for being there, an excuse if you will.’

When ‘The Children of Weeping Mary’ was published in 1995 in The Daily Sentinel, the teacher of one of the boys featured in the series showed the article to the class. There was a photo of him jumping into a backyard pool in his underpants. The teasing he endured at school stayed with him as he grew older and he expressed to Lovett his disinterest in the photo.

‘Those guys are grown men now and I’ve seen them since and I think they’re okay with it because they became football players and they could have definitely done me some harm if they wanted to. They’re nice guys,’ he said.

The residents have had mixed reactions to press about Weeping Mary because of the community’s history of slavery, Lovett said. Two sisters who were born into slavery, Nancy Ross Lockhart and Emily Ross Skinner, purchased the land on which Weeping Mary was developed, according to Texas Escapes. They later sold home sites to the families who live there now.

‘They’re kind of sensitive about people’s reactions and their past and that sort of thing since they’re descendants of former slaves, perhaps,’ he said. ‘They don’t want to just be considered lower-class individuals, which they’re not; they’re just regular working folks.’

Photographer O Rufus Lovett photographed the residents of Weeping Mary from 1994-2002 for various publications

Photographer O Rufus Lovett photographed the residents of Weeping Mary from 1994-2002 for various publications

Photographer O Rufus Lovett photographed the residents of Weeping Mary from 1994-2002 for various publications

 

Source: Images of a tiny community capture Texas’ rural past  | Daily Mail Online

There’s More Than One Way to Dress for Disney – Racked

On a recent trip to Disneyland, this intrepid reporter spots:

  • A 30ish couple wearing faded Buzz Lightyear and Woody hoodies, the man’s personalized with “Derrick’s Little” in futuristic font and the woman’s with “Christine’s Big” in ropey script;
  • A family of five in matching black-and-gold shirts, mom and daughter in Minnie and dad and sons in Mickey;
  • And I could swear that the guy in his 20s on the single-rider line for Splash Mountain looks a lot like Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid, thanks to a red belt, blue jeans, white v-neck, and very fluffy hair.

That list barely scratches the surface of Disneyfied outfits spied on folks eating bread bowls and collecting FastPasses throughout the day, nor does it account for this intrepid reporter’s all-sequin Minnie Mouse ears and Minnie Mouse T-shirt.

 

Photo: Cory Disbrow/Getty Images

 

A day at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, or any of the Disney theme parks overseas — “Disneying,” à la John Jeremiah Sullivan — seems to mandate dressing faithfully on-theme for the experience. What is it about Disney that prompts otherwise discerning adults to throw conservative fashion choices to the wind and dedicate their park-going wardrobe to princesses, pirates, and pixie dust, et al?


We’ve heard it before: It all started with a mouse. In terms of Disney apparel, it all started with mouse ears.

They first appeared on the original Disneyland TV series on July 17th, 1955, says Chris Strodder, a Disneyland historian and author of The Disneyland Encyclopedia: The Unofficial, Unauthorized, and Unprecedented History of Every Land, Attraction, Restaurant, Shop, and Major Event in the Original Magic Kingdom. The live broadcast aired on Disneyland’s opening day, introducing the park, the fresh-faced Mouseketeers, and the now-iconic headpieces, designed by adult cast member Roy “Big Roy” Williams. Over 84 million ears have sold at the park since.

“One of the motivations Walt Disney had for wanting to build Disneyland was to promote the other things he had already done and would soon be doing,” says Strodder. “Themed apparel worked the same way: It was introduced into the park to promote some aspect of the Disney business.”

Strodder tells Racked that these so-called “ear hats” — black felt caps held upright by elastic chin straps, somewhat resembling Spanish bullfighting monteras — were first sold parkside in 1958, produced by the novelty company that invented the pinwheel beanie and embroidered with honorary Mousketeers’ names on site. Disneyland soon sold Peter Pan hats and Davy Crockett caps, plus a “Chief Engineer Disneyland RR Outfit,” but those were it as far as neat Disney duds went in the early years. “What’s remarkable about photos from the 1950s and 1960s is how well-dressed everyone is,” says Strodder. “Dads often wear sports jackets, and sometimes even neckties; moms are in fun, fashionable dresses and low heels; and kids are in smart-looking play clothes.”

Oh, how far we’ve come! Those dark days of minimal Disney magic are long behind us, because now you’d be hard-pressed to find many that pony up $95 ($105 on weekends and $119 during peak) without donning Disney for the day.

There are two big trends at Disney — “Main Street fashion,” you could say: park-inspired clothes and character-inspired outfits.

Stacey Brantley’s online T-shirt shop Pixie Duds focuses on the former. “‘Parkwear’ is usually what I refer to it as,” says the 30-year-old small business owner and mom. “Stuff you can wear to the park. If you wear it anywhere else people would be like, ‘What is that?’”

To her point, park newbies may not know that her tank top depicting pale yellow soft serve alongside text reading “Now Watch Me Whip” translates to “Now watch me eat this Dole Whip, delicacy of Adventureland, available for purchase outside the Tiki Room.” Brantley is hesitant to call her designs inside jokes, but they do speak the secret language shared by Disney lovers the world over. If you’re a Disney fan, you’ll get her tees. If you’re not, you won’t.

Brantley’s is one of a veritable vault of unofficial Disney shops — companies that independently design and manufacture Disney-ish apparel meant for the park, most of which sell on Instagram, Shopify, and/or Etsy and temporarily shut down when product runs out. And golly (as Mickey might say), are they ever popular. There’s “C Ya Real Soon” crewnecks from Happily Ever Tees (50.8K followers), mouseified Storm Troopers at Glitter Ever After (57K followers), and a relative newcomer called Lost Boys Trading Company that specializes in “theme park essentials for all your adventures” (17.5K followers in fewer than two months). These tees and hoodies could be worn out and about, sure, but it’s rare to find mouse ears in the wild; online stores specializing in wire creations, doughnuts and conchas, not to mention “The Original Diamond Ears,” may serve the most unilateral park purpose of all.

“I’m a huge Disney ear collector,” says Carly Clegg, a 25-year-old project manager in San Antonio. “I think that really makes the outfit.” Clegg’s current ear collection boasts 10 — including a set inspired by Rapunzel (or “Punzie,” as Clegg calls her) and the white-veiled, bridal beanie that Clegg wore before her wedding.

Why wear so much Disney at Disney? Isn’t that like wearing souvenir tees that spell out where you’re visiting before you even get home?

Gosh no. Visitors at Disneyland aren’t tourists in a foreign country; Disneyland’s “guests,” as they’re called in-park, are returning home to a familiar, beloved place. Sociologist John Van Maanen, a professor of organization studies at MIT, says that this loyalty stems from introduction to the brand at impressionable ages. “Disney is easy, since from early childhood we’ve been exposed to the narratives and, alas, the brand.” That exposure occurred so once upon a time and far, far away that, for many adults, the attachment to Disney’s lore is rooted in their own self-identification.

This isn’t some niche interest, either. Mickey Mouse reportedly boasts a 98 percent recognition rate among children across the globe between ages 3 and 11.

Clegg’s brand attachment runs in her blood. A former Disney World employee — or “cast member,” in Disney lingo — Clegg credits her grandfather, a management professor at Texas A&M who spent his sabbatical in 2000 working at Disney World, as her “Disney soul mate.” He passed away this past Christmas; “It’s a Small World” played at his funeral. Says Clegg, who wore a Mickey Mouse pin at the service, “At the depths of his heart and his inner being, he was a Disney fan.”

The word “fan” gets thrown around plenty when it comes to companies and public figures, but the fanship surrounding Disney rivals fan culture around sports, and strolling through Disney feels like funneling into an NFL stadium or MLB ballpark. “Everyone’s wearing the team colors,” agrees Brantley. The end goals of wearing LeBron James’s number at a Cavs game and a Jack Skellington tuxedo T-shirt for Haunted Mansion are the same: show loyalty to your fave all-star and participate in some good, clean group identification. You can, says Van Maanen, “join the crowd, [and] be a player vicariously.”

The prevalence of Disney wear is only compounded by new levels of Disney fanaticism reached in recent years, from the plethora of dedicated Disney-focused Instagram handles and fan sites to official partnerships with major merchandising companies like Target and Uniqlo to impressive park profits. 2016 saw Parks and Resorts revenue reach $4.4 billion companywide, with Disney World’s attendance in 2015 pegged at 20.4 million.

A huge chunk of that tally includes repeat visitors, or, as Van Maanen puts it, “recidivists,” which he theorizes account for the vast majority of the “dressing on-brand crowd.” There’s a thrill in being part of the en masse spectacle.

“Collective support is downright necessary,” explains Van Maanen. “One wouldn’t do it solo. I suspect dressing on theme is a group adventure.”


The real adventure, though, lies in assuming the identities of cherished Disney characters — without violating Disney’s park policy.

Disneybounding, or building an outfit of everyday pieces around the color palette of a Disney character’s most iconic getup, first emerged as a trend in 2012 and has only gained popularity since. Touted as the workaround to Disney’s rule prohibiting full costumes for park-goers over 14, Disneybound began as a Tumblr and thrives as an Instagram account that’s 135K followers strong.

 

Jared Rea Disneybounding as Hipster Ariel.
Photo: Jared Rea

 

The park’s dress code against adult costuming is meant to protect both the safety of its employees and its youngest guests, as well as the integrity of its characters. All it takes is one foul-mouthed Mary Poppins that never received the proper elocution lessons to muck up the whole allusion. And Clegg gets it. For her, working as a cast member at Disney World meant “embodying the brand,” which she accomplished by portraying a slew of characters in her height class — “most importantly, the boss.”

“I say ‘I,’ but technically it wasn’t me,” says Clegg of playing Mickey Mouse. “You do carry a lot of responsibility on your shoulders, because that’s who people save up years and years to meet.”

Returning to Texas and re-acclimating to non-Disney life proved challenging for Clegg. “Reality hit hard,” she says. Disneybounding, however, offers a remedy for Clegg’s homesickness, and for her, the practice extends beyond her visits back to Orlando.

“I aspire to dress in Disney wear all the time,” says Clegg. “When I’m shopping, I’m like, okay: What character does that look like, and how can I bring magic into my everyday wardrobe? Even if it’s just me that notices. […] Sometimes people in the office are like, ‘Oh, you look like Cinderella’, and I’m like, ‘Thank you, that’s the point.’”

Jared Rea, a 32-year-old Oakland-based social media manager for a major video game company and avid Disneybounder, digs the social game (both online and IRL) of it, which he likens to the time-honored Disney tradition of pin trading. Both, he says, are very in keeping with the park’s pervading “happiest place” mood. “[They’re] a great excuse to chat with someone you’ve never met. How many times do you really do that in your day-to-day life?

Here’s what goes into Rea’s Disneybounding prep: “I usually start by researching. […] Is it a holiday? Is there some sort of special event happening at the park? Any rides or areas currently returning or going away?” His past looks include Hipster Ariel alongside his girlfriend’s Ursula, Grizzly Park Airfield at Disney’s California Adventure (which is not a character, but an entire attraction) that had Rea “essentially blend[ing] right into the scenery,” and Roz the cardigan-wearing slug thing from Monsters, Inc. “Disney outfit planning,” he says, “is serious business.”

Is there something about tiptoeing around Disney’s rulebook that makes Disneybounding so gratifying? “Rules are, of course, meant to be broken — or bent,” says sociologist Van Maanen. “And there is the age-related trend of dressing younger.” Disneyland’s fabled tagline might as well be Chuck E. Cheese’s “Where a kid can be a kid,” with a twist: Disney is where a grown-up can be a kid.

The magic, in that way, is real. “You are in a trance,” says Clegg. “You feel younger. The smells and the music and everything all together: You become a princess, you become Winnie the Pooh, you become Peter Pan. When you meet Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse is real. There’s not a human in that costume. It’s kind of the pixie dust that’s in the air, and I believe it. I become a Disney fan who loses sight of reality.”

Disney’s Imagineers are experts in transporting guests to a magical Wonderland, a place where all the world’s a stage. The parks are like movie sets, but ones where the edges of scenic flats dissolve into the sky and no director ever calls “Cut!” You are part of the story, which means that you are a bright shining star, just like you wanted to be when you grew up. What were your childhood career goals? Pirate? Cowboy? The eponymous Little Mermaid? Heck, you can be a mermaid now! Maybe you can’t wear the full fishtail, but you can rock some green jeans, a lavender button-down, and a red yarn beanie.

Besides, Disney is a safe space. Says Clegg, “Outside of Disney’s magical fantasy, dressing like Tinkerbell at the office in corporate America, it’s like, ‘What are you doing?’”

There’s something else about Disneybounding that might not meet the eye. Disneybounders don’t just bound as characters for themselves — they bound as characters for the characters.

Consider it a humble offering, a gift. “Nick and Judy are my absolute favorite characters to meet while I’m at the park,” says Rea of the costars of last year’s Zootopia. “So it’d be so fun to do something special for them.”

Before you gripe that the sweaty cast members inside the costumes don’t care if you’ve dedicated your look to them, first of all, yes they do. Second, there’s no human in there, remember? Take it from someone with Mickey Mouse on her CV: “When you go to the parks and you meet the character you’re dressed up as, that character knows,” says Clegg. “That character appreciates it.”

In line for It’s a Small World, I notice a little boy reach his trading pin-covered lanyard high above his head when he spots Woody just outside the ride. I squint to see why. Of course: His lanyard bears only Woody pins, and he desperately wants his idol to see. Woody, who is very good at being Woody, punches both fists into the air. You can almost hear him say, “You’re my favorite deputy!”

 

Source: There’s More Than One Way to Dress for Disney – Racked

PewDiePie Show Canceled by Google’s YouTube – WSJ

YouTube canceled its top star’s show on Tuesday over his anti-Semitic jokes, complicating its efforts to court television advertisers while also retaining its edgy video stars.

YouTube, a unit of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, distanced itself from its most popular creator—27-year-old Felix Kjellberg, who goes by PewDiePie—after The Wall Street Journal reported he made anti-Semitic jokes or showed Nazi imagery in nine videos since August. Walt Disney Co., which helped run Mr. Kjellberg’s business, severed ties after the revelations.

YouTube canceled the second season of Mr. Kjellberg’s show, “Scare PewDiePie,” which anchored YouTube’s $10-a-month subscription service. The company also pulled his YouTube channel from its Google Preferred program that lets advertisers buy space before “some of the most engaging and brand safe” videos on YouTube. The PewDiePie channel has amassed 53 million subscribers, nearly double the next most popular YouTube channel.

However, Mr. Kjellberg can still maintain a significant presence on YouTube. He will be able to post videos to his channel and ads can appear before his videos, generating income for him through shared advertising revenue with YouTube. Most ads on the site are placed through automated auctions that match ads with the demographic of viewers marketers choose. In Mr. Kjellberg’s case, his viewers are mostly male teenagers. Advertisers can blacklist his channel.

One advertiser who worked with Mr. Kjellberg has already distanced itself. The YouTube star in December posted a paid promotion for Nissan Motor Co.’s Micra compact car. “We strongly condemn this highly offensive content and will not work with him again,” a Nissan spokeswoman said in an email Tuesday. She said that Nissan had paid him for the creation of the one ad spot but had no ongoing relationship.

YouTube has positioned itself as advertisers’ preferred alternative to television by cultivating its video creators, or so-called influencers, who draw teenage audiences. But the sheer variety and unpredictability of much of YouTube’s content still makes advertisers wary of shifting more of their spending away from proven TV commercials.

“YouTube and even Disney have some blame in this situation,” said Adam Kleinberg, head of San Francisco ad agency Traction Corp. “YouTube is marketing their influencer network as a safe place for brands to interact…and [PewDiePie] is their biggest property.”

He said beyond the anti-Semitic content, PewDiePie has for years posted profane and sexual videos. Mr. Kleinberg said his firm has spent several million dollars on YouTube ads over the past year and would likely blacklist PewDiePie’s channel on all future campaigns. By pulling the ads that run before videos, thereby depriving creators of shared revenue, or by removing the videos outright, YouTube risks angering its influencers.

“Influencers are saying YouTube is too strict, and advertisers say it isn’t strict enough,” said Jesse Leimgruber, chief executive of NeoReach, which helps companies advertise on social media influencers’ content.

YouTube’s crackdown on PewDiePie “is definitely going to have a ripple effect in the influencer community,” he said.

Like other social media firms, YouTube is caught between satisfying its users and its advertisers. Companies such as YouTube, Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. sell advertising on user-generated content, over which they have little control, sometimes ensnaring them in controversies. Facebook has battled false-news sites, while Twitter is grappling with online bullying.

Swedish Youtube star Felix Kjellberg, also known as PewDiePie.

Swedish Youtube star Felix Kjellberg, also known as PewDiePie. PHOTO: J. COUNTESS/WIREIMAGE

YouTube moved tentatively on Mr. Kjellberg’s videos before Tuesday. It deleted ads on one of the most controversial videos—in which two men held a sign for 23 seconds that read, “Death to all Jews”—within days of its posting.

But the company left ads running before the other eight videos until after the Journal reported on them, when the online-video platform determined they had violated its “advertiser-friendly content guidelines.”

YouTube said it left the videos on its site because it determined they don’t violate a separate set of rules, their community guidelines, which have a higher bar for removal. Those rules ban content that “promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin [or] religion.” But in reviewing videos, the company says it also considers the intent of the creator, and content intended to be provocative or satirical may remain online.

Mr. Kjellberg’s account pulled three of the nine videos in question after the Journal contacted Disney on Friday. Friday. The account then reinstated one on Tuesday—the video with the “Death to all Jews” sign.

Responding to media criticism of that video, Mr. Kjellberg said in a later video that it was a joke and that he wasn’t an anti-Semite. Mr. Kjellberg wrote in a Tumblr post Sunday that he doesn’t support “any kind of hateful attitudes” and understands “these jokes were ultimately offensive.” Mr. Kjellberg didn’t responded to direct requests for comment on the videos.

On Tuesday, Mr. Kjellberg was silent on the controversy surrounding him, only making one public post: a YouTube video titled “Valentine’s Special!” in which he and his girlfriend play a videogame as penis-shaped characters that fight each other.

Write to Jack Nicas at [email protected]

PewDiePie Show Canceled by Google’s YouTube – WSJ.

Why Young Women Play Down Their Career Goals Around Men – WSJ

Maybe you haven’t come such a long way, baby.

Nearly two decades into the 21st century, young, professional women feel compelled to minimize their accomplishments and ambitions—but only if they are single, according to a new study of M.B.A. candidates.

Young, single women are simultaneously operating in the labor market and the marriage market—and those spheres value different qualities, said Amanda Pallais, an economist at Harvard University and a co-author of the study that surveyed 355 students.

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So millennial women face an age-old trade-off between professional goals and their desire to attract a mate. When they believe men are watching, single women are noticeably less assertive and minimize their goals, including salary expectations, found Ms. Pallais and her colleagues, the University of Chicago’s Leonardo Bursztyn and Thomas Fujiwara of Princeton University.

The authors write, for example, that single women “lowered their desired yearly compensation from $131,000 to $113,000 and their willingness to travel from 14 to seven days per month.”

They also reported lower professional ambition and less tendency to take leadership roles in their day-to-day work lives.

Actions that may help women advance in the workplace such as speaking up in meetings or asking for a raise, “signal ambition or assertiveness, and those things are penalized for women in the marriage market,” Ms. Pallais said, citing prior research that suggests men prefer mates who are less successful and less educated than themselves.

She and her two co-authors asked male and female students to fill out a questionnaire about their career goals and personality traits designed to be used by their career center to match them with summer internships. Some participants were told their answers would be shared only with a career counselor. Others were told that classmates would read their responses.

When students believed their answers were private, the responses from men and women showed they held similar career expectations. But if students were told that classmates would read their questionnaires, the responses from single women were dramatically different.

For women in long-term relationships, and both single and joined male peers, answers were comparable whether the surveys were public or not. The one exception was salary, where joined women had lower goals than men.

Why don’t single men face the same trade-offs their female counterparts do? Ms. Pallais said men are rewarded for being ambitious, assertive, and successful in both the marriage and labor arenas.

Write to Lauren Weber at [email protected]

Why Young Women Play Down Their Career Goals Around Men – WSJ.