Sometimes a good rant involves more than a mere 1,000 word blog post.
Now, I've made plenty of those, don't get me wrong. But I've been thinking for a while that I'd like to compile all the fitness-industry ranting in my head and put it in one neat package. I've been doing a not-really-consistent semi-weekly series on my facebook page called "Let's Sharpen Our Bullshit Detectors!" where what usually happens is I stumble upon some particularly offending health or fitness article and dissect it for everyone's viewing pleasure.
Since they usually go pretty well, I've been planning out a short book that goes through how we can protect ourselves from all the bullshit that gets thrown at us on a day to day basis. It will come from the perspective of the health and fitness industry (since that's what people come here to read about, and it's also my favorite subject), but you should be able to take away tools and tips to apply towards anything.
Topics that I plan on going over include:
- The importance of skeptical thinking
- How to read a scientific paper even when most of the jargon goes way over your head
- Common tactics used by marketers in the health and fitness industry
- How to improve your own critical thinking skills
- Becoming an intelligent, rather than an emotional consumer
Here's an excerpt I've got written so far. I'm still not sure if I'm going to make this into a series of posts or one short ebook. Either way, I'm pretty pumped about the content and hope that you all get something fun and interesting out of it. Drop me a comment below if you have any feedback or if there's anything in particular you'd like to have covered!
The internet lets marketers get pretty creative when it comes to making money. In this particular example, it really looks like that is all they care about. I want you to take a note of the actual CONTENT to ADVERTISING ratio here:
#1 – Slideshows
You may have noticed lately many of your favorite websites use a “slideshow” format. If you're like me, you find this very annoying. But websites do this for one main reason: more page clicks. The more viewers it appears that it has, the more money it can get from advertisers, the more people will be willing to affiliate with them and the more likely they'll be able to enter into lucrative sponsorship deals.
This also affords them the opportunity to insert in more advertisements. If you only had to view one or two pages to get all your information about 'weight loss superfoods' (or whatever the hell) instead of 29 pages, there is much less page real estate to sell. If you have to click through to a new page 29 times – and maybe even insert a full-page ad around click number 16 – that's a lot more opportunity to sell you crap.
#2 – Strong headlines
The stronger the headline, the bolder the claim, the more likely you will be to actually click through all 29 pages. More page clicks = more money. If the headline was something more realistic, such as “A few nutrient-dense foods that, eaten in combination with an exercise plan and reasonable-calorie diet, may promote weight loss,” there is a real good chance you won't care enough to muck your way through all 29 pages of advertisement opportunity.
#3 – Do Our Advertising For Us
“Didn't you just love this article? Share it with all of your friends who may have missed it so that we can get more page clicks.”
Now, this isn't a bad thing. If you love an article, a product, a particular group, sharing is a great way to help them continue to do whatever it is they do. But just recognize that is what you're doing – and always be aware of what you're sharing.
If you clicked to share this article, what are you really promoting? Did you actually get a lot of useful information out of the slideshow? (Did you actually make it all the way through?) Do you support whatever Health's general mission statement is? Do you want to look like the kind of person who is into being really healthy, and the best way you can do that is showing everyone on facebook how much you love “superfoods”? Before you click, think about these things.
Be a knowledgeable consumer, not an emotional one.
#4 – Seriously, click through to the next page. And share us on facebook.
Having multiple opportunities to share / stay on the website increases your chance of doing so. This leads to more page views for Health.
#5 – Did we mention we're on facebook? And twitter? And pinterest? And instagram?
Following Health on one or more leads to more page views.
#6 – Other links in the same category
The vast majority of blogs do this. If you label a post as a certain category, such as “nutrition,” you can have a list at the bottom or the side that shows other past posts from you under “nutrition.” They already know you're interested in it, so you'll be more likely to continue clicking through the website. More page views = more money.
#7 – Affiliate programs
Affiliate programs are a popular way for bloggers to make money. Amazon has a very large affiliate program, and in the fitness world it's not hard to find a product or program to affiliate with. Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it is good to know as a consumer that Health would make money if you purchased that product.
#8 – Paid Advertisements
I don't think I would have thought to make that tiny space an advertising spot. I guess that's why I'm not in marketing!
These are the straight-forward ads. The company or group directly gives Health money for page real estate. Simple!
#9 – Beware the “free”
Here is why Health wants to give you free stuff:
- So that you sign up for 2 free issues of the magazine which requires your credit card information, thinking that you'll just use them and leave once you get your free stuff.
- But then you actually just forget and end up paying $50 before you even remember you didn't want the magazine in the first place.
Just look at the content to advertising ratio on this page. You get 2 paragraphs with nothing but buzzwords in return for 9 opportunities to give Health money. And if you think that's only because it was the introduction page, here is the next slide: