The gentle art of lying

I had occasion this morning to visit both the Billings Gazette and Missoulian websites. Both are owned by Lee, both are busy-busy, full of links, and annoying. If you think newspapers exist to deliver news, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Newspapers are in the business of collecting audiences to sell to advertisers, their true customers. News is a secondary pursuit.

Their latest endeavor in the annals of annoyance is to block access to a story* until we answer some advertising questions.

I have said for years the best way to fight intrusive advertising is to lie. If you have qualms about that, remember that they don’t have a right to your information, and you have no obligation to give it to them. Lying in that situation is a venial sin, three Hail Mary’s at most, if even that.

The Gazette asked me if I had been to Sam’s Club (no, but said yes) and if I had a small child (ditto). I fed them useless data. If enough people do that, we will screw up their database. (They asked me what my favorite grocer is and I said Pain & Diaz. That they will probably spot.)

It astounds me to know that most people treat advertisers with respect. The job of the advertiser is to get your attention by any means possible; to market to you in a subliminal and underhanded manner; and to make you unhappy. Happy people, after all, don’t need to buy stuff.

*Some will say that we should not get a news story for free, so that answering their stupid questions is a small price of admission. After all, they have bills to pay. I’ve been in business for myself for decades, and not once has anyone ever expressed concern that I might not make it. My answer to this concern is “I don’t care.”

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