By on March 9, 2021

guest post

Every day my inbox fills with scammy, scummy come-ons from folks who are trying to sell TTAC on allowing them to guest post.

They usually work like this – the “person” (emails could be coming from someone operating under a pseudonym, or even a bot) behind the email is either offering to pay us to run a guest post, written by them, that would create a bunch of links back to whatever product they’re hawking.

The Outline (RIP) covered this in general terms a few years ago, and I read one of the posts not long after I started at TTAC, sitting in a greasy-spoon diner near our corporate parent’s HQ in Toronto, as I ate breakfast and killed time before flying home. I thought it was an interesting look into a seedy part of the media industry, but I didn’t give it much thought beyond that.

That’s because while The Outline’s investigation showed that some of this scammy stuff was breaking into well-read/well-known names like Forbes, there was no evidence that a mainstream national publication of even higher import (the New York Times, say, or the Wall Street Journal) had allowed any of these articles – it should go without saying that these would violate journalist ethics – to be published. Nor was I aware of any issues in automotive journalism.

Then, soon after, I noticed my inbox was being flooded by come-ons for this sort of scheme. This was one of those things where I’d noticed the behavior before, but it became more obvious after I started really paying attention, instead of just sending emails to the virtual trash bin.

There is a reason why this scam seemed to pop up at certain sites but hasn’t yet, to my knowledge, gotten its tentacles into the larger world of journalism. It’s that Forbes and Huffington Post, perhaps the two biggest-name outlets called out by The Outline, are (or at least were) sites that paid writers relatively little and, to my knowledge, provided little or no editorial oversight.

It should go without saying, but most mainstream media outlets would have a level of editorial oversight that should keep any of this kind of slimy content from slipping through, no matter how well or poorly a freelance contributor is paid. That said, it’s always possible that a harried editor misses a subtle mention of a paid client. Similarly, an editor might trust a contributor’s ethics and not sense something is amiss.

Note: What is at issue here is different from the clearly-marked sponsored content we sometimes run. That includes the controversial Lexus sponsored piece, which was marked as such, though perhaps not as clearly as it should’ve been.

TTAC has a reputation for calling out unethical journalism, at least in the automotive space, and our mission to do so hasn’t changed on my watch. That said, we haven’t done much of it since Jack fisked Electrek before moving on. It’s not out of fear of upsetting folks or protection of personal relationships – we simply haven’t been made aware of any specific issues in recent years.

To be very clear, I have not heard of any OEM doing this with car reviews or news. Most of the pitches in my inbox seem generic, and the few that are actually related to automotive seem to come from small marketing companies or auto-parts retailers that no one has ever heard of.

I bring this up now because it seems like more and more of these scammy emails have been hitting my inbox over the last year. I can’t delete them fast enough, and some of them have even looked, at first glance, like legitimate pitches from young journalists trying to break into the industry.

Consider this a public service announcement: There’s a slim chance that something you’re reading that appears to be objective journalism isn’t, and it would be difficult, if not impossible for you to prove. The good news is any outlet with regular editorial oversight would likely nip this sort of thing in the bud.

The best way for you, the media consumer, to sniff out this sort of work is to dig around on the site, maybe check out its “about us” page or its editorial standards/guidelines, should it publish them publicly. You should be able to get a sense of whether or not a site is allowing freelance work to be published with little or no oversight. If it is, be wary.

And if you see a piece elsewhere in the automotive sphere that seems to be praising some auto-parts company or dealer-management software suspiciously, you know how to reach us.

[Image: TTAC screenshot from my inbox]

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28 Comments on “Beware the Secret Guest Post...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    “That includes the controversial Lexus sponsored piece, which was marked as such”

    You better be invited to the IS500 launch event after all that.

    • 0 avatar

      I have watched attached video and can make review:

      When there is good luxury image like of a Lexus has (See 7 Reason), driveing is secondary only to enjoying looking at it dynamic and good exterior.
      Sometime there is a perfect car of luxury’s and this one is it.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Grango, how does it measure up against earlier sport sedans such as the Lex GS and Infiniti M37?

        • 0 avatar

          Frend;

          Sometime it is necessary to consider a different size of a car, when there arent same size exterior, and interior’s!

          So, the IS’s500 is probabbly more fast, more “sport-thinking” than a M-3 and Gs, you know?

          Either way it is possible to find of a car which is suitable of a way for you’re enjoyment while driving and maintain a positive thought’s toward the skies!

          -Best

          GR

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    We have enough Putin Bots and trolls posting here already. Please don’t let anymore nonsense in.

    Controversy and all, I do like the IS500 from what I’ve seen…just not as much as that post did.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Lexus is probably going to get my money. In theory, Dodge builds exactly what I want but I don’t think I want to take another ride on that quality roulette wheel.
      I’ve also heard rumors that the next Mustang GT will use a version of the Super Duty’s “big block” V8 but nothing confirmed.

      • 0 avatar

        I do not believe that Mustang rumor!

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          I could see them phasing out the Coyote and going to some variant of that motor in the trucks and any V8 ICE cars they are still making by then. I don’t see that happening anytime soon if it ever did though.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        A giant, heavy iron block doesn’t sound like a terribly fun time, outside of drag-racing applications (and indeed Ford sells an iron version of the Coyote for exactly that sort of thing).

        They may need an answer to the various and outrageous Hellcat iterations that have come about over the years (above the already competitive GT500), but a Mustang with the Godzilla engine seems like a bad one. Surely they can do better than that.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          I assume it would be aluminum block, just on the same OHV architecture. Similar to how GM handled LS variants over the years. Ford wouldn’t just dump it directly out of the truck.

          Here’s an example of the rumor:
          hagerty.com/media/news/coyote-ugly-is-
          ford-reverting-to-windsor-v-8s-with-pushrod-power/

          • 0 avatar
            jack4x

            I give this rumor more credence than I used to.

            They are doing everything they can to deemphasize the 5.0L in the F150 and it’s not hard to see a day when they just go to hybrid or Ecoboost only. Once that happens, it seems unlikely Mustang GT demand alone would be enough to keep the Coyote viable.

            Meanwhile the 7.3L looks like a long-term part of the future for HD and medium duty operators sick of the cost and maintenance of diesel engines. Electrification of this market will take a long time, if it ever happens. So if the Mustang offers a V8 in some form, there may be no option but a Godzilla variant.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            A de-stroked Godzilla makes a lot sense. Shorter over all, but using the same heads, pistons, crank, say a 6.2.

            The DOHC V8 was a good idea in concept, but it’s like a power adder, instead of more displacement. You get a bigger, heavier engine that’s just as thirsty.

            The DOHC V8 is very Euro, same as the flat-plane crank, but they’ve never really impressed me with their lack of torque, especially down low.

  • avatar
    don1967

    “Journalist ethics” at the New York Times.

    Thanks Tim, I needed a good laugh.

  • avatar
    ScarecrowRepair

    Check out Ken @ Popehat, for instance https://www.popehat.com/tag/ponies/ probably has a few. When he gets those spams, he responds, sucks them in, and finally remembers to to them the catch — they have to mention how horrid ponies are, how dangerous to national security and moral fiber of our nation.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    We’re still getting the damned Lexus ad, even with ad blockers!

    I don’t need to see the same fu%#ing ad on every! Freakin’! Page! I! Visit! On! This! Site!!

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “We’re still getting the damned Lexus ad, even with ad blockers!”

      Nope. Not here.

      That ad is like ads on Hulu. You save a couple bucks a month, sure, but you get to see the same ad, over and over again, repeated three times in the same block even. Sorry, no. I gave up ads 20 years ago with ReplayTV, and I will happily pay a couple bucks more a month to watch my Hulu without ads.

      And I will block the Lexus crap without a second thought.

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        @jalop1991,

        THANK YOU for that reminder. I forget that I can hop into the AdBlock menu and block a specific item.

        [The current Managing Editor of TTAC said they were working on a fix for this one, so alternatively I could wait for this like we are waiting for the other site improvements which were promised months (years?) ago.]

        • 0 avatar
          conundrum

          The point is, why should you have to screw around with the Adblock menu to rid yourself of Lexus propaganda?

          So desperate is Torstar for a few pennies, even when you open an article in a new tab here on TTAC, you get served the entire page below the article all over again.

          The site has turned into utter crud. Healey has no power to run the site, and all directives come down from penny ante nobodies at corporate HQ.

          There are not many news articles any more on TTAC — C/D has more. You have to ask yourself, what the hell am I doing here wasting my time and my data to keep the place sort of running on a gimpy leg, no content, and third-rate political opinions from editorial staff. The site has no direction, no fundamental policy, and little of interest any more.

          Commenters I’ve seen here for years have disappeared, but I guess I persist for old times’ sake. Reaching the breaking point for me too, though.

          Pull yer socks up, or I’m off into the wild blue yonder myself.

          • 0 avatar
            tonycd

            Agree with conundrum on all counts.

            PS: If you’re the same “conundrum” who posts on the ‘Tex, great post about your personal car-choice process. Super informative and objective. My compliments.

  • avatar
    RHD

    Click here to download ransomware virus.

    I look forward to hearing from you soon.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Given what TTAC has devolved to, maybe some of these would be an upgrade…

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    So you’re saying you won’t just whore yourself out to just ANY body?

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