“Study: [Czech/Slovak] conspiracy sites sell millions in ads annually” – my thoughts

“Study: [Czech/Slovak] conspiracy sites sell millions in ads annually” – my thoughts

This afternoon the Nadace Open Society Foundations (OSF) released a study (Czech only right now – Google Translate is your friend) outlining how 122 Czech and Slovak disinformation websites, by their analysis, make anywhere from €920,000 to €1.24 million a year in advertising revenue.

For background, I’ve touched on the world on Czech disinformation here (a better breakdown from 2015 on both Czech and Slovak disinformation is here). This is an interesting analysis that confirms what a lot of us already know – that some disinformation websites can make decent money from ads.

But before it breaks further in English, I’ve got a few observations and thoughts.

1) The ad revenue is ridiculously concentrated among the big players

According to Nadace OSF’s analysis the total ad revenue per month of all these sites combined is 3,357,393 Czech crowns (~€128,700).

But take a look at how much the five biggest sites take up – and, particularly the first. the popular Breitbart-esque Parlamentní listy (figures from report, calculations mine):

Website Estimated monthly income (CZK) % of all disinfo websites
Parlamentnilisty.cz 1,505,542 44.8%
Expres.cz 788,532 23.5%
Eurozrej.cz 534,972 15.9%
hlavnespravy.sk 142,633 4.2%
Ac24.com 98,098 2.9%
Total, Top 5 3,069,777 91.4%
Total, All sites 3,357,393

I think it’d be more effective to point out how much ad revenue a few specific Czech and Slovak disinformation websites take in, rather than lump them all together to get a higher dollar/Euro value. Also, not all these websites have the same reach and, it has to be noted, some of them even have ad revenue – Slovakia’s Slobodný vysielac (Free Transmitter) and Zem a Vek (Earth and Time, though that translation’s always sounded wonky to me) among them.

But another website in that list threw me…

2) Why is Expres.cz included?

I’m not asking this in a snarky way – I’ve always considered it more likely a sleazy Daily-Mail-esque tabloid than a disinformation website like the others here. I see the inclusion of Expres.cz was sourced from http://www.konspiratori.sk, who I assume have a good argument for including them here. (Not sarcasm – I really assume they do.)

3) Careful with the scary, sexy-sounding higher figure

OK, this is a relatively minor data wonk quibble, but the report gave an estimated range of how much ad revenue these sites can pull in over the course of a year – from €900K to €1.2m. The range is there for a reason – it could be that high.

If you’re tweeting about this I think it’s important to state that this €1.2m is the high end of the estimate.

4) Advertising boycotts won’t make these sites go away

Presumably the point of this study is to try and build pressure to get advertisers to pull their ads from disinformation websites (i.e., like Breitbart’s advertisers fleeing in droves). I think this is a worthwhile endeavour, but anyone promoting this in CZ/SK and beyond should recognize that:

a) some of the websites, like PL, seem like they have enough financial resources behind them that a dent in ad revenue won’t cripple them much at all.

b) some of these websites (i.e., most of the smaller ones) are so low-grade and piecemeal they either don’t have any ad revenue or don’t need it, since some of them are literally a guy or two in a basement somewhere doing this stuff on the side.

c) some sites, like the aforementioned Slobodný vysielac and Zem a Vek don’t have any ad revenue at all, so obviously they couldn’t care less about an ad boycott.

Want to promote an ad boycott of disinformation websites? Go ahead, but don’t expect to choke these websites out. At best, expect it (and aim) to raise awareness of why people shouldn’t bother with these kinds of websites (e.g., “hey, if [insert company X] thinks it’s wrong to advertise on PL maybe there’s a good reason why”) and use it as a tool to talk even more about disinformation and the “fake news” phenomenon.

My $0.02/Kč0.44

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some random stats on Muslims in Canada, Czech Republic and Slovakia

some random stats on Muslims in Canada, Czech Republic and Slovakia

Because I am without a doubt the coolest kid on my block in Prague (and didn’t particularly feel like writing some dumbass numbered THREAD on Twitter), I spent a few minutes on Saturday night trolling through Canadian census data on Muslim populations in census metropolitan areas (CMAs: basically cities + suburbs and/or commuter areas), seeing how big or small they are compared to the population(s) of Muslims in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. (FWIW, all part of prepping a piece on Islamophobia in Slovakia and the general theme of Islamophobia really being trendy in places with barely any Muslims).

Background: there’s between 10-20,000 Muslims in the Czech Republic – a country of 10.6 million people, so at best 0.2% of the population – and around 5,000 next door in Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million (i.e., not even 0.1%). On the other hand, Canada’s got more than a million Muslims, making up more than 3% of the population.

Using the 2011 National Household Survey data (the most recent where religion is broken down by CMA), I estimated just how different some cities/CMAs in Canada are from both the Czech Republic and Slovakia:

  • Saskatoon: Around 295,000 people – the 17th largest CMA in Canada – with around 5,600 Muslims (~1.9%), more than the entire country of Slovakia.
  • Halifax: Around 400,000 people – the 13th largest CMA in Canada – with around 7,500 Muslims (~1.9%), also more than the entire country of Slovakia.
  • Winnipeg: Around 778,000 people with around 11,200 Muslims, as much as some of the low estimates of the Czech Republic and twice as many as Slovakia.
  • Edmonton (the entire CMA including us assholes from Sherwood Park, not just the city): 1.3 million people, with around 46,000 Muslims (3.5%-4% of the population).
    • In other words, my hometown has almost twice as many Muslims as the Czech Republic and Slovakia combined.
    • Even Fort McMurray (“Wood Buffalo,” technically) has around 3,400 Muslims in a population of around 73,000 and, unlike Slovakia, has a mosque.
DSC02555
Something Fort Mac has that the entire country of Slovakia doesn’t – a mosque (taken by me, November 2015)

Even tiny Lac La Biche, AB, population 8,300, has a mosque thanks to a longstanding Lebanese community there. It also has a community of Russian Old Believers outside of town. #TheMoreYouKnow.