Dear Joe Flatley, The Verge,
It was with great interest that I began reading your feature article this morning, fan of The Verge that I am. The Verge is where I go for in-depth, thoughtful pieces; articles that dig deep into the issues that matter to people like me, who spend much of our time online.
As I got into the meat of your article, though, I had a WTF moment. You know that awful feeling, you have to stop reading, go back a few, re-read, ponder... did he really say that?
“Raygoza is an Internet Marketer — a 21st century snake oil salesman.”
Raygoza sure sounds like a bad dude. You’ve convinced me the man is a complete con artist, which was your point, I think. Could you have gotten the same point across with, I don’t know, something like: “Raygoza is a con artist -- a 21st century snake oil salesman who uses the internet to stalk his prey.”
That wouldn’t make for a very good subheading, I know. You have character count constraints to work with, making this a much more suitable call-out for people skimming the article:
Now, I might argue that the big banks and shady mortgage lenders who caused the near collapse of the world economy are more suitable candidates for “the” snake oil salesmen of our time. But would there be any point? It’s already out there; you’ve successfully painted an entire industry as cons, when in truth only a very small fraction of those involved in online marketing in any way, shape, or form, are responsible for the destruction exhibited in your article.
I give you credit for trying to qualify and temper your sweeping, inaccurate generalization with this: “There is another, legitimate form of 'Internet Marketing' which operates much more closely to a traditional marketing business, but men like Raygoza have co-opted the term and run with it.”
But isn’t the damage already done? Internet Marketing does not exist in two separate forms, legit and not.
There aren't two forms of stock investing: legitimate and illegitimate investing. Investment is an industry, like internet marketing, and there are bad eggs in there along with the good. I think you might find deception and devious behavior in any industry having anything to do with finance, from banking to insurance to mortgages.
Consumers seek out professionals in these industries, or respond to their marketing efforts, and trust that these people are going to do what they say they are going to do with their money. They have to believe that when promised something in exchange for their purchase or investment – whether a house, a return of some kind, or a physical product – they are actually going to receive just that. In many cases, they do; far less often, they are taken for a ride. This happens across the board.
Paul Raygoza may call himself an Internet Marketer, but then mobsters call themselves businessmen, too. Sometimes, when no one is listening, I call myself Princess Consuela Bananahammock. Point is, we don’t have to give these people any undue credibility by repeating their moniker of choice, when the truth is that they are con men, plain and simple.
Regardless of their venue or channel of choice, people who steal and swindle others are criminals.
Internet marketing is a large component of the $194.3 billion a year U.S. e-commerce industry (2011). The people who cheat, lie and steal their way into any portion of that are not Internet Marketers any more than a man who tries to sell you a piece of the moon is an astronaut, even if that’s the self-appointed title on his business card.
As others pointed out in the comments on your article, other generalizations in your article seem unnecessary and take away from what is otherwise a thorough and important piece.
Really? I know I’ve never read a useful book in my life. Bad news, those books. Especially if you buy direct from an author.
And DVDs! Well, unless I’m purchasing mass-produced media that has been carefully crafted and edited within the prescribed parameters to appeal to the masses according to what’s popular, I had better steer clear.
You mean if I lead a horse to water, I can’t actually make him drink? These people who purchase information about internet marketing (or gardening, or cooking, or investing, etc.) – they may not actually make best use of this information and practice what they’ve learned? That simply can’t be true.
If the state of the economy and levels of personal debt across North America are any indication, people aren’t using the information in investment and retirement planning books, either. Are they scams? Buying and reading a book is no guarantee that a person will do what the book tells them to do. It doesn’t make the author of the book a con artist.
And then there’s this gem:
It's sad that a tech journalist and his publication would paint all SEOs, info marketers, digital advertising agencies, social media marketers, small business owners trying to survive online, affiliate marketers, and others who sell in the online space with the same brush as con men.
I hope The Verge will consider changing out some of the needlessly sensationalized, inaccurate information in Scamworld. Some of the subheadings, in particular, are patently false.
It’s doubly disappointing that the premise of Flatley’s article was really good; stopping scammers and con men is an important and noble cause, regardless of their con of choice. In this case though, the title promised one thing - an investigation into scams - and delivered another, by way of a needlessly damaging diatribe against an entire industry.
P.S. The Verge may wish to consider removing the banner ads from site sponsors from above and throughout the article, as well – they were placed there by (ugh) Internet Marketers.