Guardian uses activist news to sell Heathrow jobs

Tagged as: advertising analysis climate_chaos mind_control

Some activists think it's a good thing that mainstream media outlets like The Guardian carry news about campaigns and actions. They should think again, as this example of on-line advertising illustrates.


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6th July 2009: in Scotland, climate activists sabotage an open-cast coal mine. The story is reported anonymously (by "Spiderman") on Northern Indymedia. Five hours later, The Guardian catches up and runs the same story.

"What's wrong with that?" you may ask. OK, we all know that the Guardian uses Indymedia to get leads for stories without giving us credit, but what else would you expect? Aren't they just helping to get the word out to a wider audience? Isn't that a good thing?

Well, let's take a closer look. For a start, consider the links embedded in the text. The Indymedia story links the phrase 'climate camp' to the website of the Camp for Climate Action Scotland, so the reader can visit that site, read about it and form their own opinion. They might even be inspired to get involved in the action themselves. Not so for Guardian readers - if they click on the phrase 'climate camp' they get taken to another page within the Guardian website, where they're given another part of a story - with yet more advertisements down the side.

Ah, the adverts. Many of us would like to think our behaviour isn't influenced by advertising; that these things work on people who are more gullible than us, who can be coaxed into spending their disposable income on the very latest 'energy-saving' gadgets regardless of the energy used to manufacture them. But really, would the advertisers spend money on getting their products displayed like this if it wasn't a sure way of increasing sales? Of course not. You clicked on 'climate camp', now buy a kettle.

Of course this relationship between advertiser and publisher only works if people view the webpage with the adverts on, and that's why they need to run stories like this one they borrowed from Indymedia. Guardian readers want to be informed about this sort of thing, and the advertisers know that people who read this sort of story are ripe to purchase new 'eco' gadgets. The Guardian has to keep up it's end of the contract by delivering 'hits' for those adverts, and to do so it needs a stream of stories to keep the reader clicking, page after page, advert after advert, until a sale is made. The reader/shopper gets to assuage their vague sense of guilt by buying something - rather than getting involved in the protest, as they might have done if that link they clicked on had taked them to the climate camp website.

So there's one big difference between Indymedia and the mainstream: you come here and get an opportunity to participate, you go there and you're shopping. But there's more to it than that. Consider what else gets displayed in that right-hand coumn next to the Guardian story: job advertisements.

If you want to keep up with the latest trends in 'eco'-consumerism, you'll need a disposable income, right? So you want a higher paid job? One that won't leave you any time for daft hobbies like grass-roots politics? Because you'll need all your time to earn that extra money to spend on the extra overseas holiday, second car, new kettle? Don't worry, the Guardian's reader-profiling software has just the thing for you. If you have a look in the attached screenshot you can see that alongside the article when I visited it for the first time, I was shown 3 vacancies, all for jobs with BAA. Here are the pages that they linked to:

These three advertisements are all for jobs working for BAA on the Third Runway project at Heathrow airport. So not only has the Guardian taken our story and used it to sell crap to you, they're using it to target job adverts at you to come and build the 3rd runway. Somebody in the Guardian ads department has decided that people who come to read this kind of story are likely to be good potential recruits for BAA.

Why does this matter? Because there are still some climate activists around who think that they can advance their campaign by giving their stories to the mainstream media. Hopefully this example illustrates how this fails: whether the intentions of the reporter were honest or not, the campaign to stop climate chaos is reported in a way that actually turns it on its head. It becomes bait for advertisers to sell their climate-fucking products and climate-fucking jobs. If you don't want your story used for these purposes, say 'no thanks' to the Guardian and use independant media centres to write your own report.

See also: Media Lens on The Guardian, Climate and Advertising

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This is an example of The Guardian using a story about a protest to promote it's advertisers; behaviour necessary for the papers capitalist economic model. I don't accept that this example proves that activists should not send our press releases to the high circulation media outlets that are controlled by the system we are setting out to abolish. There are capitalist interests in capitalist papers but their are also proletarian interests; more so in the UK than in the US; where the Chomsky Herman Theory of Media Control is more relevant. The NUJ are a strong union within the media and we see positive reporting as a consequence of their activism as well as that of groups like Media Lens and Private Eye. An unusual example is the Graduand's coverage of the Vestas Dispute. That story was correctly linked to the Worker Climate Action website. I propose that we continue to press release to the better journalists within the bastard system as well as to the lower circulation, worker controlled media. Socialist Worker allows other publications to reproduce their story so long as is attributed to them. I am against intellectual property so propose that Indymedia continues to allow other media to reproduce our stories.


hey thats good work mrs marker!

mrs against property: let me tell you, your right that the chomsky-herman properganda model is more relevant to our USA press, but if you think the unions are going to save the planet from the bosses you gotta think again. you missed a point in what marker said that work is part of the problem. your showing us why ''class'' analysis aint no answer no more.

they often to link

yeah well they do often link to original campaign websites - like if you click the climate camp link re scotland the story does include a link to the scottish cc website

so highlighting one article without looking at what they do on others is a little dishonest