In 2020, all content is marketing

I open Hacker News and I see a bunch of interesting technical articles. However, I know that all of them are ads.

At the dawn of the internet we had banners. Publishers were building awesome content and monetized it by renting a rectangle-shaped space on their website. Advertisers bought the space and competed for our attention.

This model, taken from print media, worked alright. It was explicit about what was an ad, and what was the content.

But with time the banners got annoying and people learned how to ignore and block them. The advertisers didn’t get enough value from the banners and content creators didn’t get their website-space-rent money.

What happened next is truly terrible.

Advertisers started creating content that looks like a useful article, but with a subtle advertisement embedded into it.

  • See how Dropbox rewrote their core in Rust (and btw, we are hiring)
  • Google Analytics is evil (and btw we sell an alternative)
  • Another GraphQL vs REST holy war (and btw we sell GraphQL tooling)
  • How to deploy your app (and btw it uses our cloud or CI)
  • Here are a few bugs we found in open source C++ app (and btw we sell C++ code audit tools)

I see these ads everywhere now. The content is usually of low quality (the writers are not experts) and often controversial (because the goal is not to provide value for the reader, but to spread via sharing and discussions).

This phenomena even has a name — content marketing. Nowadays, all content is marketing.

So what does this post try to sell you? I’m glad you asked. If you keep asking this questions when reading articles, you’ll see the modern internet in a new, grim light. Welcome to the club.

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